It’s official: Today, June 24, 2019, Amazon.com entered the professional beauty space and is now selling to licensed salon professionals through their Amazon Business platform. To get pro pricing, you have to belong to Amazon Business and submit your license. No doubt they will manually verify each and every application and most likely, have already established ties to each state government cosmetology body. No one does business like Amazon.
The good, bad and the ugly.
But before I go there, today’s announcement is years in the making and I predicted this day nearly ten years ago. I recall vividly having my annual vendors charity weekend in 2005 telling everyone they needed to have their goods on Amazon and if not, they would sell your competitor’s brands. Everyone shook their head like I was on crack cocaine.
Amazon started to enter the pro industry with its Luxury Beauty platform. It signed up plenty of pro beauty companies along with consumer companies. Essie and Zoya were first to sign up for nails. Eventually CND, OPI, Moroccanoil, Redken, Oribe and 100’s of others would join. Interesting enough, Harlan Kirshner was the ring leader for Amazon getting pro beauty companies to sign up or lose out. Ironically, the pro beauty industry’s biggest rep who calls on SBH (Sally Beauty Holdings), Salon Centric and Ulta and makes $$$$ in commissions, played the Amazon side and got many companies to sign up. Harlan is one reason why we don’t see rep groups anymore.
With so many companies part of Luxury Beauty, Professional Beauty was the next step in Amazon’s dominance of all beauty. Today SBH stock is down more than 15% to a new low of $12.47 as I write this. Ulta is down too but that is because Ulta stock sellers don’t understand Ulta’s business strategy. Ulta will continue to best Amazon in beauty for many reasons, none of them part of this blog. But SBH like I have mentioned several times before is vulnerable, especially Cosmoprof because Amazon is focused on their best-selling brands: Redken, Wella and OPI.
OK, here is the GOOD of today’s announcement:
It’s done and now all the players can move on. Salons and spas have been buying on Amazon for years and really the only thing affected are retail and hair color products which will now be available at wholesale costs. Next week we will see what discounts are offered. What is also good is that Amazon is an open book, you can see their strategy right in front of you and you can either ignore it or take advantage of it. One thing is for certain: SBH is the most vulnerable beauty company right now.
The BAD of today’s announcement:
Amazon took the relationships of the pro beauty industry and said good-bye to them. Amazon bet big time the industry doesn’t need sales reps, education, trade shows, stores, sampling and demos. Just think of the savings. And if licensed professionals like it this way, bad news for reps and stores.
The UGLY of today’s announcement:
If you think about it the pro beauty business is only 40 years old and how fitting for Amazon to announce in 2019, nearly 40 years to the day when Matrix and Paul Mitchell started. In retrospect, that is an awfully short time for an industry to come and go and that is ugly. Right now Paul Mitchell is not part of the Amazon story and is arguably the largest pro hair care company left (and still independent). Will it become “us vs. them” mentality? In the end, Amazon wins on convenience and next day shipping (they are testing two hour delivery in Denver and other key cities). Coty went all in and soon we will see what that decision means for the rest of the industry.
Bottom line: Business as usual. Coty and L’Oreal will ship a few more goods to Amazon’s DC’s and fewer goods to SBH’s DC. But in the end, overall usage of pro beauty products doesn’t change and since Amazon Pro Beauty is only good for licensed individuals, Ulta will continue to gain overall market share.