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EP 5: BEAUTY & THE PANDEMIC

In this mini-sode, Julianna checks in with Stephy of Moonlit Skincare to talk about COVID-19's effects on the beauty industry.

 
[JD]: Hi, and thanks for listening to The Highlight, a podcast about the beauty and wellness industry, hosted by myself, Julianna of Deco Miami Cosmetics, and soon to launch Souki. Whenever I have conversations with other founders about the beauty industry, I think, wow, I wish we could have recorded that. And that's exactly what The Highlight is.

In this mini episode of The Highlight, I touch base with [Stephanie Kim] of Moonlit Skincare about COVID-19 and its disruption to the beauty industry. You might remember her from episode one.

Hey, Stephy. So, we are going to talk today about COVID-19. The virus and pandemic have caused major disruption in all parts of the economy and in everyone's personal lives. It's just absolutely crazy. So, I wanted to talk about COVID with you and get your thoughts on how it's going to affect, or it is affecting the beauty industry right now. And also, your own business.

[SK]: Yeah, let's just hop right into it.

[JD]: Well, first of all, how are you?

[SK]: I am hanging in there.

[JD]: Yeah.

[SK]: I think the initial shock has passed me.

[JD]: Because you're in Seattle?

[SK]: Yes, I'm in Seattle. The first US outbreak was here back in January, and we've noticed like social distancing happening since the beginning of February. Everybody was really conscious of it. Obviously, everyone else in America's timelines are converging now.

[JD]: Yeah.

[SK]: We're kind of in the same boat as everyone.

[JD 0:01:38]: When was the last time you went to a restaurant, Stephy?

[SK]: - Oh, gosh…

[JD]: Okay, sorry. I knew that was a mean question.

[SK]: It's weird, right? Like the day's blend. You're inside all day. You're not seeing anyone, and productivity comes and goes.

[JD]: Yeah.

[SK]: So, I don't know if it was like three weeks ago? Maybe. Four weeks ago?

[JD]: Yeah. I don't remember the last. I mean, I had to double-check like three times what day of the week it was today. So, I mean, that's where I am right now.

[SK]: When Fridays roll around, it's this weird thing where you're like--

[JD]: Oh, yay! Wait.

[SK]: Oh, it's the same thing.

[JD]: It's the same. It's literally the same.

[SK]: Yeah, this is strange.

[JD 0:02:24]: Okay. So, what do you think COVID's overall impact is on the beauty and wellness industry? And do you think that certain categories are seeing greater supply chain impacts than others?

[SK]: Based on what I'm hearing from my import/export gal, she's saying that a lot of the flights and the carriers out of the major hubs, like China, for example, are being blocked or it's really, really slow. Getting product out for a lot of makeup brands, the big ones, it's just not being prioritized.

[JD]: Yeah.

[SK]: I'm also seeing that on Amazon if you try to order Moonlit's Overnight Facial Oil, it will come to you at the end of April. So, yeah. I totally understand what these bigger companies are doing. It makes sense. However, we are absolutely getting impacted.

[JK]: Yeah.

[SK]: I think in terms of supplements, it might be okay. I heard that you can still get that via Prime on Amazon.

[JD]: So, to backtrack to your Amazon comment, is that a Prime item or is that just in one of their warehouses? Do you have to be in their warehouse to be in Prime? How does that work?

[SK]: I think you do. I mean, we work with a third party for Amazon, but he told us it's just not a priority right now. They're prioritizing medical gear, like Advil, Vitamin C, and the household supplies like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

[JD]: I actually got an email from DHL the other day that said they were still offering services, but there was going to be surcharges, and I guess that's their way of trying to curb the demand a bit. Which sucks because I have to ship something out of China in the next--. What day is it?

[SK]: See, I don't even know.

[JD]: What day is it? March 25, what? What happened to March? Yeah, at the end of the month. Yeah. I mean, so hopefully, that'll be the only effect for my nail polish business. I'm just expecting some nail polish brushes and caps, but I actually--.

[SK]: Oh, go ahead, Hun.

[JD]: Oh, I was just going to say that I have been working on some nail art stickers, and I've been talking to someone in South Korea. I realized a few days ago that I hadn't heard from them since February 20--. Yeah, it was a leap year, so 29th makes sense. So, I mean, it sucks because I don't know if they're okay. I don't know what's going on there, and also, I feel conflicted because I could find another supplier, but I don't know. I just don't know what's going on. So, it's like how much do you wait when you're unsure, and you are relying on a supplier overseas?

[SK]: I think, back to beauty and wellness, though, and you've probably seen this, there are certain pockets of these industries that have really shine they are doing better than ever before. An example would be Peloton. People are going gaga for that.

[JD]: Yeah. Well, I was going to say, I tried to do yoga in my apartment the other week and I was like very bored after 20 minutes of that. So, I can see how Peloton would be exciting.

[SK]: I was seeing like some self-care things pick up, but overall in the beauty industry, I think it's a really, really big downturn.

[JD]: In terms of, and you can just said, the beauty industry. Beauty versus self-care. Do you think that people are still buying makeup, or do you think that people are more focused on the self-care? Meaning like skincare and candles, and more of the wellness and not so much the color, cosmetics and things. Because how dressed up are people really getting for their Zoom calls? Are they wearing a full face of makeup for that, or I don't know?

[SK]: Yeah. I think that makeup, color, cosmetics is going to take a huge hit from this and if anything, they already are. If there is no prom, then there's going to be a lot of shadow palettes that aren't going to be sold. And I also think that there are launches, I'm sure you've seen here and there from the beauty companies, but these actually hurt the brand. It's off-color. It's kind of inappropriate. It doesn't seem like it's the right time to be marketing an eyeshadow palette for your night out. So, I think more and more beauty brands are being conscious of that and just being like, let's hunker down and wait this out.

[JD]: That's actually a really interesting point you made. What is an appropriate time, or when do you think it will be an inappropriate time to not market like everything's normal again because clearly, it's not going to be normal for a bit? But also keeping in mind that people are looking for some escapism, but being respectful to the fact that there is a global pandemic happening. What's the balance there?

[SK]: I think it depends on what you're selling. So, if you were selling jade rollers, you can market it as take a moment for yourself away from your kids. Even five minutes in the bathroom doing some nice acupuncture Jade rolling might calm you down before you go to bed. That's a spin that you can do.

But for the most part, it's not even just the marketing towards people. It's also supply chains. It's like this twofold thing that's going on. And a lot of beauty companies also are realizing that their shipments are being delayed.

[JD 0:07:56]: So, thinking about the economic implications, do you think that people are going to have the same amount of disposable income in the coming weeks and maybe months, keeping in mind that people allocate so much money for salons, for their nails and their hair and their brows and whatever. So, do you think that they're going to shift that spending to the at-home beauty products or beauty treatments, or do you think they're going to save their money?

[SK]: I think they are going to save their money. Especially for the brow's thing. Like Zoom, camera quality is not that great. You can go for a while without doing your eyebrows and be fine. I also think that people, like you said, they're worried, and it is very unclear if it's a two-month thing or a four-month thing, a six-month thing. I know that I have friends working in different fields and their big, big companies are prepping to hunker down until July.

So, I think that's the big question. When? How long? And then when you do say, okay, you can go back to civilization or hanging out and going to restaurants. Are people still scared?

[JD]: For sure. And then also, I mean, my question to that is, is everyone going to be running to the hair salon and the nail salon the week that things are looking okay again?

[SK]: Again, I think it really depends when and how all these stimulus packages and all that stuff is going to pan out, and we'll see that in the next couple of days.

[JD]: Yeah. Everything happened so quickly.

[SK]: Yeah. Time is a weird, fluid thing right now.

[JD 0:09:40]: It is very strange, and on that note. If this does last through the end of the summer, going into the fall. What impact do you think there will be on holiday?

[SK]: It seems like the medical professionals in this field are saying it thrives in cooler weather, COVID-19, and I think no matter what, people are just going to be cautious in the fall and the winter. So, it will hurt us. It will absolutely hurt us.

However, it is where DTC [direct-to-consumer] shines. It is where e-commerce shines. And if anything, we'll have built up this repertoire of shopping online, and we're going to get the hang of it and it's going to be very, very normal for us to go to a brand's website and purchase something. I'm not saying go to Amazon because obviously they are not prioritizing us nor they should. But people are going to go directly to the brand's website and shop for holiday. That is my prediction.

A moment of gratitude. I'm glad this pandemic didn't happen ten years ago. We didn't have the infrastructure for it. We didn't have like the logistical routes of Amazon getting us groceries and household goods, and we just didn't have any of that. And we do now. We can still do these Zoom calls. We can still email and Telework. It's possible. It's harder, but we can do it.

[JD]: What do you think COVID's impact will be on new indie brands that are just launching this season? And I ask this question because I've seen a few posts from new founders confused and stressed about how to move forward with their brands right now. If they should wait, if they should do a soft online launch, if they should just throw in the towel completely at this point. I mean, what do you think?

[SK]: I think it's quite possibly one of the worst times to launch a beauty brand business. Like unless you're selling hand sanitizers or something.

[JD]: Which you are. Everyone Stephy's selling hand sanitizers. Shameless plug for Moonlight!

[SK]: Yeah, it's not ideal. In terms of like everyone trying to hunker down and economically spent a little bit more wisely and all that. But also you're fighting for so much space in news, and it's already hard to get PR and press and eyeballs onto your website, and now, I would say it's nearly impossible if you're an emerging brand and you don't have like this angle that's immediate to COVID.

So, I would say hold off on it if possible. And again, kind of looping back to what we said in the beginning, you don't want to be tone-deaf when you launch. It will hurt your brand in the long run.

[JD]: I think that's the biggest thing that I'm noticing in beauty right now, we're just seeing some of the things that brands are putting out. There was a fashion brand, actually, Estée Laundree posted it. This was like three weeks ago. It was like, "Use code COVID19 for 20% off." And it was like, are you kidding me right now?

[SK]: I can't believe that.

[JD]: Going back to the line between giving people escapism versus acknowledging what's happening. I was seeing some things about--.

[SK]: Did Paris Fashion Week even happen? Because someone was posting about that like nothing was going on and it was very strange because it was also a few days before France shutdown. I was like, what are you, what? Where did you get this content from? Like, why are you--? It was strange.

[JD 0:13:21]: Everything's strange, and on that note. Do you have any advice for indie beauty brands, normal beauty brands, brands, whatever, for how they should be thinking right now, and I don't know, just words of encouragement? Anything.

[SK]: Yeah, I think something tangible, if you're an indie brand or just a brand in general of a small business, is to ask about lead times, deadlines. When's the last day you can pull out of things? If you're planning to launch something in 2020, when's the last day you can pull out of that? Just have those dates on hand. It doesn't cost anything to get dates on hand, and I think right now, people are really understanding. So, that's my advice for any brand right now.

Specifically, with beauty, I would say it's a time where people are trying to connect. A lot of people are isolating alone, which is really, really heartbreaking. So, they're using digital channels, Instagram, Facebook to connect. And I think for indie beauty brands, it can really be a time to shine.

[JD]: Yeah, that's a great point. I mean, it's absolutely a time to connect. It's just you have to do it in a way that doesn't look like you're trying to profit off of a tragedy, which is very easy to do accidentally if you do something thoughtless.

[SK]: Right, right.

[JD]: I keep thinking about “use code COVID-19” when I say that because that is just so stupid. I don't even--.

[SK]: Inensible.

[JD]: Very dumb. Awesome. Well, thanks Stephy for talking to me today and I hope you light a candle and put some oil on your face and enjoy your hand sanitizer!

[SK]: Take a bath.

[JD]: Yeah. Do all your nails. I'm actually going to. My goal for the end of the week is to put out some nail tutorials on TikTok. I'm doing the TikTok thing. The pandemic is making me TikTok.

[SK]: Oh, wow. I love that.

[JD]: I'm committing to this, so that’s a silver lining. Anyway, thanks, Stephy.

[SK]: Yeah. Thanks.

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