Ashley Van Dyke, Buyer, Dermstore

Building the presence of a niche brand in the unending maze that is the internet requires strong partnerships with the right companies. For Alchimie Forever, Dermstore is one such company, and Ashley Van Dyke, my buyer there, is one such partner. I love working with her: she is smart, kind, efficient, and amazing with follow-up. And now I also love her because she hates excessive paper printing (totally up my alley given my 2014 goal of going paperless), wants to have dinner with Kobe Bryant, and believes that a positive attitude is the best anti-aging medicine…

AP: What city were you born in? ALV: San Pedro, CA.

AP: What city to do you live in? ALV: I recently moved from Long Beach to Redondo Beach, CA.

AP: What is your middle name? ALV: Louise.

AP: What is your astrological sign? ALV: Leo through and through.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? ALV: I made the decision to become a pescetarian seven years ago to promote a cruelty free lifestyle.

AP: What is your most prized possession? ALV: She is not a possession, but she is my most treasured companion, Zola Marie. She has completely changed my perception on tiny dogs (she is a 2lb Chihuahua) and I’m blessed to be able to provide her a home.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? ALV: Too many people to count. Off the top of my head Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks, Steve Irwin, Kobe Bryant.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. ALV: Colorful.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? ALV: Yes, a Nixon.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? ALV: I have always loved pearls.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? ALV: Try to be genuinely nice all the time. Positivity is contagious and reduces signs of aging.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? ALV: In a buyer’s world this changes daily, but currently I love Gucci Guilty and Bianca by Tocca.

AP: Botox or not? ALV: Not, but who knows how I will feel in the future.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? ALV: Mine is currently a mixture of both.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? ALV: Never use the word diet.

AP: What do you do for exercise? ALV: I try and stick to  a routine for four weeks to build muscle before changing it up. Right now this includes circuit training with weights three times per week, yoga one day a week and cardio one day.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? ALV: Green vegetables, salmon burgers and almond milk

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? ALV: I am trying to avoid the empty calories for the time being, but Greyhounds are delicious.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? ALV: Stay positive, love what you do and leave on time.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? ALV: No more than 1,000.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? ALV: More is better.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. ALV: Big Jet Plane by Angus and Julia Stone, The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson and Mambo Italiano by Dean Martin.

AP: What book are you reading right now? ALV: Love. Life. And Elephants by Daphne Sheldrick.

AP: Quote to live by. ALV: “Integrity is not only doing the right thing when no one is watching, it’s doing the right thing when everyone is watching. It’s being willing to do the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay.”

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? ALV: Unnecessary printing of paper. I cringe at the site of it in our office.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? ALV: 7:30AM and 8 hours of sleep.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? ALV: Working with people every day to achieve the same goal.

AP: Least favorite thing. ALV: Seeing how much waste we generate.

AP: Who is your mentor? ALV: Family, friends, colleagues and God.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. ALV: Be fearless.

BeautyView: Lizzie Francis, Chief Marketing Officer, Intelligent Beauty

I have had the good fortune of working with Dermstore for a couple of years now. Until recently, however, they were one of my clients whom I had never actually met. Over the summer, I met their business development and marketing teams at a conference in New York. And somehow, at a random Georgetown ladies’ lunch, I met Lizzie. This lunch, held at the Georgetown Club, brought together the women of the Georgetown community. Somehow, I had the good fortune of being invited. Somehow, I had the even better fortune of randomly sitting down next to a gorgeous brunette who seemed to be about my age. We started chatting, the subject got to relationships came up, and I told her about my husband who lives in New Orleans while I live in DC – unconventional, requiring much travel, but truly amazingly romantic. She laughed, and told me about her unconventional travel schedule: her husband, with whom she until recently lived in Georgetown works in politics, and she commutes back and forth to LA for work. Of course, the next question was to ask about the job that involved so many hours on the plane. “I am the CMO for Intelligent Beauty,” she says. Now I am really laughing… we are possibly the only two Georgetown residents involved in the beauty industry, and moreover she is a client! Indeed, Intelligent Beauty is the company behind Dermstore. Needless to say, we have been fast friends ever since. For this week’s BeautyView, please meet Lizzie Francis, Chief Marketing Officer for Intelligent Beauty, frequent traveler, DC native, and former (maybe soon to return?) Georgetown resident.

AR: What city were you born in? LF: Washington, DC.

AP: What city do you live in? LF: I currently live in multiple cities… including DC and LA among others…

AP: What is your middle name? LF: Hanako, for my Japanese Grandmother.

AP: What is your astrological sign? LF: Gemini.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? LF: Innovation.

AP: Least favorite thing? LF: Competition…

AP: What is your most prized possession? LF: My family, if I may call them a possession.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? LF: I absolutely love to cook.

AP: Do you wear a watch? LF: Yes. AP: If yes, what model? LF: Chanel J12 Classic in White.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? LF: Pearls. I particularly love my Grandmother’s pearls. There’s something wonderful about wearing a piece of jewelry with history.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? LF: My husband. He’s the best!

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? LF: I am still searching for it. A good laugh with friends does wonders for the soul, though.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? LF: 1. Carry-on only. 2. Bring a big, warm scarf no matter what the climate. 3. Don’t over plan…you never know where the day will take you.

AP: What is your favorite book? LF: Too many wonderful books to choose from… but Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is always a winner on re-read.

AR: What is your cocktail of choice? LF: Champagne.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? LF: Sleep. And a good moisturizer.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? LF: Jo Malone French Lime Blossom.

AP: Botox or not? LF: Not.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? LF: Not.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. LF: Arcade Fire’s “Une annee sans lumiere,” Mumford and Sons “Little lion man,” Keane “Stop for a minute.”

AP: Quote to live by. LF: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

AP: Who is your mentor? LF: My sister Margaret.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. LF: Be passionate, don’t fear failure and believe in yourself!

Highlights from HBA: The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution

HBA is possibly my favorite beauty industry conference. I remember attending four or five years ago, and listening to Sarah Kugelman, Founder and CEO of Skyn Iceland, present her story on a panel about indie beauty brands. I decided I had to somehow find a way to be a speaker – I wanted to be just like her (funnily enough, we had coffee at the Javits at this year’s show, as we now often do, and I told her that story). For the past three years, I have been invited to speak and moderate various panels, which is both a pleasure and an honor.

The panel I moderated on Wednesday was possibly my favorite to date. It was a “Part 2” of a panel I moderated in 2010 on shifting trends in beauty distribution. Last year, that panel was composed of  Shop NBC, Bloomingdale’s and  bluemercury – I was moderating and presenting the brand’s perspective on the various channels (home shopping, department stores, independent beauty boutiques).

In this year’s panel on “The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution,” only “virtual” channels were represented: QVC, Hautelook, and Karen Doskow, Industry Manager, Consumer Products Practice, Kline & CO., set the stage for us by presenting some data on the personal care industry. Three key data points:

–          The US personal care market reached $36.5 billion in 2010, surpassing pre-recession levels

–          Industry growth bounced back after a dip in 2009, and was up 2.4% in 2010

–          The direct sales channel (TV, internet, person-to-person sales) achieved a 5.2% CAGR and is the fastest growing channel over the past five years (in comparison, over the same persio, department store sales decreased 3.5%)

–          Within the direct sales channel, the internet posted the highest CAGR, 26%, followed by TV shopping, 19.7%.

No need to further explain why the panel was composed of Allen Burke, Senior Advisor for Beauty for QVC, Paula Scandone, Vice President of Beauty, Hautelook, and David Olsen, Vice President of Business Development, Dermstore. As Allen Burke said in his opening comments, “a significant shift in beauty distribution is the fact that only virtual channels are represented here today.” Indeed…

Here are some highlights from questions I posed to the panelists:

The most significant shifts in beauty distribution in the last three years were identified as:

–          Consolidation (including consolidation between bricks and mortar and internet businesses; think of Walgreens and for example, or Nordstrom and Hautelook)

–          The advent of mobile shopping; as Allen said, “today it seems almost old-fashioned to be shopping on your computer.”

–          The rise of flash-sale sites such as Hautelook

New sampling business models have emerged, driven by Birchbox, which launched its curated and edited box of samples in September 2010.

–          Both Paula and Allen agreed that this offers an opportunity to expand the reach of certain brands, without the need to internally handle shipping and handling. Indeed, QVC has now partnered with New Beauty on two of its “TestTube,” and plans on continuing this successful association.

–          A slightly different model is Dermstore’s BeautyFix program, which provides consumers full-size products in a mystery box.

The next question centered on the integration of bricks and mortar channels and virtual channels. There was no true consensus, other than the agreement that the consumer is now shopping across all channels. Allen discussed QVC’s partnership with Sephora, and Paula presented the cross-marketing opportunities between Hautelook and its new parent, Nordstrom – in effect, leveraging different consumer bases, introducing Nordstrom consumers to Hautelook, and encouraging the Hautelook consumer to shop preferentially at Nordstrom.

From a brand perspective, I proposed that the two keys to a successful mixed distribution channel is strategy (for example, how do flash sales fit in to your mix, how many times per year, on which products, etc.) and honesty with your partners (let your spas know you are going to be on QVC ahead of time; let your retailers know when your products will be discounted on a flash sale site).

Most interestingly to me, we then discussed the key success factors for the various channels, which are so very different from the key success factors needed in the spa channel (think training, gratis for staff, professional-only products), or in retail (think GWPs, in-store support, ads).

For Dermstore, David identified the keys to success as a true strategic partnership with the brand, brand visibility, and sampling. For QVC, Allen suggested that innovation and the experience of the shopper are key: “It is not about a good demonstration, it is about the experience.” For Hautelook, Paula identified assortment, value, and brand recognition as the keys to success.

HBA is an international show, and TV and the internet are global. We thus had to touch on the three companies’ international plans and experiences. David mentioned that Dermstore used to own, prior to selling the business to Rogers Communications. While the internet is indeed global, the rules and regulations affecting the sale of personal care products differ country by country, making internet sales abroad complicated. Paula spoke of foreign Hautelook-like companies, including VentePrivée, but suggested that given the young age of Hautelook (3 years old), her focus was still on the US. Allen spoke about QVC’s experience in Japan, Italy, Germany, and the UK. His conclusions were not far off from David’s. Indeed, while US brands tend to do fabulous on QVC UK, UK brands have not been successful on QVC US. Perhaps it is not just the regulatory framework that makes global beauty selling complicated, but also differences in beauty cultures and consumer preferences…

I left the most controversial question for last – how has discounting impacted the various channels? David explained that Dermstore, as a general policy, does not discount. However, the company finds other ways to compete, including free shipping and gift with purchases. Paula is all for discounting, after all, that is the founding principle of flash sale sites. She suggested however that her consumer, while enjoying the discounts, continues to shop at full price. From her perspective, discounting is here to stay, and is should be part of a brand’s marketing strategy (notice, again, the word strategy; think about when and how and why you discount, don’t just do it). Allen closed the discussion by stating that QVC does not offer free shipping because a consumer should understand and be ready to pay reasonable shipping fees for a quality product, and that QVC will not offer a brand at a price that is higher than it is commonly found in other channels.

As the session came to a close, we all agreed that we were all still friends, despite differing perspectives. We also all agreed that it is amazing how different the beauty distribution landscape looks today versus five or 10 years ago. And that is what makes our industry, and this panel, so interesting… I am already hoping for a shifting distribution, “Part 3,” at HBA 2012.