Why Australia Is the Next Step in Glossier’s Global Ambitions

Glossier wants to reach more people.

On July 16, the Millennial beauty brand will launch in 70 Mecca locations across Australia and New Zealand, as well as on Mecca’s e-commerce site.

Despite being a decade old, Glossier only started to make inroads into the market in October 2023 when it launched its e-commerce operations there. Still, a greater desire for its Cloud Paint blush, Balm Dot Com lip salves and Boy Brow pomade by local shoppers remains long-awaited.

“Even if there are other exciting brands that have launched in the last 10 years, there’s still a lot of nostalgia [for Glossier],” said Sarah Tarca, co-founder of Australian beauty newsletter Gloss Etc. “We’re finally getting something that we’ve wanted for a long time.”

For years, the only way to shop Glossier was online with the brand directly, or in one of its 12 experiential stores – earlier this month, it launched its latest outpost in Las Vegas – which feature signature touches like staff in pink jumpsuits, location-specific merchandise and Instagrammable interiors. A longtime wholesale holdout, Glossier partnered with wholesalers just last year, when it launched into Sephora US in February 2023; a rollout into its UK stores followed in October.

Mecca will be creating in-store experiences to herald its Glossier debut, with activations like pop-ups and store takeovers planned. “Australia will be turning pink,” said Marita Burke, who leads Mecca’s new business division, Mecca-Maginations, referring to the brand’s signature pastel shade.

“We’re going to harness the enthusiasm of our store teams. They’ll be the ones that bring the products to life,” she said, adding that Mecca has been courting Glossier since 2016.

Kyle Leahy, Glossier’s chief executive, said that half its three million Instagram followers are based outside of the US. Australia was on the “top of the list” when it came to key untapped markets, alongside others such as Germany.

While Glossier’s core value propositions, which include its community ethos and cool-girl aesthetic, have been replicated by many newer brands, Burke is betting on its disruptive appeal: “I feel confident we’ll still continue to play that card.”

Mecca Muscle

While owned brick-and-mortar stores were once Glossier’s calling card, it’s taking a different approach for its wider Antipodean rollout by banking on the clout of Mecca, an enduringly popular retailer in the market.

“Mecca has the dominance and the loyalty in the market,” said Tarca, adding that the store is popular with younger cohorts like Gen Alpha and Gen-Z as well as Baby Boomers. “They’ve done a phenomenal job at building that brand and tapping into what the Australian consumer wants.”

Mecca also has a first-mover advantage. Founded in the 1990s by Jo Horgan, the store launched mega brands such as Nars and Drunk Elephant in the market, helping to circumvent logistical challenges for international companies by acting as an importer, distributor and brand manager for many of its labels, as well as a retailer.

LVMH-owned Sephora, while a global behemoth, didn’t launch in Australia until 2014, by which point, Mecca already had a wide network of stores and strong, exclusive relationships with a number of international lines – it operates 110 stores throughout region, four times larger than Sephora’s footprint, and more than the two biggest domestic department stores, David Jones and Myer, combined.

Leahy said while Sephora is a key partner in the US and UK, Mecca made sense for Australia and New Zealand.

“We meet the customers where they are,” she said. “[Mecca] is right for the Australian customer and right for the Australian market. [It] brings brands to life … it was the best [option] that allows us to tell the Glossier story in the most impactful way.”

Local Competition

Despite not being present until recently, Glossier still enjoys brand recognition in the market, said Jessica Beresford, a New Zealand-based contributing editor at the Financial Timeslifestyle supplement, HTSI. “People were really excited about it even when we couldn’t get it,” she said, adding that many shoppers would use roundabout shipping methods or employ friends and family overseas to bring it back. Part of its appeal is its American-ness, she said. “The US influences Australia and New Zealand more than other countries.”

However, other international brands have been quicker off the mark. Kosas, Westman Atelier and Ilia are all already available in Mecca, while Sephora’s Australian outposts offer Rare Beauty and Fenty Beauty. Domestic brands like Go-To Skincare, Alpha H and Kora Organics are also popular.

Tarca mentioned one of Mecca’s in-house brands, Mecca Max, offers a popular brow gel at $18 AUD, a cut under Glossier’s at $37 AUD.

“It will be more of a challenge 1717076556,” said Beresford, but added that she thinks Mecca’s popularity as a homegrown company could help boost Glossier’s presence. Burke added that Glossier still has a unique advantage. “It [offers] a suite of the essentials … it’s a very contemporary approach,” she said.

Glossier Grown Up

In Glossier’s early days, it was characterised almost more by its strategic choices – no wholesale, community-led approach, simple products – than by its assortment, but none more so than by being DTC only.

Selling exclusively through its owned channels allowed the brand to create a coherent and cohesive universe of colours, language and brand magic that set it apart. But as the label closes out its first decade, it’s outgrown those roots.

Adding wider global wholesale distribution helps to edge Glossier closer to ubiquitous territory. It’s launching in a second UK retailer, Space NK, in June, and in addition to Australia and New Zealand, its international shipping expansion in October means the company now also ships to over 180 countries, including Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Mexico, and India. “We’ve been playing in really less than a quarter of the beauty industry,” said Leahy.

As its retail expansion ramps up, more unexpected steps like increased wholesalers could follow, especially as Glossier looks for a prospective buyer; the brand reportedly has hired Morgan Stanley to explore its exit options.

“We feel we can really bring the brand to life through strategic partners in the right markets,” Leahy said. “We have to let the customer shop where they want to shop.”

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