Like most business in India, the firm experienced a sluggish April due to the lockdowns.
Once the restriction on the sale of non-essential items was lifted, the rapid recovery ended up taking the company by surprise.
“Initially, we thought that the rise was due to pent up demand or even stockpiling – but the uptick didn’t taper down after the initial week, and still hasn’t,” said CEO Vineeta Singh.
She noted that while this sales spike was only seen online initially, the brand is already seeing its offline channels spring back from the lockdown.
“With the retail industry gradually opening up, we have already started seeing a slow and steady rise in sales through our general trade outlets, a few of our exclusive brand stores, self-operated kiosks, and shops-in-shop in large formal retail outlets,” said Singh.
SUGAR Cosmetics claims to be one of the fastest-growing premium beauty brands in India. According to the firm’s figures, its retail presence grew 777% over 2019.
Part of the firm’s growth strategy was to aggressively expand offline to reach a broader customer base.
As of today, it has over 1,750 touchpoints across the country,
According to the company’s research, almost 60% of their consumers prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar outlets.
Singh told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that she believes that beauty consumers still crave that in-person experience that a brick-and-mortar store can provide.
“Replacing this in-store experience for a customer with digital tools will always have its restrictions. The touch and feel factor that a brick and mortar format gives wouldn’t be possible if it’s completely replaced with digital technology.”
The company plans to continue investing in its offline retail channels, even though many are questioning the future of brick-and-mortar post-COVID-19.
“Not immediately, but gradually it does make sense to invest further in the retail stores keeping safety and convenience as a guiding north star for all business decisions,” said Singh.
The new normal
However, she noted that the retail experience will change moving forward.
For instance, the company stepped on its safety and hygiene processes in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline.
It has fumigated their stores and regularly sanitising the store counters, and products in preparation of reopening.
The retail staff have also undergone training to follow safety and hygiene guidelines issued by the government.
This also means that the brand will no longer offer testers for consumers.
“SUGAR Cosmetics has temporarily suspended makeovers on customers and usage of testers on them to avoid any contact. However, we have given the liberty to our Beauty Advisors to only show the product tester without handing it over to the customer and sanitize the tester thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol and tissues while keeping it back,” said Singh.
To overcome this, the brand has invested in supplementing physical testers with Augmented Reality (AR) technology.
“To make this retail experience as real for customers who want to try the makeup products and find the perfect fit, SUGAR Cosmetics encourages the use of our AR tool on the SUGAR Cosmetics App and website.”
The company predicts that colour cosmetics will continue to be a part of the beauty routine and that consumers will demand products that adapt to the new habits formed during the COVID-19 period.
“We predict a surge in the want of makeup products that are more “wear under your mask” friendly. This means all category products that include lip, face and eye makeup products that are smudge-proof and transfer-proof, also do not require the touch of other makeup tools like brushes and have skincare benefits,” said Singh.
Another opportunity the firm sees is in the self-care category, she added.
“With customers also indulging in a lot of ‘me-time’, this may form a habit for most consumers, leading to a rise in sheet masks and basic skincare. Hence we are now bringing them an array of easy-to-use skincare products that will help them bring the ‘salon experience’ at their home.”