Monday, 26 September 2011

An interview with Xen-Tan about developing a beauty brand in the UK

Natalie Roche, MD of Xen-Tan distributor Skin Solutions UK Ltd
Years in beauty industry: 9

As Xen-Tan celebrates its 5 year anniversary in the UK, Natalie Roche talks to Your Beauty Industry about turning her business idea into reality, the importance of delivering on brand values and her top tips on starting a beauty business.

What inspired you to launch your own beauty distribution company?
I’d love to say that it was just a really smart, business orientated decision, but that wouldn’t be totally true. My love affair with Xen-Tan was a very personal one. I am very fair skinned and have never been able to pull off the ‘English rose’ look and I only really look healthy when I have a tan.

Having tried every fake tan on the market, I found that Xen-Tan was the only one that overcame all the issues of smell, streaking, patchiness and orange colouring. I tried it and loved it - the rest, as they say, was history.

How did you go about turning your business idea into reality?
I knew there was a gap in the market for a self-tan that didn’t look ‘fake’ and I realised that there was plenty of room for improvement on the market. It seemed pretty simple.

For a start, we needed to get the colour right with an olive base rather than an orange one, so that it would look more natural. Having tried Xen-Tan on my own skin and having felt the same concerns as other tan fans, I knew that if it could make me look as if I had a natural tan, then I knew it would look fantastic on other people too. When something excites you as much as Xen-Tan excited me, you know you have the formula for success.

I jumped on a plane to America to research the product in greater depth, secured the distribution deal and have never looked back since. I started Skin Solutions UK which owns the exclusive distribution of Xen-Tan in Europe, but there was a lot of preparation prior to launching the brand in the UK, so Xen-Tan did not really start to take off until 2007/2008.  

"Whatever money I had was spent on PR and that has paid off for the brand"
How challenging is it to control a brand as an exclusive distributor while also working towards the brand’s own vision?
It’s non-stop for us – we are constantly approached with exciting opportunities, but we have to make sure we remain focused, remember our brand values and deliver on them.

Since day one, PR is something we’ve invested heavily in, and that’s hard at the beginning when you need stockists to drive your consumer interest to. I know that a lot of start-up businesses build their stockist list first and then invest in PR, but when I started, whatever money I had was spent on PR and that has paid off for the brand. The consumer is much savvier now and wants to be convinced that a product is good. You get that opportunity with recommendations from beauty editors.

We also work closely with beauty bloggers who are great brand ambassadors of our products. We target some of our salons specifically for bloggers to visit for a spray tan treatment. This is two-fold; it provides a fabulous review for our salon and it also raises awareness of our professional treatment amongst an avid target market.

Beauty bloggers are just one area of our digital arena – our Facebook and Twitter pages provide a base for digital savvy consumers to check in and engage and interact with us on a personable level, too.

We’ve also had some fabulous TV exposure this year - 2011 has seen many TV opportunities for Xen-Tan. It has been a year of high visibility for Xen-Tan and we need more of the right stockists to help fulfil the consumer demand generated by our on-going exposure.

"The customer is king – make sure you know your customer inside and out"
What are the most important aspects of developing and managing a beauty brand?
  • The customer is king – make sure you know your customer inside and out
  • Deliver on what you promise and make sure you are constantly driving what the customer wants
  • Draw on the personality of your brand – we play on the positive feelings a customer gets from a great, natural looking tan, as well as the functional aspects. A beauty treatment or product can evoke a highly emotional experience

What top tips would you give to anyone wanting to start their own beauty business?
1.    WORK HARD – the best advice I ever received was 'The harder you work the luckier you get' – I really do believe you make your own luck in life
2.    Do what you love
3.    Be truly passionate and enthusiastic
4.    Build a strong, loyal team and always look after them
5.    Live the brand – you are the best possible PR for your company


Monday, 12 September 2011

European Supermarket Magazine interviews me about social media for its Beauty Report

I’m chuffed to have been interviewed for European Supermarket Magazine’s latest Pan-European Beauty Report, discussing the importance of social media in the marketing of beauty brands. European Supermarket Magazine (ESM) is a trade magazine for senior management and retail buyers that, along with a two-part Beauty Report in its most recent issues, is introducing regular beauty content as part of its core editorial offering.

My interview includes my thoughts on the development of social media within the beauty industry, the importance of beauty bloggers within a company’s marketing plan and how social networking sites can benefit beauty brands.

You can read the interview by clicking and zooming in on the image above, or click here to see the full magazine and the Pan-European Beauty Report Part 2 online. The beauty report starts on page 44 and my interview is on pages 50-51.

Visit ESM’s website at

Friday, 9 September 2011

Beauty trend: adhesive eyeliner patches

New beauty products launch at an alarming rate, but it’s only every now and then that something comes along that makes me sit up in my chair and say “Oooooooo....!” Well exactly that happened this week when I heard about Dior’s new Velvet Eyes; adhesive eyeliner patches that allow you to create perfect winged eyeliner in a matter of minutes.

Any woman who is a fan of winged eyeliner will know only too well the trials and tribulations of achieving the look. A steady hand is an absolute must to ensure the line is super-neat, and even when that’s been mastered I’ve lost count of the number of times I have finished the look only to realise that one eyeliner flick is higher than the other eye. Grrr! Add to that the fact that I tend to catch myself in the mirror half way during the evening only to realise I’ve rubbed part of an eyeliner flick off my face (surely I’m not on my own on that one?) that it tends to put me off bothering with the look altogether. So ready-made winged eyeliner is a welcome addition to my dressing table.
Picture credit: Selfridges

Making its appearance at Vogue’s Fashion Night Out in London’s Selfridges last night, Dior Velvet Eyes adhesive eyeliner patches work on the same principle as a stick-on tattoo, much like the Chanel temporary tattoos that created a furore on last season’s catwalks. The pack contains four different designs, including two decorated with Swarovski crystals. It’s priced at a mighty steep £47 per pack, but I would imagine that mass beauty brands will create their own, more affordable versions in time.

If you want to get your mitts on a pack they are exclusive to Selfridges here or pop on down to the Dior Boutique on New Bond Street, London.

Monday, 5 September 2011

An interview with Weleda about how the natural beauty industry has developed over the past century

Loraine Murry, Weleda Natural Beauty Consultant
Years in beauty industry: 32
Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, Weleda pioneered natural beauty long before it was fashionable. Loraine talks to Your Beauty Industry about surviving the early years of natural beauty, the commercialisation of the natural sector and the opportunities and challenges for new and existing brands in today's natural beauty market.

"In the early '80s it was estimated that only 10% of the population had any awareness of what we now call 'green' issues"

Tell me a bit about your career background.
I joined Weleda in 1979 when the company moved lock, stock and wheelbarrow from East Sussex to Derbyshire. Between 1979-1988 and again from 1995 to the present day, I was part of the sales and marketing team in Derbyshire. In the early 1990s I was given the challenge of setting up the sales and marketing division at Weleda in New Zealand. In between, I also qualified in remedial massage and worked as a therapist incorporating aromatherapy, acupressure, reflexology, bach flower remedies and homeopathy.
Weleda is celebrating its 90th anniversary – how has it maintained its success?
True grit! Sheer determination and commitment. We have some brilliant hero products that have been around for many years - some since the very early years: Skin Food dates from 1926, Massage Balm with Arnica and Rosemary Hair Lotion date from the 1920s, Calendula Baby Oil from 1959, etc. Using only natural ingredients and working sustainably is at the very core of Weleda; part of our DNA.

While we take advantage of trends, we know who we are and what we do best and stick to it. We have such an extensive range there has always been some category that has been popular. Until about 20 years ago, the medicine side of our business was much bigger than the cosmetics side. Last but not least our success is surely down to our very loyal long-standing customers! 

What have been the key changes in the beauty industry over this time? 
More natural and organic competition, and nowadays - as natural and organic are so popular - even large mainstream skin care companies offer a range that purports to be natural.

"Our first, and still core, retail partners are independent health stores"
Weleda was committed to natural beauty long before it was fashionable – how did you survive for so long when consumer education was so low? 
Our first, and still core, retail partners are independent health stores. The individuals who own these shops are always at the forefront of health and environmental issues and their shops attract like-minded consumers. (In the early 80s it was estimated that only 10% of the population had any awareness of what we now call “green” issues).

We survived over the decades because we have a range of excellent products that actually work! Also, we have always tried to educate and inform the consumer. Over the years we have benefited from a few “media scares” – the first one I recall was that CFCs harm the ozone layer. As CFCs, before they were banned, were used in aerosols we could not keep up with the demand for our ozone-friendly pump-action spray deodorants.

How has the commercialisation of natural beauty aided Weleda, and how has the brand developed to stay successful in a now crowded market? 
The commercialisation of natural beauty has been a double-edged sword – on the one hand there is more consumer demand, but there is also more competition. The Weleda brand has developed mainly as our expertise has grown. In the early days the user, particularly of creams, had to remember how much they loved natural: the colour of the creams was a bit muddy, they felt a little greasy, they would go very runny in summer and set firm in winter – but they were good for the skin and the environment!

Now we have become so adept at formulating totally natural creams they are as attractive and easy to use as any conventional cream. We even have our first vegan creams: all our Pomegranate facial care creams are suitable for vegans. Users do not have to be into green or natural, often they just want effective products to sort out skin issues. We have had to get more professional -we now offer a very comprehensive range, covering all aspects of skin care for all ages. The look too has evolved: modern contemporary packaging that reflects the quality of the products.

Do you think there is still room for natural/organic brands to launch into the beauty market?
Many small new brands appear each year, most do not last long, some stay around but very few grow beyond niche market brands. There is still scope for improvement and development among existing brands or ranges, with the possibility of improved formulations and extended lines.

There is a lot of confusion over what brands are truly natural and organic – what advice would you give to people trying to find effective natural/organic products?
It helps to get to know what the issues are - which ingredients are not sustainable, not biodegradable, potentially oestrogen-disrupting, what packaging is not environmentally-friendly, which processes could cause human and environmental damage. The list could go on.

It is a good idea to check out a company’s whole ethos, but this can be time consuming. An easier way is to go with brands that are certified by a respected independent body such as NATRUE, the Soil Association, EcoCert, BDIH; the standards of good schemes will be easily accessible on their websites.

How do you think the future of the natural beauty industry will develop?
I think the natural beauty industry will become increasingly sophisticated and more like the mainstream beauty industry with specialist sectors such as anti-ageing.