The quirky brand—also the world’s largest employer of aestheticians—will unveil a stand-alone shop in Toronto this April
By Wing Sze Tang
[Update: Since the original publication of this article, the boutique opening date has changed. It is now slated to open in mid-May 2015.]
Twins Jean and Jane Ford started Benefit Cosmetics in 1976 as The Face Place, a makeup store with a candy-shop vibe in San Francisco’s Mission District. Since then, the fun-spirited brand has found fans all over the world, who flock to 3,000 Benefit counters and over 1,000 brow bars in 45 countries. The company also operates 58 boutiques, where customers can not only browse inventive products like the new Puff Off (see below), but also choose from a menu of salon/spa-style services such as brow rehab, body waxing or faux tanning. This spring, Toronto primpers will be the first Canadians to get their own stand-alone Benefit destination, a pretty-in-pink, two-floor space uptown (2614 Yonge Street). There are plans to open more boutiques in Canada within five years.
“Services built loyalty,” explains Julie Bell, Benefit’s EVP of global marketing. “We’re the world’s largest employer of aestheticians [more than 3,000 total] and we’re able to bridge the gap between services and products.” The boutiques also enable total immersion in Benefit’s whimsical world, crucial for showcasing its personality—girly, with a risqué sense of humour and a willingness to push boundaries. Consider 2013’s “Real Men Don’t Fake It” online video, which featured women gawking at guys’ unusually large “packages”— later revealed to be bulked up by tubes of They’re Real Mascara.
Benefit has retained its distinctive cheeky identity, despite the fact that it was acquired in 1999 by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, which also owns Guerlain, Parfums Givenchy, Fresh and Make Up For Ever. “Each brand or maison within LVMH stays true to its own DNA; there’s no homogenizaton. I don’t know what another brand is doing until I see it when I go shopping,” says Bell, noting that they don’t share ingredients or technology with sister companies. “It’s exciting for product innovation because it inspires each brand to be highly creative and do what’s right for its customers.” The go-your-own-way approach has paid off: in 2014, Benefit sales broke the $1 billion mark.
For the company, tech-driven innovation is just as important as irreverent packaging. It’s focused on delivering product uniqueness, like the recent They’re Real Push-up Liner (a gel eyeliner loaded inside a soft-nibbed twist-pen) and the new Roller Lash (a mascara that “rolls” lashes much like you’d roll hair with curlers). At the San Francisco headquarters (dubbed the “Pink Palace”), Bell has a whiteboard full of concepts up to 2018. “We have some phenomenal, off-the-charts ideas we’ll be launching, and they’re all based on consumer needs we’ve identified that haven’t been addressed,” she says. “People expect the unexpected from Benefit.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Cosmetics magazine. For more, download our iPad edition.