Since I’ve been more-or-less off the beauty reservation for a while, I missed a LOT of news about brands going out of business since 2020. As in, I had no idea that as many brands closed down in the past two years.
Here’s a summary of companies that have closed since the start of the pandemic. We’ll address the timing, too – because there’s a myth that the pandemic caused these closures.
During the lockdowns of 2020, I wrote about Clarisonic’s sudden shutter because, well, I was a customer. Although my opinion of how it was handled remains the same, I’ve come to think that the end-result isn’t a bad thing. After all, even if I really liked the product, it’s now not as easy to spend money on disposable plastic and e-waste, right? Net positive for the planet.
But it isn’t just Clarisonic.
After sixteen years in business, Coastal Scents couldn’t swing it any longer. Their 252 palette was a cool way to experiment with color without spending a fortune. They also had an early Naked palette alternative that was well-regarded, though I never tried it.
It’s too bad – their brush kits were also pretty decent for the price; I still have and use some from this kit!
I think, over time, Coastal Scents just didn’t have the same visibility in the 2010s that they had in the 2000s. As influencer marketing and virality skyrocketed, they just didn’t prioritize that. I don’t think that’s wrong, but they didn’t appear to modernize in any way – and their margins probably weren’t high enough to get them through.
Funnily enough, with the weird resurrection of trends lately, maybe it was a move too soon.
Bite Beauty – Kinda Going out of Business
While Bite Beauty will keep their Lip Labs open, they’ve decided to discontinue their conventional product line. I’ve never done the Lip Lab thing (there are only a handful of US locations, none near me), but that’s a pretty novel and unique thing – I can see that being more valuable in their portfolio than needing to manage manufacturing, logistics, etc.
“But it’s still lipstick,” you might say. Sure, it is. But Bite is not trying to sell you a lipstick at a Lip Lab. They’re trying to sell you an experience, of which a finished, customized lipstick is a part.
Remember when you couldn’t avoid hearing about Becca (if you followed the industry, that is)? They had this meteoric rise, driven in part by a nearly rabid demand for highlighting products. Then the Champagne Pop collaboration that made them a must-have to a LOT of trend-focused beauty consumers.
Trendy is NOT sustainable for humans or (non algorithm-driven) business – its a get rich quick scheme. So, their rise was also their fall. Estee Lauder, famed brand-killer, acquired them in 2016.
Beyond that, people stopped giving a damn about, “strobing,” and the like. Since highlighters were their bread and butter, their weak attempts to diversify into other products just weren’t enough.
Their trajectory continued for a bit but then several controversies including collaborator fall-out and photo-manipulation scandals (read: digital blackface instead of hiring models of color) hurt them – and rightly so.
As they were no longer making money, Estee gave them the axe under the, “cover,” of the pandemic. A few of their products will be carried by Smashbox, at least on a temporary basis.
There’s a lot to be said here. Before Makeup Geek launched physical products, there was emphasis on education and artistry that really helped the early growth of the product side.
When Makeup Geek first launched products, their marketing strategy was heavily focused on competing with MAC. Although I tried some of their brushes, I never got around to trying their shadows – but the brushes, at least, were decent in my experience.
In time, newer, trend-driven brands like Colourpop came along with similarly affordable, good products – and ahefty marketing strategy and budget. Likewise, MAC decided to become more competitive by reducing their shadow prices. Other low-cost competition made influencer collaboration a priority; lower quality product boomed in an industry facing a years-long phase of people buying whatever their preferred influencer was gushing over.
Marlena eventually made a video decrying how things had changed. While I don’t think her points were necessarily wrong, “them’s the breaks,” of such a fickle industry. Your company can either be a trend-chaser, which is expensive to execute and high risk, or you can deal in non-trendy, “people always want this,” products with a slower but sustainable innovation ramp.
Makeup Geek decided to straddle those approaches, and it cost them. Of course, they too cited the pandemic.
The Bottom Line
While the pandemic doubtlessly had an impact on all of these brands between changing consumer habits, manufacturing, and supply chain problems. But it is incorrect to say it was the cause of these companies going out of business.
That’s like saying the nail in the coffin was what caused the death of the departed within. Bzzt, wrong.
As much as these companies may want to cite that, it isn’t valid. What the pandemic did was enable the mismanagement and execution problems to catch up with the bottom line. CoVid didn’t sink them; their inability did. Whether it was misjudging the market, spending too much in the wrong areas, or something else, the pandemic was not the root cause.
It was merely an accelerant of the inevitable.