Reliance Retail recently forayed into beauty retail with the launch of Tira, an over 4,000 sq.ft. store at the plush Jio World Drive mall in Mumbai. The decision of launching its own beauty format came after talks with Arvind Fashions to acquire the licence of French beauty retail brand, Sephora, fell through earlier this year. Not only can one buy the choicest of premium beauty brands at the store, one can get makeovers too. In fact, the senior management of Reliance Retail takes pride in calling Tira the most premium beauty retail offering in India.

The country’s largest retailer is surely a late entrant (with brands such as Nykaa, SS Beauty, and Sephora making considerable inroads in the top 20 cities) in the beauty retail segment, but with its appetite for the mass market, it may not lie low with just a premium beauty format. The retail giant is piloting a mass beauty-cum-lingerie brand, Blush Lace, which will make inroads into tier 2-3 India with hundreds of stores. In this format, the retailer would also sell private brands of colour cosmetics at as low as ₹85. Through Blush Lace, Reliance would compete with direct-to-consumer brands such as Sugar, Plum, and Nykaa, which also have an aggressive omnichannel strategy. In lingerie, Blush Lace would retail brands such as Zivame, Amante, Clovia, and Marks & Spencers.

So, why does every retailer want to enter the business of beauty? Salon chain, Enrich, has also entered beauty products retailing. The margins in beauty are north of 45%-50%, thus making it an attractive business for retailers. “Shoppers has been a pioneer in beauty since the early 2000s. We launched Estee Lauder, MAC, Bobbi Brown in India. As the customer is becoming more aware of beauty, we realised she is also looking for a beauty-exclusive environment too. We launched SS Beauty, to focus on service and makeovers,” explains Venu Nair, MD and CEO, Shoppers Stop.

Shoppers already have over 100 beauty stores of M.A.C., Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Joe Malone, and Too Faced, apart from SS Beauty. It has also forayed into international beauty brands distribution under its subsidiary, Global SS Beauty.

Reliance’s plan to enter the mass market with Blush Lace makes sense as there is a growing demand for beauty products especially in tier 2-3 India, a space where challenger brands such as Sugar Cosmetics and Renee are trying to capture. Over 60% of Sugar Cosmetics revenue in the past 2-3 years, says co-founder, Vineeta Singh, has been from outside of metros from places such as Karnal, Bhatinda, and Siliguri. “Tier 2-3 has surprised us. In many of these places, we are the first make-up brand to set up a standalone store. We have women coming to learn how to use make-up in these markets. These are aspirational consumers.” Out of its 150-odd stores, Sugar currently has close to 60 stores in smaller towns. 

The new kid on the block, Renee Cosmetics already gets 50% of its revenue from offline stores within two years of launch. It is present in 2,000 general trade stores, 1,000 shop-in-shops, four exclusive brand outlets, and six airport stores. The founders believe that a balanced online and offline presence is non-negotiable for a brand to be profitable. The plan is to be present in 35,000 outlets across 150 cities by FY24-25. While the bulk of its product portfolio would be mass-premium, it plans to go mass with certain shades of its lipsticks and its long-staying kajal, which would be retailed out of general trade stores.

Indian consumers would satisfy their desire for beauty products shopping when they travelled abroad. Today, not only are those products available almost at the same price as international markets, but there are a plethora of quality Indian challenger brands also to choose from. Even the good old Lakme has undergone a facelift with the launch of contemporary products that appeal to Gen-Z’s and millennials. In fact, the bulk of Lakme’s sales come from online channels. “Unlike grocery where consumption was always there and it is shifting to organised, in beauty organised is driving consumption,” explains Rishav Jain, MD, Alvarez & Marsal.

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