E-commerce with luxury cosmetics has gained a new competitor.
With an assortment now covering clothing, accessories, home and jewelry, Moda Operandi has added beauty as the newest category. The division, which starts on Tuesday, has fewer than 300 stock units and a brand matrix ranging from luxury heavyweights like La Mer and Sisley-Paris to iconic favorites like Vintner’s Daughter and The Beauty Sandwich.
The salesman enters the crowded room. Farfetch joined the mix with over 100 prestige beauty brands last year, and this foray came after the acquisition of specialist retailer Violet Gray. Net-a-porter introduced cosmetics almost a decade ago, Ssense expanded its cosmetics range, and mass players such as Kohl’s, Target and Walmart joined forces with Sephora, Ulta Beauty and Space NK, respectively, to bring prestige cosmetics to their aisles.
However, Operandi’s fashion starts less aggressively. The debut range comprises less than 300 SKUs with a strong focus on skin care. Traditional industry players such as La Mer, Sisley-Paris, Chantecaille and Supergoop anchor the brand matrix.
Rich in smaller brands, the range also includes 111Skin, Augustinus Bader, African Botanics, Beneath Your Mask, Blue Lagoon, By Far, BeautyStat, The Beauty Sandwich, Costa Brazil, Charlotte Mensah, Crown Affair, Creed, David Mallett, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty, Ellis Brooklyn, Ever Amid, Eighth Day, French Farmacie, Isamaya, Joanna Czech, KNC Beauty, Kismet Olfactory, La Bouche Rouge, Leonor Greyl, Macrene Actives, Matière Première, Monika Blunder, Noble Panacea , My, R +Co Bleu, Regime des Fleurs, Retrouvé, ReVive, Roen, Roz, Révérence de Bastien, Sangre de Fruta, Santa Maria Novella, Sidia, Surratt, Tan Luxe, Taffin, Tata Harper, Tracie Martyn, U Beauty, Vintner’s Daughter, Westman Atelier and Wonder Valley.
The idea behind the first approach is to offer heroic products from many lesser-known brands – an approach to treatment that Jessica Matlin, Fashion Director of Beauty at Moda Operandi, says will help cut the retailer off the herd as a place to be discovered.
“Fashion has always been about mixing established and emerging brands and that’s our strength,” said Matlin. “Other retailers focus on constant innovation, more is more. Our strategy is really about what I call heroes and hidden gems. I take the best of my favorite lines, taking the time to put them in the spotlight instead of attracting loads of brands and pushing them to do more and more. I’m not talking about novelty for novelty’s sake.”
New arrivals, the traditional growth engine for beauty brands, will have their place – Matlin described the range as “iterative”, adding that it will move deeper into perfumes, nails and wellness in 2023 – but the Fashion customer “doesn’t want this constant deluge of products,” she claimed.
“Whatever your income level is, you want the best, you don’t want to spend hours on this research,” she continued. “The Moda client comes to us for something that has been really tested. After all, it must be beautiful, it must be sublime, it must be exquisite. If you’ve spent money on a beauty product in Moda, you’ll feel fantastic.”
The average unit price for an assortment is $120. “The Beauty Sandwich is $300, but we also have $30 items that are much more competitively priced if you’ve never shopped at Moda before. This is an opportunity for those who have never shopped at Moda to experience great experiences and discover new brands,” said Matlin.
Jim Gold, CEO of Moda Operandi, predicts that beauty will account for about 10 percent of the company’s business. “Beauty will also act as an introductory point for new customers, allowing them to experience what we’re all about at a more affordable price point,” he said via email. “Beauty and well-being is a fun, engaging and prolific category that will grow in importance to our customers over time.”
Gold continued that while the high momentum in the first half of 2022 eased somewhat towards the end of the year, the company “continued to post good growth, especially in our apparel industry, with the evening category and high-end capsules being particularly bright spots.”
However, this is still a good time for a prestigious beauty. According to data from the NPD Group, the category grew 15 percent in the third quarter to $2.1 billion in total U.S. sales.
The thought behind launching beauty was to fill the gaps in Moda Operandi’s aspirational lifestyle proposition. “Our client works with Moda as a lifestyle brand: we offer her a whole world of style; fashion, entertainment, jewelry and gifts, and now we’re excited to expand our offering to include beauty,” Lauren Santo Domingo, the company’s co-founder and brand director, wrote in an email.
“Coming from an editorial background, it’s always been important to me that Fashion tells the stories of designers, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer a platform to tell the story of beauty brands in the same way we’ve done with our fashion house and jewelry spaces,” she continued. .
Matlin has spent her entire career in editorial and media, with the exception of a brief stint at Space NK, and most recently she worked as Beauty Director at Harper’s Bazaar. She still co-hosts the Fat Mascara beauty podcast with Jennifer Goldstein, which explains her experiential, narrative approach to selling products.
“We are creating these unique experiences for our customers and it will make a huge difference. It’s something we’ve been successful at – being able to bring our customers closer to our brands and create a real connection,” said Matlin. “Beauty has an emotional component that gets lost sometimes, and we are able to create these unique connections.”
Fashion hosted private experiences with makeup artist Gucci Westman, as well as trips to Iceland and Brazil for Blue Lagoon and Costa Brazil, respectively. The beauty website will “bring out these heroes and hidden gems and give them moments to shine in different ways,” said Matlin. “We’re going to have videos and moments where brands can tell their own stories.”
The service front will also play a role in acquiring and retaining cosmetics customers. “Our client is very devoted to Fashion. Our best customers are very close to and rely on their private customer advisors for apparel, apparel, home or jewelry,” said Matlin. “We know our customers, we know what they asked for. We work a lot with our private customers and did a lot of research with them before I came here – there were perfumes, skincare products and specific brands that were a big part of our purchase.”
The debut lineup is full of skincare because the Moda customer is “obsessed with skincare,” Matlin said. However, it is looking at other categories for expansion. “It’s time for Fashion to double its fragrances and the team is really behind the fragrances for 2023,” she said. To that end, the homepage will have a dedicated section for niche perfumeries, called The Fragrance Shop.
Beauty brands joining the site see several different opportunities, from content and storytelling to bolstering their credibility in the luxury space.
“We wanted to see what this could look like from a storytelling and content standpoint,” said Ron Robinson, founder and CEO of BeautyStat. “It gives us the opportunity to reach new customers, perhaps more fashion-savvy but who, from a psychographic point of view, we call ‘anti-ageing warriors’. He doesn’t mind spending a little more on a prestige product that works, and we believe this partnership will extend our reach to that consumer.”
This thinking was in line with Yannis Alexandrides and Eva Alexandridis, co-founders of 111Skin. “111Skin is the runway brand that models, aestheticians and makeup artists use to prep their faces. Having product capabilities along with the availability of dresses and accessories makes sense,” said Eva Alexandridis. “The recipients who watch the shopping in Moda are our customers. We are very much in agreement, primarily in terms of the services they provide and the strategy of focusing on specific products.”
“We’re at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Cos Bar. We already have all the distribution we want, now we’re only expanding in places that make perfect sense to us,” added Alexandridis. “Fashion connects with us, connects with our customers. We welcome the inclusion of beauty on the fashion platform because if you look beyond the superficial commercial benefits, it makes sense that someone who wants a beautiful accessory would also want healthy skin.”
Charles Rosier, co-founder and CEO of Augustinus Bader, optimistic about the partnership, said that Moda’s customer accurately reflects his brand’s customers. “They have an audience that is common to the profile of their customer base and also fits our customer base,” he said. “I’m interested in learning their point of view and how they want to approach the advice and experience of their clients.”
Recognizing the mounting pressure from competition, Rosier added that Mod’s most loyal – and highest spending – customers will help maintain the category. “They have a very close relationship with their VIP customers,” he said. “If you have consumers like that, it doesn’t seem difficult to achieve beauty penetration.”