P&G’s Walker & Co. Deal Underscores Beauty’s Multicultural Imperative
Procter & Gamble's latest acquisition — Walker & Co. — underscores the beauty industry's increasing focus on multicultural consumers.
Walker & Co. has two brands — Bevel, a men's shaving brand tailored for men with coarse hair, and Form, a women's hair-care business centered around coily hair. For P&G, the move comes after working to develop specific ranges to address the needs of multicultural consumers, like the Pantene Gold Series, which was created with input from women in Africa.
"Over the course of the last year, the majority of our beauty brands are growing household penetration with the consumer," said Alex Keith, head of beauty at P&G. "Our core brands haven't been brands that were organically part of this consumer community and culture."
P&G isn't the only beauty company working to meet the needs of African-American and multicultural consumers. In 2017, Unilever acquired Sundial in a move that also broadened its multicultural reach with SheaMoisture, Madam CJ Walker, and other brands. Other brands, like Cover Girl and Estée Lauder, have worked to up the shade ranges they provide, after Fenty's foundation launch normalized having at least 40 shades.
At Bevel and Form, the focus is on providing simple beauty products for people of color, said founder Tristan Walker, who worked in venture capital before starting the business.
"Five years ago when I started this business, I really only had one goal in mind and that was to make health and beauty simple for people of color," said Walker, who will remain with the business as chief executive officer. His goal is to build a company that will be around as long as P&G has, he noted, and anticipates being able to leverage P&G's capabilities going forward to "build a suite of brands that are world-class."
"This partnership with Tristan and the Walker & Co. brands will allow us to accelerate in our consumer understanding and relevance in the very important and growing multicultural consumer space," Keith said. "He and his team have done an incredible job in understanding the needs of African-ancestry consumers and creating propositions that are really meaningful."
Both Walker & Co. brands specialize in making products for multicultural consumers and have subscription options. At Bevel, for example, the shaving products aim specifically to avoid ingrown hairs, and at Form, the focus is in coily hair types and multiday styling options. Bevel's bestseller is its electric trimmer, $199.95, and Form's is the Multitask 3-in-1 Leave-In Lotion, $32, Walker said. Bevel is also sold on Amazon and at Target, and Form is also available at Sephora. Terms of the P&G deal were not disclosed.
Right now, the combined brands have 36 stockkeeping units. But new products are on the way — Bevel has a significant launch coming next month, and just introduced a hair-care product, Walker noted.
Walker & Co. will operate as a wholly owned P&G subsidiary, with Walker at the helm. But not everything is staying the same — the company's headquarters are moving to Atlanta in 2019, Walker said.
"A big reason and impetus for that is we care about being where our customers are.…Atlanta has shown us an inordinate amount of love since we started the business. It is one of our biggest cities, not only sales from e-commerce and retail but also our community and our support are there. This sends a signal that we care very deeply about serving the needs of our community and about meeting them face to face," Walker said.
For P&G, Walker provides deeper access and understanding of the multicultural consumer, an area where P&G has started to spend increasing time. In 2017, Lela Coffey was appointed brand director of multicultural marketing at the company. "She's been one of the main partners for Tristan through this process," Keith said.
But Walker, Keith said, can help P&G speed its understanding and connection to the community.
And while consumer insights were touted as a main focus of the acquisition, Bevel and Form also provide P&G with two brands that have strong direct-to-consumer presences — something P&G has not historically specialized in. P&G bought another direct-to-consumer brand, Native, in late 2017. (P&G competitor Unilever has also made DTC deals, including Dollar Shave Club, which it bought for an estimated $1 billion.)
There will be a "free flow of information," Keith said, between Walker & Co. and multiple segments of P&G, including grooming.
The Walker acquisition is P&G's fourth in beauty since the company returned to the M&A game. In addition to Native, the business has also acquired Snowberry and First Aid Beauty, at the same time increasingly stabilizing its core beauty brands, like Olay.
"P&G Beauty has kind of come back into its own, and is really starting to innovate and lead in the way that we did before," Keith said.
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