Bucking the tradition that bulky cosmetics are intended for a boudoir and just too large to be used by their expiration date, a new VC-funded beauty company has developed right-size luxury cosmetics for ease in portability. Selling directly to consumers, New York startup Stowaway Cosmetics aims to disrupt beauty product development and retail.
This is a lofty aspiration, considering that 70% of the beauty industry is controlled by a mere 10 conglomerates.
The newbie cosmetics company is also vying for savvy consumers alongside established online retailers and stores like Ulta Salon, Sephora, and Sally Beauty Supply, which sell more cosmetics than any other product and bank on loyal superusers. According to First Research, the US cosmetics, beauty supply, and perfume stores industry includes about 15,000 stores with a combined annual revenue of about $14 billion.
Stowaway launched its first six pint-sized products in the US in February at stowawaycosmetics.com. The Stowaway Kit, complete with all six items, will set you back $75. Single products cost between $10 (for the Effortless Eyeliner) and $22 (for Radiant Complexion Beauty Balm).
Stowaway’s commitment to smaller products targets women who carry their makeup essentials with them as part of an active lifestyle. They take their beauty products to work, the gym, and on mass transit. What drives the company is that while women’s personal and work lives have changed dramatically since the 1950s, when the family gathered around the TV to watch The Ed Sullivan Show and Dragnet, makeup size hasn’t.
Cutting out the middleman is also key for the makeup company. Bypassing brick-and-mortar stores, asserts Stowaway, keeps costs low. They claim that for financial reasons major brands and their retail partners likely won’t begin making and selling miniature makeup products because costs are the same no matter the product size. Why not make fatter profit margins selling larger products? To Stowaway, that’s not being customer-focused.
Shrinking the product allows Stowaway to sidestep the sometimes cumbersome wholesale-to-retail supply chain and, to customers’ benefit, limit preservatives in its formulation because products are used more quickly.
Stowaway will likely sell abroad, as items are EU-compliant, in addition to paraben-, phthalate-, and cruelty-free. Overseas, the company will be elbowing for market share within the global beauty care industry, which by 2017 is forecast to reach some $265 billion, according to market researcher Lucintel.
The cosmetics company is the brainchild of Julie Fredrickson, a digital marketing entrepreneur, and Chelsa Crowley, a beauty industry veteran with experience at Clinique, Estée Lauder, and Bobbi Brown.
The female founders raised an initial $1.5 million in funding. They surely blushed too when FORTUNE magazine recently deemed Stowaway a brand to watch.
Industry Impact — Cosmetics, beauty supply, and perfume stores should devote both retail floorspace and an online presence to prestige cosmetics collections designed for travel and quick consumer consumption.
Photo courtesy of Stowaway Cosmetics.