What Indie Beauty Brands Can Do To Support Retailers Reeling From Store Shutdowns

With a large portion of storefronts shuttered across the country, the retail business is being slammed by the fight against COVID-19. In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions relevant to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 12 retailers: What can beauty brands do to help you get through this crisis?

Mel Sweet Multi-Department Head, Planet Beauty

There are a couple of ways to help out beauty retailers during this time. Of course, due to the situation, many of our customers are now shopping online with us. The best way to be a partner to retailers right now is to help support online sales of your products. We've been inundated with online orders and are limited on labor due to the stay-at-home orders. Brands could really help by offering smaller drop-ships to our customers to eliminate the time, effort and labor of large shipments, allowing for getting these items out to customers quickly.

Think outside the box to tweak your current offering into something that people can use right nowFor example, coming up with an essential self-care box of assorted stress relieving products like facial masks, massage rollers or essential oils that can be gifted to medical workers or other essential workers to thank them or to give them that reminder to practice self-care and stay healthy, and make this available to retailers via drop-ship options. Similar to how some brands have begun making hand sanitizers, see what is possible with what you already have and make it work for your brand.

Kimberly Smith Founder, Marjani

The most important thing right now between retailers and their brand partners is communication. Brands can help retailers by keeping them informed about inventory. If we sell out of certain products, are you in a position to replenish inventory? If so, what is the new timeline? Do you foresee having to shut down production completely? What are you doing the same, differently or better in response to COVID-19? These are just a few examples of the questions brands should be prepared to answer. Retailers want to be fully transparent with their customers as we are responding in real time.

As small businesses, if we are not already, over the coming weeks, we will be severely cash-strapped. What allowances can we do for each other to weather this uncertain season? This is a vendor-by-vendor conversation.

As we move to virtual interactions, doing cross-promotions is a no brainer. For indie retailers, this crisis is really going to test the partnerships we have with brands. The worst thing a brand can do right now is ghost their retailer. I can’t stress open communication enough. We are in this together! 

Jennie Fresa Founder, Copal Clean Beauty

Last week, one of my brand partners, Indie Lee, called me up and said, "How can we help support you right now?" It was so encouraging to get this kind of support. It's important for beauty brands to ease up on the bottom line and come together in support of one another right now. Another brand offered 30% off all wholesale orders for April. Again, so helpful.  

Another example is from one of the platforms we use to book appointments at our spa called Schedulicity.  They waived their monthly fee for the next three months. I'm grateful to have incorporated e-commerce into my business a few years ago. While our storefront is closed due to state mandate, we are still able to receive online orders. If we all look at ways to support each other, we'll come out of this crisis even stronger.

Lauren Fennema Founder and CEO, Confidants

We're all living through a shared experience of feeling disconnected from our everyday routines and relationships. I think first and foremost, it's great to hear from brand partners on a personal level. Even just a quick, "Hey, how are you doing? How are you navigating this change? We're thinking of you."

Retailers understand brands are working through their own issues with supply chain, packaging, warehouses closing temporarily, etc., so I don't expect a ton of extra support, but I think beauty brands can help retailers in a few ways. Most of these options only apply if you're still safely operating and shipping orders. 

  1. Be open to breaking minimums.
  2. Work with vendors on payment terms, if you can.
  3. Retailers are hungry for content that is relevant, but not tone-deaf. Get creative around storytelling by creating content to help add joy to people's lives, e.g., "How to do an at-home facial?" or other tutorials, rituals or self-care tips. Then, share that content with retailers so they can have relevant content to promote. 
  4. If you have a new product launching and want to get the word out, let retailers try it on consignment, low minimums, drop-ship or some other inventory-friendly terms. Set them up for success with content they can use to get you online. 
  5. Create an exclusive bundle for self-care or buy one/give one campaign, then share it with retailers to see if they want to participate. 
  6. Offer up options to do a giveaway either with your product or team up with a few complementary brands also carried by that retailer. All brands promote the giveaway, and everyone gets a lift in brand awareness.
Jennifer Freitas Founder, The Truth Beauty Company

I am feeling the pinch and, really, a complete overhaul to life how I knew it. Many of us are, if not all. I think there are a few ways the brands can support us retailers. For purchasing, they could offer free shipping. They could offer more samples, which are great for online orders as this is how we are now conducting business, and there is no in-store browsing. They could waive minimums—as cash flows have tightened so has buying—or a discount to Canadians to offset the dollar exchange. 

For marketing, they could offer IG takeover. This could work either way: a retailer spotlight that could be e-blasted as a newsletter to their clients or done on IG stories, or even a giveaway. It's simple, yet shows the fabric of the community, that we really are truly all in this together.

Niki Richards Founder, Organa Beauty & Wellbeing

Online sales have increased because of the stay-at-home policy. People want to buy, but also be inspired, and it would be helpful for brands to work with beauty retailers by collaborating on relevant content. It’s a great opportunity to write editorial or inspirational features on ingredients or how-to tips, for example. People have time to get into the knowledge side of beauty at this time as well as purchasing product.

It would also be a great opportunity to collaborate more on competitions and giveaways, where brands could give a wholesale discount or contribute for free. We have just pulled together a Gratitude Giveaway, and our customers are saying how amazing this gesture is at a time like this, where they are also worried about money and spending too much.

Madeline Alcott Founder, Petit Vour

During this time, I'm thinking a lot about how I can support our brands since I know that none of us are walking away unscathed by the effect of COVID-19. I haven't specifically asked for any changes regarding business protocol, but I do appreciate that many brands have lifted minimum purchase orders, which can help managing cash flow quite a bit. 

I think one other thing for everyone to keep in mind is that many of us are more stretched with work than usual, which can make training sessions and check-ins unfeasible at this time. Understanding that businesses are being forced to tend to urgent needs of their business would help relieve some of the pressure of any meetings that could be done at a later date.

Mandy Butera Owner and Founder, Wren and Wild

Here are the ideas that I have already been thinking about. These are some of the things that would help us out tremendously:

  • Offer us free shipping for orders.
  • Work with us on margins.
  • Send deluxe samples so we can entice online shopping
  • Offer to do Zoom master classes with our clients. Collaborate, and we can drive sales in-store with our good clients.
  • Keep us informed as to shipping and supply chain.
  • Give us shout-outs on social media. We are always tagging our brands and talking about how much we love them. Give us some love back, we need it. We know that our brands depend on their online orders, but we are on the front lines educating and sharing brand stories. The more our vendors talk about us the more we talk about them. It's a win-win for us all.
  • Let's collaborate on Instagram giveaways with tips and tricks on how to stay sane right now.
  • Start talking about the effect COVID-19 is having on small businesses, and how we need to let our administration hear our battle to stay alive during this crisis.

We adore our vendors and know that we all can survive this if we support each other and get creative. 

Tom Szaky CEO and Founder, TerraCycle

During these unprecedented times, we are all forced to come up with new ways to do the things we normally do every day. In the case of such brands as Garnier, Burt’s Bees, eos, Herbal Essences, L’Occitane, Josie Maran, Limelife by Alcone and Paula’s Choice, that means maintaining their relationship with TerraCycle and offering consumers the opportunity to collect their beauty waste and, when the time of social distancing is over, ship it to TerraCycle to be recycled

For all other beauty brands interested in making their packaging waste recyclable during the COVID-19 crisis, we recommend suggesting the Beauty Products and Packaging Zero Waste Box to their consumers. Using this box, virtually any brand of cosmetic, hair care or skincare packaging can be recycled. Simply purchase the box that suits their need, fill it with beauty packaging waste, affix the included prepaid shipping label when the box is full and ship it to TerraCycle when the crisis subsides. The moral of the story is, whether it be through brand-sponsored recycling programs or a Zero Waste Box, COVID-19 induced social distancing doesn’t mean you have to compromise your sustainability goals.

Laura Linsenmayer Founder, ROOTS Beauty

In a perfect world, the 100-plus brands that we have been representing for the last eight years would be able to provide gifts with purchase for us to include in orders as a way to incentivize clients to shop with us online. I choose to believe that companies will be doing what they can to support in order to keep the chain of operations going. It would be a beautiful thing to witness. ROOTS will continue to pay it forward.

Lydia Kandel Senior Director of Marketing, Credo Beauty

We’re focusing on providing as much joy as possible for our clean beauty community whom we hope is staying safe at home during this unprecedented time. We’ve ramped up our content by providing virtual master classes and meet-the-founders on IGTV, offering up WFH wellness tips through email and our blog like doing a face mask during lunch, deep conditioning your hair during a workout, or what serums offer blue light protection.

We are bringing joy in the best way we can to our local community—giving beauty goodies to the UCSF medical team—and are encouraging our customers and followers to pay it forward, and help their local community in any small way that they can!

Angela Jia Kim Founder, Savor Beauty

To support Savor Beauty partners, we've offered a lowered or no minimum requirement on orders, introductory packages included additional gifts and reductions, and social media messaging to bring in revenue.  The Virtual Self-Love Spa connects guests to like-minded self-care practitioners via virtual workshops. Wellness seekers receive help navigating skincare rituals in 1-on-1 consults, manifesting radiance through acts of self-love, and introduce high-vibrational techniques to de-stress. Workshop educators are given a platform to teach intentional living online. 

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to editor@beautyindependent.com.