It’s been a hectic two years for those on the Australian beauty industry frontline. There are two ways in which to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted homegrown businesses and regardless of which side of the fence you land, things have been busy. Those affected have spent much of their time trying to catch their breath and get their heads around ever-changing updates, rules and restrictions. Despite the seemingly universal slow-down of production, missed face-to-face client consultations and staff shortages, what businesses have lost, they’ve gained in community support. Demand is rife, with digital sales offering a safety line for many. The only thing in their way for 2022, it seems, is a lack of skill to carry the load. From skincare manufacturing to cosmetic distribution, Hannah Gay touches base with three industry names to reflect on COVID-19 and on what it’s meant to be Australian made.
Mukti, founder of Mukti Organics
In what year was Mukti launched? Has the brand always produced all products in Australia?
“Mukti was launched in 2000 and all of the products have always been manufactured in-house.”
I understand Mukti continues to manufacture their products in Australia today. Outline the key positives of this business decision for both the company and the consumer.
“As a vertically integrated business, we have control over all our systems and processes from procurement to when the product walks out the door. This assists us with a seamless end to end experience. We develop, formulate, and test our products in our in-house laboratory. All products are also manufactured, filled, labelled, and fulfilled from our custom-built facility and warehouse. This allows for a faster response time to product development and ongoing improvements, as well as the ability to scale as required without delays or being dependent on external resources.”
Outline some of the negative consequences, particularly from the last two years.
“We had an extremely busy 24 months which included moving the whole operation interstate during the pandemic. We did experience some supply chain issues in relation to raw materials, in particular, and longer lead-times, but we were able to pivot and respond quickly. We increased our inventory and stock on hand well in advance to prepare for the move. Our business grew exponentially so as well as moving into new custom-built premises, a new team was inducted. Fortunately, the illness has not impacted too many of our staff or slowed manufacturing to date.”
Mukti boasts a mixed distribution model combining e-commerce sales with traditional bricks-and-mortar sales. Where you have seen strengths and weaknesses in utilising this mixed model, COVID-19 considered?
“Our brick-and-mortar database was affected during this time, particularly our business partners in Sydney and Melbourne. However, online sales grew exponentially, especially our direct-to-consumer and our other major e-commerce partners. So overall, our bottom line was not affected. As we have an inhouse team of qualified beauty therapists, we focused on customer care, customer service and especially online consultation services, which were heavily utilised during this time.
Would the brand be open to manufacturing their product overseas if it meant saving on costs?
“No. We are adamant to keep manufacturing Australian-made and owned. This is a cornerstone of our business, and we are not interested in making products offshore or cutting costs. The ethos of the brand is to manufacture quality, efficacious products as opposed to mass production.”
Joshua Robinson, Co-Owner of The Lip Lab
The ethos behind The Lip Lab’s launch is to provide a customisable makeup service in an on-the-spot, interactive and hugely exciting manner to the everyday beauty consumer. Discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the business, given that income is primarily generated by face-to-face customer interaction.
“The impact of COVID-19 on in-store interactions, especially during periods of lockdown, was not great as we weren’t allowed to provide our services face-to-face, like so many. However, having a strong database retaining our clients’ custom blend formulas for their lipstick, lipgloss, foundation and concealers meant we luckily retained a healthy reorder rate paired with new online custom blend, colour match and retail orders. This has been of great benefit to the business over the past two years.”
I understand the company continues to manufacture their products in Australia. Outline the key positives of this business decision for both the company and the consumer, eg. how offering companies offshore the chance to sell The Lip Lab under white label has been a successful money-making strategy.
“The Lip Lab is very proud to be Australian built, developed and distributed. Although as a business, having the opportunity to branch out of Australia and create territories globally under The Lip Lab brand or private label is beneficial in so many ways –
- It strengthens the brand and brand concept, increasing exposure
- It Increases wholesale orders
- Sales are made associated with that territory or private label startup
- We’re not capped by the fluctuations of one economy: a key factor impacting brands during the pandemic.
And on a personal note as the brand’s educator, I love getting to pass The Lip Lab’s passion for custom blend products onto other industry business owners and their teams.”
And some of the negative consequences, particularly from the last two years?
“The negative consequences that came with nationwide and worldwide lockdowns came in conjunction with lessened wholesale orders and in-store interactions. Distribution was also affected by the heightened strain on postal services which would sometimes make sourcing and sending products a slower-than-usual process, especially if the order was leaving Australia.“
I understand The Lip Lab is looking to reach salons and to provide a unique offering to salon clients. In what ways does a collaboration between The Lip Lab and the salon owner benefit both the client, as well as the salon’s bottom line?
“Our clients are all individuals with unique colouring, skin type, personality, lifestyle and preferences. The makeup landscape is ever-evolving, and the option for customisation to meet a client’s individual needs is now more important than ever. We can match a colour to a client’s outfit, nail polish, mood or occasion, while also taking their complexion into consideration for the perfect shade. The Lip Lab offers three different custom blending systems that allow fr an endless possibility of creations, including vegan options. Our lip products can be tailored even further with an array of additives to combat a variety of needs, such as SPF and moisture boosters. As a makeup artist, you have total creative freedom to enhance your client’s natural beauty while celebrating their individuality. Foundation is a loyalty product; when a client finds the perfect foundation, they are likely to continue to repurchase it every few months. Often for customers, finding the perfect foundation is as simple as finding the perfect colour match. To ensure our shades are tailored to every skin tone and preference, there are six base colours available with 11 different toners available to adjust the shade as needed. It is easy to make The Lip Lab work for your business.”
Sarah Hudson, founder of Sarah Hudson skincare collection
You recently launched your namesake skincare line, Sarah Hudson. What prompted you to release the line during the pandemic?
“Whilst the development stage started prior to the pandemic, it accelerated the importance of replicating the self-care salon/clinic experience at home. Because clients were not able to have skin treatments during lockdown, and some clients have been cautious about coming into a clinic, I wanted to make sure their changing skin concerns were closely monitored and looked after. ‘Covid Skin’ has presented skin problems clients may not have previously suffered with, so ensuring the Sarah Hudson collection met their changing needs was important.”
How much of your business is Australian made?
“A fundamental principle of the skincare line is to support Australian businesses. I work closely with both Sydney and Melbourne-based teams for all aspects of product development, including cosmetic chemists, manufacturing and brand design.”
What were some of the advantages you encountered creating these products in Australia as opposed to overseas during this pandemic?
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of Australian businesses being supported domestically. Australian business stepped up and found solutions in areas that perhaps were not central to their core business. This provided solutions and real-time access for business owners which was a significant advantage in meeting my product and brand development timelines and launch date.”
Describe the challenges you faced in light of the pandemic?
“The pandemic incurred premium charges in all areas of supply chain logistics, which did not necessarily guarantee timeliness of delivery and increased the cost of key components of the collection. This required a great amount of coordination, planning and personal involvement. However, the silver lining of the clinic being closed due to government lockdowns did allow me to focus on these issues.”
Speaking on the industry broadly, what are your hopes for Australian-owned businesses for 2022?
“Australian-based businesses continue to support other Australian businesses and remain loyal. This enables new businesses to evolve into areas which have been predominantly served by international companies. Governments should continue to provide incentives to these businesses to allow them to grow and deliver services efficiently and competitively in support of businesses in the domestic market.”
This article appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.
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