IBMG And Douglas Partner To Bring Indie Beauty Brands To Europe’s Largest Beauty Retailer
Douglas, a giant of European beauty retail, is taking a serious interest in the little guys.
The omnichannel company is partnering with Indie Beauty Media Group, producer of Indie Beauty Expo, on a multifaceted program to strengthen its relationships with emerging beauty players increasingly grabbing market share from entrenched brands. As part of the program, Douglas will be the official retail sponsor of the exposition IBE Berlin 2019 taking place from March 22 to 23 at Station Berlin, and IBMG will scout and onboard a collection of indie beauty brands that will debut at the retailer during the first half of this year.
“We have focused more on sourcing independent brands for the Douglas assortment because we see independent beauty as a growing trend, and it helps differentiate us from the competition,” says Tina Müller, CEO of Douglas. “So far, we have invested in trend sourcing in the United States—the East Coast and West Coast—and Asia. When IBMG came to us with an opportunity to combine forces to source brands and communicate about them in a bigger way in Europe, we believed it would be a great partnership to put as at the forefront of independent brand development.”
IBMG expanded into retail partnerships in 2017 after determining that retailers were pressed to discover indie beauty brands and cater to shifting consumer tastes, but didn’t have sufficient capabilities to identify promising beauty startups globally. Its retail partnerships help small beauty brands gain hearings from retailers that might otherwise overlook them. The partnerships also offer logistical guidance to enable brands to handle the requirements of the retailers involved. Douglas marks IBMG’s fourth retail partnership overall and second in Europe. Its other retail partnerships are with Neiman Marcus, Shen Beauty and Feelunique.
“Our mission is to support the success of independent beauty brands and the entrepreneurs behind them. With Douglas, we are able to work with a company that has an unparalleled footprint in European markets. They have an amazing reputation, a growing online business and a forward-looking leadership team that pursues new ways to innovate and sees independent brands as natural allies,” says Nader Naeymi-Rad, co-founder of IBMG. “What Douglas respects about independent brands is they are disruptive, respond to unmet needs and take risks.”
“We have focused more on sourcing independent brands for the Douglas assortment because we see independent beauty as a growing trend, and it helps differentiate us from the competition.”
Indie beauty brands supply retail assortments with fresh and distinct merchandise vital to keep customers returning to stores and websites. Douglas has been undertaking a major initiative to refresh its stores and assortment. The retailer added 150 brands to its portfolio last fiscal year, and four out of its top 30 skincare products were introduced in the last 12 months. Müller points to beauty foods, skincare devices and sleep-oriented items as trending. Douglas also hosted the #ForwardBeautyChallenge in November giving beauty brands and retail tech startups a chance to pitch their concepts to Douglas. More than 100 companies participated, 10 ultimately pitched Douglas, and three came out on top and have entered the retailer.
Douglas recently updated 50 stores across Europe and unveiled premium retail format Douglas PRO in Hamburg, where the average basket size is exceeding predecessor stores by 10%. Across Douglas’s roughly 2,400 stores in 21 countries, sales surged 17% last fiscal year to 3.3 billion euros. Its digital sales rose 11% to 423 million euros, making Douglas Europe’s largest online beauty retailer.
In the revamped stores, Douglas is cultivating a trend selection with 18 brands. The retailer highlights the selection with special tables and messaging to convey the stories of the brands and their founders to shoppers. Müller calls the results of the trend selection promising, but notes indie brands with strong social media followings are outperforming those with comparably weaker social media presences. The retailer attempts to boost sales by communicating with its substantial customer base—there are 39 million Douglas Beauty Card holders—about the brands and throwing events.
“When a brand is already the talk of the town, it doesn’t need a lot of push in the store. We see brands that arrive and are immediately a success, and we can put them on the normal shelves after two to three months,” says Müller. “Then, there are some brands that need more awareness and attention because customers aren’t familiar with them yet, and they’re not as established on social media. We try to support them with our own activities.”
“Douglas’s investment in Beauty Independent speaks volumes about its commitment to entrepreneurs. It will allow us to cover more local news, events and developments in Europe, and having the coverage in the local language will make it a lot more digestible and accessible to the 100 million German-speaking citizens of Europe.“
To further support indie brands, Müller will provide beauty industry insights to an audience of beauty brand founders and executives at BeautyX Retail Summit, an educational conference running from May 13 to 14 in Dallas. Douglas is also backing a German version of Beauty Independent, the IBMG-owned digital publication tailored to beauty entrepreneurs that went live in the U.S in 2017. The German edition of Beauty Independent will cover European indie brands and the complexities of European markets for beauty, and deliver expert brand-building tips. Like the indie beauty brand collection IBMG is onboarding at Douglas, Beauty Independent’s German language launch is expected to occur during the first half of this year.
“Douglas’s investment in Beauty Independent speaks volumes about its commitment to entrepreneurs,” says Naeymi-Rad. “It will allow us to cover more local news, events and developments in Europe, and having the coverage in the local language will make it a lot more digestible and accessible to the 100 million German-speaking citizens of Europe.“
In the future, Douglas’s partnership with IBMG could extend in many directions as Müller emphasizes it’s a long-term arrangement. “Independent beauty is a mega trend, so our intention for this partnership is for it to be ongoing,” she says. Asked how Douglas will evaluate its link with IBMG, Müller continues, “We will benchmark the brands we source via IBMG against the ones we source on our own, and we will benchmark the exposure to brands we get from the partnership against the exposure we already have on our own.”