Beauty Brands’ Newest Exit Strategy | BoF Professional, The Business of Beauty, News & Analysis

When Milk Makeup launched at Sephora nearly six years in the past, its futuristic packaging and slick advertising and marketing rapidly turned it right into a Gen-Z favorite. The buzz it constructed at Sephora helped propel the model, and it quickly landed its first funding from the identical personal fairness companions that had backed Too Faced earlier than it was acquired by Estée Lauder for $1.4 billion in 2016.
At the time, it appeared as if Milk was set for the same destiny. But the wonder trade has modified since then. The tempo of buzzy model launches has solely elevated, saturating the market. And with a surplus of new and low-cost capital out there, the conglomerates are not the dominant exit methods for the subsequent technology of fast-growing manufacturers.
So Milk Makeup discovered a unique exit technique. On Monday, two former L’Oréal executives introduced they’d acquired the model, together with dermatology-focused skincare model Obagi, via Waldencast Acquisition Corp., a particular objective acquisition firm (also referred to as a SPAC). Milk’s sellers acquired $140 million and 15 % of the brand new mixed firm, valued at $1.2 billion.
The purpose with the acquisitions, mentioned Waldencast founder and chief government Michel Brousset, is to convey collectively the advantages of a conglomerate’s shared infrastructure with the entrepreneurial freedom of an impartial model.
“We’re attempting to mix the very best of each worlds but in addition depart some of the unhealthy of each worlds behind,” he mentioned.
Waldencast’s acquisitions are simply two of a number of latest examples of the subsequent wave of magnificence exits. Just within the final week, the Swiss pure magnificence model group L’Occitane Groupe S.A. introduced it had acquired a majority stake in physique care model Sol de Janeiro in a deal that valued it at $450 million. The early stage-focused American group Rare Beauty Brands additionally introduced the acquisition of nail care model Dr. Dana. These two be a part of different newly-formed platforms, together with the brand new dad or mum firm of three make-up manufacturers that Shiseido offloaded in August — Bare Minerals, Buxom and Laura Mercier — which had been acquired by AI Beauty Holdings, a brand new group shaped by the personal fairness agency Advent.
Advent additionally not too long ago facilitated a unique form of profitable exit — an preliminary public providing — for hair care model Olaplex, which it acquired in 2019. The fast-growing label was valued at over $15 billion after its debut in September when it raised $1.5 billion. Historically, magnificence manufacturers comparable to Bare Escentuals and Physicians Formula have struggled on the general public market. But Olaplex’s success has signalled it may be accomplished, and others might observe go well with — the L Catterton-backed Il Makiage, for instance, has mentioned it’s aiming for an IPO, too.
This exercise suits into a bigger development throughout industries. Low rates of interest have made funding cheaper and simpler to acquire, coupled with a surge within the reputation of SPACs and different varieties of private and non-private funding fashions. Basically, there’s quite a bit of capital on the market, in addition to a better quantity of potential choices for founders who aren’t able to money out or develop into subsumed by a large conglomerate portfolio.
Sol de Janeiro’s founder and chief government officer Heela Yang, for instance, will retain a minority stake within the model and proceed to steer it, explaining within the deal’s announcement that “my dedication to rising Sol de Janeiro and main the crew I labored laborious to construct stays unwavering.”
What’s Next
Overall, curiosity stays excessive as a result of magnificence continues to ship sturdy returns to buyers, particularly in fast-growing classes like “scientific” skincare. As properly, public firm multiples, together with SPACs, have the benefit of usually buying and selling increased when in comparison with strategic mergers and acquisitions, mentioned Ransley Carpio, magnificence investor and operator who’s at the moment the managing accomplice at Patina Brands. But he mentioned the sector general is indexing with macro-economic developments.
“It’s not a query of, ‘Are we in a bubble?’ — it’s, ‘How sustainable is that bubble?” Carpio mentioned.
Investors on the lookout for surer bets are turning to extra mature manufacturers, and so they have many within the $50 million to $100 million income vary out there now, on the lookout for capital to assist them enter the subsequent stage of progress.
But the elevated competitors within the magnificence market means the subsequent group of profitable manufacturers might want to supply a extra differentiated or trusted product or positioning in a fast-growing sub-category like nail care or hair care and might present they aren’t slowed down by excessive advertising and marketing prices.
For Milk Makeup, Waldencast’s progress plan includes advertising and marketing to older prospects who’re much less aware of the model, increasing its product vary past its most well-known merchandise like a cannabis-infused mascara and a light-weight pores and skin tint, and rising its distribution past its shut partnership with Sephora within the US, the place it mentioned it’s the second most-popular clear magnificence model.
But the technique has its challenges. Milk was rising rapidly, greater than doubling its internet gross sales in 2019 to $51 million, earlier than the pandemic exacerbated a droop in color cosmetics and the model remains to be working at a loss. And increasing its distribution may hurt its partnership with Sephora, the place Waldencast mentioned it nonetheless desires to proceed rising the model.
With Obagi, Waldencast desires to show it into the subsequent SkinCeuticals, one of the primary doctor-backed manufacturers that’s now owned by L’Oréal. Obagi mentioned it at the moment generates 95 % of its income from its medical line, which is predominantly offered at physician’s workplaces. It solely launched its client model in 2018, however Waldencast sees room to develop that aspect of its enterprise by getting into each mass and specialty retailers in addition to increasing into scientific units and spa providers.
“There are so some ways to develop these companies that don’t essentially require the extent of infrastructure [it did in the past],” mentioned Wendy Liebmann, CEO of consulting agency WSL Strategic Retail. “That’s the place these firms are seeing the chance.”
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