Sephora Introduces Innovative First-to-Market Brands in Effort to Gain Canadian Market Share

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By Julia Marchionda

The fight to gain market share in the beauty industry continues to intensify as Sephora announces its newest addition to their roster of brands: Volition Beauty.  The introduction of Volition Beauty to Sephora will only benefit the multi-brand retailer as it strives to gain market share from its competitors.  Retail Insider has recently reported on several partnerships and entrants to the Canadian beauty market such as the opening of Morphe Brushes first brick-and-mortar store in Canada, and Kiehl’s new wholesale partnership with Sephora.

The concept for Volition Beauty was born from the realization that beauty brands often tell consumers what they want, not the other way around. Why not allow the consumer to have an active role in product development? Founders Brandy Hoffman and Patricia Santos took this question, combined it with the power of crowdsourcing and launched their first product campaign in September 2015. Members of the Volition Beauty community are welcome to submit product suggestions. Those that make it through the vetting process are then voted on – the winning idea goes into production and the “Innovator” behind the new product receives a commission for each unit sold.

Volition Beauty is the latest in a string of smaller, e-commerce-based beauty brands to be carried by Sephora.  It is apparent that Sephora is listening to its loyal customers as the retailer was also the first to introduce several other popular online-exclusive brands to their Canadian Beauty Insiders. Brands include: Artist Couture, FARSÁLI, Lily Lashes, and Violet Voss which are now available on their Canadian website and in select brick-and-mortar Sephora locations. 

Through this strategy, Sephora provides independent brands with a unique retail opportunity in which the brand can craft a brick-and-mortar experience for consumers while expanding their e-commerce reach. Sephora gains the competitive edge by offering a retail presence to brands that were once exclusively available online to Canadians, thereby keeping the dollars of beauty enthusiasts with the LVMH-owned company.

This practice is a growing trend amongst omni-channel retailers.  The former Beauty Underground, located at the Hudson’s Bay on Queen Street West in Toronto, included controversial beauty line Lime Crime, and popular makeup brush and cosmetics brand Sigma Beauty; both of which could previously only be purchased online by Canadians. Lime Crime and Sigma are still available for purchase on the Hudson’s Bay website and at select stores. Similarly, in the American market, we are seeing retailers like Ulta Beauty introduce wildly successful brands like Ofra Cosmetics, Dose of Colors, and Kylie Cosmetics to their shelves. 

There is no doubt that Sephora owns a considerable piece of the market in Canada.  The French retailer embarked on a “Toronto Takeover” initiative in 2016, opening four locations in a short period of time.  However, Sephora does not stand uncontested in the market.  Shoppers Drug Mart’s beautyBOUTIQUE as well as department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Holt Renfrew, and Nordstrom offer many of the same brands carried by Sephora as well as ultra-luxe brands like: By Terry, Clé de Peau Beauté, Sisley-Paris, and Chantecaille. 

Sephora continues to maintain its adventurous spirit by bringing unique brands like Volition Beauty to markets that were previously untapped.This strategy appears to be successful for the company and shows no signs of slowing down. We can expect to see more partnerships as Sephora continues to innovate in the face of increasing competition.

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A graduate from both the University of Toronto and Humber College, Julia spent most of her educational career honing her skills in critical thinking, marketing communications, and finding her unique voice in her writing.

With tenures in several areas of retail under her belt, Julia has lead teams in achieving sales goals and allowed herself to become consumed in understanding retail business.

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