The following is from my column “About Face” – a regular series about the Beauty Bliss journey from clicks to bricks. Written for NZ Retail magazine, it is also published on The Register. Image by Kerryn Smith.
Losing a top-selling brand may be cause for panic but owner of Beauty Bliss Toni Cox soldiered through and is now offering customers a better selection than ever before. She shares the lessons she’s learnt.
Back in 2014 two weeks before Christmas, I received an email from one of our distributors. Our top-selling brand had decided to pull out of its distribution deal and would no longer sell to New Zealand or Australian stores. At the time, the brand represented over 30 percent of our revenue.
Beauty Bliss was very much still a tiny business. I was working full time and rarely paid myself – any profit we made was reinvested back into the business. The loss of our top-selling brand right before Christmas came as a huge shock. I was panicked and scared about the future of the company. It had only been a year since I’d quit my day job and we were only halfway through our office lease.
We soldiered through, stocking up on products from our other brands and vowed never to put so much reliance on one brand ever again. After all, I had taken our agreement for granted. As a tiny online store in New Zealand, our purchases were a miniscule fraction of the brand’s total sales.
With our resolve to diversify our product offering came great reward. Sales started to climb and with each new brand we were able to secure, we were able to leverage it into opening discussions with another one. We signed on to stock big names like L’Oreal and Maybelline as their first authorised online-only NZ stockist – not bad for a little business that started with $300 of parallel imported products in my spare room.
As well as resolving to never again have one that would cause us to struggle if we were to lose them, I knew that in order to cement a stronger future for Beauty Bliss we would do well to have a brand that we could 100 percent control. Something that was ours and could not be altered, taken away or changed by anyone else. As a result, we dipped our toes into the waters of ‘own brand’ cosmetics by launching our very own line, Carousel Cosmetics.
With Carousel, we’re able to create products that we know will sell well in the New Zealand market. We can control how much stock is released and when, as well as the pricing so that we can have a realistic, sustainable margin. We don’t stress about competitors selling the same brand at lower prices or whether we can source enough stock to meet customer demand. It’s extremely fun to work on and has been a boon for our online sales.
With the introduction of our physical store, we’ve been careful to apply the brand diversification rule, as well as prominently feature Carousel when customers first walk into the store. We’re too small and vulnerable to be putting too many eggs in one basket that someone else controls, whether that’s heavily investing in point-of-sale stands for a brand, or focusing our marketing campaigns solely around one.
Fast forward two years from when we unexpectedly lost that big brand and we now have over 25 brands on the website and a strong in-house brand that has become a pillar of our business. We’re no longer in a position where we would be crippled if any of our brands were to leave and we’re offering our customers a better selection than ever before. Sadly we’ve just lost another of our favourites due to measures well outside our control, but we know that although it sucks, it’s not going to be the death of us. Not by a long shot.
We learnt two valuable lessons after that big brand kicked us to the curb. Don’t let a single brand have enough of an impact on the business that if they were to leave you would struggle, and if you wish you had control over something, go out and get it.
Are you facing any of the issues we’re currently facing at Beauty Bliss, or have you overcome any of these challenges? I love chatting with other New Zealand business owners. Drop me a line through tonibarrett.com or you can find me on Twitter as @toni_b
This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 744 June / July 2016