How COVID-19 Has Impacted Indie Beauty Brand Sales

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 18 brand founders and executives: How have your businesses’ sales been impacted by the pandemic?

Bee Joy España Co-Founder, Simple Alchemy Co.

Our sales have definitely been impacted by COVID-19. All of our income streams have disappeared except one, and that's been difficult to come to grips with. On the other hand, our online sales have increased dramatically, thanks to customers wanting to shop sustainably from home. Normally, we rely on our wholesale relationships as well as markets to meet our sales goals, but, of course, all markets have been canceled, and our retail partners had to close up shop for a long while. On the plus side, the lockdown has given us a lot of time to focus on product development and marketing, which we really enjoy.

Alexandra Djoukanov Brand Manager, Orpheus Skin

We’ve experienced several trends. March was a slower sales month as the world seemed to be a little bit in shock with what was happening and about to happen. With this, we reconsidered our marketing and investments plan to adapt to the current situation, limiting our efforts in digital and influencer marketing for a couple of weeks. We took that time to prepare and create social media campaigns tailored to the current situation, which we launched in April. Interestingly enough, these campaigns proved successful and secured strong sales in April-May. 

The sales through our website have been stable vs. Q1 2020, with a slight decrease in May versus April of 3%, but we’ve seen a two-digit turnover growth of our sales via Amazon. We’re currently revisiting our annual plan, initiatives and forecasts to adapt to the market situation, looking to a new strategy that ensures securing projected revenue forecasts. We're focusing more on digital marketing, real people campaigns, and content strategy versus influencer campaigns. One challenge is definitely production around new innovations. There have been delays, but we’re working hard to find solutions and bring new offerings to the market as soon as we can.

Patrick Kelly Founder and Perfumer, Sigil

Our business strategy for this year was to implement our back-end legal and compliance work for international scaling in wholesale. So, that went out the window pretty fast! Yikes. That said, we are very thankful to have this opportunity to reevaluate strategies and have been focusing on bolstering our direct channels with more intentional, quality and consistent direct marketing efforts. 

We enabled individual sample size purchases on our website, increased focus on community over commerce with expanded Lives, takeovers, interviews, classes and newsletters. It took about a month to recoup what we were generating in our wholesale channels, and we look forward to continuing to drive increased awareness and conversion with these tools and strategies.

CC Sofronas Co-Founder, Pacific Shaving Co.

Retail sales slowed down a bit in the first month of the pandemic due to slow foot traffic and working from home, but we are seeing them pick back up already. Online sales have managed to hang on fairly well across the product line, all things considered. We’ve seen increased interest in our Natural Shaving Cream, Everyday Moisturizer, Shaving Oil and 3-in-1 Beard Care items. As shelter in place lifts and people are able to get back out, get some literal and figurative fresh air, people are going to embrace grooming more than ever. I think men (and their significant others?) are growing a bit tired of the COVID-19 "vacation beard" and are ready to get back to feeling groomed—and whole—again.

Courtney Summers Founder, VaultBeauty

Launching in the middle of COVID-19 has definitely brought forth unexpected challenges. Our initial sales plan was to have a monthly subscription price for the professional user, as the platform is designed to simplify the process of connecting artists with new clients, generating new business. As COVID-19 forced artists to close their doors, we asked ourselves, “What does our customer need right now?” Therefore, we decided to suspend our subscription pricing. Professionals’ growth is, in turn, our growth, so we felt delaying our sales at the onset will ultimately offer more profit in the long run. 

We are committed to working with our customers and aren’t comfortable with implementing the subscription charges until artists are able to go back to work. We believe there will be an even stronger need for VaultBeauty once the country reopens, as beauty freelancers will want to maximize their businesses.

Zahir Doss Co-Founder and CEO, Function of Beauty

This has impacted our business in every possible way. As it relates to our sales, we’re incredibly fortunate that our business model is well positioned to navigate this crisis. We have seen high double digit growth in both month-over-month and year-over-year sales. While our repeat business is strong, it’s in line with our forecasts. It’s our new customer growth that has exceeded our expectations. We are 100% direct-to-consumer and haircare is a category where the demand has been stable. People maintain their personal care routines even when they’re staying home. In fact, we’re seeing that, with inability to visit salons or invest in other service-related self-care investments, many customers are trying new things to enhance their at-home experiences. 

Growth stats: In April, organic orders were up 35% over March. Organic + bottom-funnel orders (search, affiliates) up 60% over March, 107% versus February. Conversion rates are up across paid channels, with the biggest increases from our YouTube influencers. Hair mask sales in particular have been on the rise. This is one of our newer products—it launched in October—and we think that, in particular, from March to now, people have been experimenting with more at home self-care products and routines. A hair mask is a simple solution for a little extra TLC. From February to April, purchases of our custom hair masks increased over 30%. From January to April, purchases of our custom hair masks increased over 60%.

Shayan Sadrolashrafi Co-Founder, Waksē

In full transparency, some of our big in-store launches have been pushed back to 2021, which is a huge shift for us. Thankfully, we have been blessed with a crazy amount of online orders, due to the DIY craze, and the continued support of our retail partners driving online business has been amazing.

SELMIN KARATAS Co-Founder and CEO, Kazani

Yes, sales have been impacted as we sell the majority of our products in brick-and-mortar boutiques and stores. The shutdown caused us to revise our revenue forecasts this year. We are working with Square, and they are helping our business prepare for a recession with a financial game plan. To get optimal results on the internet, we will focus on redoing our website. We will also work on search engine optimization and being more active on social media.

Kate Bezar Co-Founder, The Better Packaging Co.

COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our business: our manufacturing, logistics, our team and, yes, our sales. We consider ourselves very lucky. After initially being extremely apprehensive, we realized that working remotely was actually a positive thing for our business. Openly sharing such an experience brought our team closer together, to each other and also to our customers and partners around the world. 

Our core business is the design and production of sustainable packaging for e-commerce and, with most of the developed world stuck at home, online shopping has gone bananas. After an initial dip, sales of our packaging actually increased exponentially through lockdown. We believe this will flatten off as offline retailers open up again, and we’re able to shop physically, but a step-change has been made.

Romain Gaillard Founder, The Detox Market

For safety reasons, we decided very early on to shut down our seven stores. It had an immediate impact on our sales and, in March, we forecasted many different scenarios, including the absolute worst case, one where we would have to shut down everything, including our fulfillment centers for three to six months. What actually happened is different, as we managed to quickly shift our content and marketing effort towards e-commerce, making up for the loss in retail, which is quite remarkable. We have been an omnichannel retailer for years, and this crisis showed how resilient our model is and how reactive and agile our team is.

Alexia Wambua Founder, Native Atlas

Sales have definitely been impacted by COVID-19 in many challenging as well as good ways. We have seen an uptick in online sales, which has been wonderful. The challenges have been a pause on retail from many wholesale accounts, and we've even experienced some accounts shut down. We have had to revise our revenue forecast slightly, but, with online sales increasing, it has kept us steady.

Jordan Schindler CEO, Nufabrx

While a portion of our business has been hampered by COVID-19, primarily our retail-driven business, we were fortunate to be in a position to pivot to offer a custom mask solution for our first responders. We created a reusable copper infused mask made entirely in the USA, which has made up for the loss in revenue from other portions of our business. With this pivot, we’ve been fortunate to be able to help our first responders, hire five new employees, and revenues are growing.

Joe Freeman CEO, MedZone

Thus far, in 2020, it has been an incredible roller coaster ride. Financial forecasts, workforce planning and inventory planning have all been impacted. It has forced us to be more nimble in our internal processes, which will make us better in the long run, but there is still a significant amount of ambiguity left in this calendar year. We have some products that revenues have been dramatically decreased (by 50%-plus in March), and other products like our hand sanitizer and face balm have been positively impacted.  

We are seeing online orders increasing, and our wholesale orders with major retailers have jumped.  This product line has doubled month over month since we started and our customers are coming back, so we are anticipating and hoping our growth continues. We understand it’s a very crazy environment, so we are staying focused on taking care of our customers with great products and awesome service. It’s our job to manage all of these things and finish the year as strong as possible.

Belinda Smith Founder, ST. ROSE

It has definitely had an impact, but I’m incredibly grateful for our supportive communities and continued growth in both our direct website and wholesale partners even through these challenging times. Forecasts through the end of the year are definitely being turned on their head, and this is uncharted territory with still a lot of unknowns for the world markets and retail industry specifically. While it's been an unexpected and scary slowdown on our growth strategy for our young brand, we are looking at this as an opportunity to be even more discerning with our launches and have postponed new products planned for the end of the year and early 2021. 

We are already incredibly curated and take a less-is-more approach to our art, so this doesn't feel uncomfortable. In fact, some of the stories around new collections actually fit more into an important storytelling approach we hope will instill inspiration, wanderlust, and truly enhance mind, body, soul and the earth. With our creative teams based in New York, which has been hit incredibly hard by COVID, our first priority is staying healthy and figuring out how to safely “return to normal” once stay-at-home orders are lifted. I think we'd be overly optimistic to think it will be a speedy return to normalcy and, in fact, we shouldn't rush to pick up where we left off, but rather decide what is most important coming out of this.

Andrea Lisbona CEO and Founder, Touchland

Although we were growing rapidly before COVID-19, we have experienced a massive growth both B2B and DTC, over a 2000% growth with the outbreak. This new increase made us revise forecasts and ramp up our manufacturing capacity to keep up with the demand.

Nnenna Onuba CEO and Founder, LBB

Launching a clearly differentiated skincare brand successfully takes work and time, longer if your ethical bar is high. So, after two years in R&D, we soft-launched on our channels mid-September 2019. Given our versatile and travel-friendly format, the plan was to follow this with a formal multichannel launch in Summer 2020 to capitalize on the busy summer travel season. 

And, then, COVID struck! Almost overnight, promising distribution partnerships stalled. That is scary for any new business. I laugh about it now because I realized only after the fact that I spent the first two weeks of the lockdown in mourning. However, I am not one to wallow for long. After a decade and a half in corporate finance, I understand business planning and so one of the first things we did was to adjust our outlook and strategy for these headwinds, recognizing that the future outlook would look very different to our original plans. E.g., our retail mix looks a bit different to where we were originally, recognizing that traditional retail will take a while to rebound, especially for new brands. 

The other area was, of course, cash management. Though our operations were already lean, COVID has meant closer scrutiny over every pound of cash out of the business. Our core USP is quality skincare for the busy lifestyles, so it’s been reassuring to see actual results exceed our originally more pessimistic adjustments demonstrating that our focus on holistic wellness and high-quality formulation continued to be of value to our customers even in lockdown. 

It’s also been insightful to see how each product in our tightly-edited range has found its own interesting niche through the pandemic. Our multiuse hydration stick balm has emerged a hero for sore hands given all the hand washing we are doing these days. Take Off, Touch Down, our biodegradable XL face and body cleansing wipes, took off with overworked frontline hospital workers after some initial gifting we did. And it goes without saying that Flightmode, our signature aromatherapy blend formulated for its soothing, antiviral or antibacterial properties, attracted quite a few new followers using it as part of their meditation and mindfulness practice given all the stress and anxiety the pandemic has unleashed. I am optimistic that as we enter into this new normal, a lot more of these features we worked so meticulously on will continue to find it's tribe but the road ahead will require a hell of a lot of creativity and innovation!

Kirsten Aguilar EVP of Marketing, SeneGence

Our sales have been impacted in a positive way. Our business has stayed strong from the onset of the changes from COVID-19. We are proud of how flexible our organization has been and the success that we have experienced this year. We offer self-care products that make people feel and look good, and our customers have not compromised on keeping their skin health a priority. We have not made any revisions to our plans for the rest of the year and have a robust calendar of innovative product launches in the months ahead.

Darren Tieste Co-Founder, Mizz Bloom Organics

Our sales have continued and slowly grown through this time as we are mostly e-comm.

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