About a week ago a little black box arrived on my desk, concealing a capsule collection of new products. At first glance it looked the same as many other things I’d seen before, but the accompanying literature told a different story: this was Beauty Pie and it claimed to be the driving force behind an industry revolution. Developed by the woman behind super successful brands including Bliss and Soap & Glory, Beauty Pie is an online-only digital members club that aims to bring ‘luxury cosmetics at factory prices’ to those that sign up. At a cost of £10.00 per month (for a minimum of three months,) being a member allows you to buy £100 worth of cosmetics (at the full price) for rock bottom prices every calendar month – and if you don’t use your allowance, it rolls over. Intrigued?
Their main point of difference is that Beauty Pie claim to have ‘cut out the middle man’ and minimised packaging expense, creating high quality cosmetics at prices that the high street simply can’t compete with; what I do like is that they list the ingredients of every individual product and shade so you can find out easily what they compare to. Just pop the list into Google and it’s easy to see what kind of quality you can expect: Future Lipstick Matte has basically the exact same ingredients as Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution and Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Matte; Uber Curl Drama Mascara is almost the same as best selling mascaras from Urban Decay and Clarins; the Beauty Pie Smart Powder Blush is comparable to Topshop and Models Own, while the Brightening Micro Mineral Serum Foundation has strong similarities with Arbonne and Dior. With lipsticks from £2.16, mascara from £1.93, blusher from £2.52 and foundation from £4.76 it’s starting to sound like a win-win situation. However, once you look into the terms and conditions and calculate the financial aspects of the deal you’re signing up to, it’s not as amazing as it sounds.
THE MATHS OF IT:
Your £10.00 a month membership allows you to buy £100 worth of full value product, which roughly equates to around five products per month. Once you split the membership cost up across those products, each one rises in price by £2.00 – making a foundation £6.76, concealer £5.43, mascara £4.16, primer £4.96 and lipstick £4.26. That’s a total of £25.57 for five items of makeup, before shipping (£2.99 standard and £6.06 express) and handling costs (charged at 1.8% of your total order. Times that by three months (the minimum contract) and you’ll be spending £76.71 over the period on fifteen items, or £306.84 on sixty items if you sign up for a whole year.
If you don’t think twice about spending a few hundred quid on makeup in a year from one brand, then this may offer you a great deal. However, you’re limited by what Beauty Pie can offer and whether or not you like it. I’ve tried the products and they’re certainly pleasurable and effective, but they don’t leave me feeling bowled-over or like I would need to order everything from within their repertoire; they don’t have that addictive quality that brands like Makeup Revolution have proven to capture, nor have they been able to bottle the luxurious covetable element that some of the more premiums brands have.
THE REALITY OF MARKETING
My biggest question of all is around the marketing of Beauty Pie. Who says these are super luxury cosmetics and who sets their ‘non member’ pricing? If you’re not a member you can buy their cosmetics at inflated prices that are actually rather ridiculous: £30.00 for a highlighter, £24.00 for a primer or £19.00 for a lipgloss. These prices are around the same as brands including Bobbi Brown, Dior and Chanel, but in my opinion either the quality doesn’t compare or the feeling you get from opening a super luxurious product isn’t there. In their own words they ‘remove the markup’ and reduce the cost of packaging, so I’m just not sure how they can justify these prices – other than to cleverly make it look like you’re getting an incredible deal.
In the interests of research, I did a little Twitter survey to gather your thoughts on this new concept; unsurprisingly the comments and feedback was varied, with 38% saying it sounded amazing but getting confused about the fact that it was own-brand only. 23% stated that it was too much money to commit to, while a further 23% said they weren’t brand loyal enough to commit; a further 16% just didn’t get it. For me, it’s a fascinating development in the way we buy beauty and proves that there are many exciting shake-ups to come for the industry, but my gut feeling is that this will go the way of beauty boxes: initial intrigue, excitement and a rush of sign-ups will be replaced after six months with customers becoming lethargic, unsatisfied and desperate for something new.
I’ve seen coverage on the concept across publications including The Telegraph, Glamour and Vogue, but none of it mentions the downside or the fact Beauty Pie involves a heavy commitment. I absolutely admire them for their transparency of cost and how they simply breakdown where every penny of your money goes to (here’s an example,) but what they don’t do is show you the handling and delivery charges that are involved unless you sign up and get to the point of placing an order. (Update: I was gifted a six month trial by the brand and can confirm shipping is £2.99 standard and £6.06 express, as well as a handling fee of 1.8% of every order being added.) The appeal of a lipstick for a couple of quid is vast, but in reality if you’re spending upwards of £30.00 to get that lipstick, is it really providing that much of a bargain? I’m unconvinced.
For me, the beauty of the current market is that there is SO much innovation and SO much choice; we’re able to move between brands, make impulse purchases and generally enjoy our makeup as much as possible because we don’t have to be constrained by what’s available in our local Boots store. With the birth of online shopping and digital media, it’s possible to discover new things and have them arrive on your doorstep within 24 hours; we’re a fickle old bunch who are undoubtedly driven by innovation and ‘oooh that’s pretty!’ Asking people to commit to one brand, that’s completely unknown, for a minimum period of three months and pay for the privilege (and having a restriction on the amount of items you can actually buy) just sets off too many alarm bells for me. I’m fascinated to see how Beauty Pie evolves over the next year and what products they have up their sleeves; I’m intrigued to see how people will respond after a couple of orders and whether or not trial will drive repeat purchases; I’m also excited for what this means for the industry – because thinking outside of the box is never a bad thing. But as for signing up… Not this time.
What do you think of Beauty Pie? Is it a concept that you’re getting behind, or does it confuse the bejeezus out of you? Let me know if you sign up…
Find out more about Beauty Pie and discover their products via their website: www.beautypie.com