Friday, 5 June 2009

The Beauty Spot: Debbie Beaumont-Howell

In the Beauty Spot hot seat this week is Debbie Beaumont-Howell, Head of Buying for Beauty and Women’s Accessories at House of Fraser.

Come discover what it's like to have the world of cosmetics and accessories at your fingertips on a daily basis. It's every woman's dream job, right?

How did you start in the beauty industry and how did do you get to where you are today?
My love of beauty stems from my mother who used to sell Leichner, a brand of stage make-up as I was growing up. This passion continued throughout my life and it was during my time at Harrods that I had the opportunity to manage their beauty hall. I joined House of Fraser in October 2006 which allowed me to use my years of retail and buying experience in an area that I loved.

Can’t live without beauty item(s)?
Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil, Shiseido Lipgloss, Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Eye Cream & Clarins Moisture Rich Body Lotion.

Describe a day in your life...
My working day starts at 6.15am when I turn my Blackberry on. After reading my e-mails I get into the car and make calls on my way to work. If I have a breakfast business meeting with a key brand these start at 8am otherwise I reach the office at 8.30am and grab a coffee as the day begins.

My days are split between internal meetings; discussing the past weeks trading, future trading initiatives, marketing and retail issues, and external strategy meetings. These meetings are a fantastic chance to look at new products and innovation, to discuss trading and marketing and are a very important part of a beauty buyer’s life. I also try to visit at least one store every week.

I leave the office at around 7.00pm/7.30pm but my Blackberry is on until I go to sleep!

What are your thoughts on the beauty industry at the moment (trends, financial climate, organic, natural products, Dr brands etc)?
In 2009 we have seen brands going back to basics and doing what they do best. They are still continuing to introduce new products but are building on the key essence of the brand. Customers are returning to what they love and the products that they know work for them.

To be organic the product needs to be certified by the Soil Association. I believe achieving an organic product that can survive in this competitive market is very difficult.

Regarding the Dr brands I believe that primarily their success depends on awareness and whether they are sold in the right environment. When they first emerged they were a huge success offering newness and innovation however now very few survive in the UK and ever fewer have remained successful unless they made the transition into the mass market.

How do you decide which brands to buy in for HOF customers? How do you know which ones will prove popular?
I myself am an avid beauty consumer and House of Fraser’s target customer. I believe that you can never completely predict who will succeed but you rely on gut feeling and past industry experience. It is a huge market and often people spend a significant amount or money in advertising and marketing a brand however we have seen that no amount of spend will influence our customer if the product itself doesn’t deliver. I have huge respect for our customers who are extremely savvy. If a product doesn’t smell amazing or deliver on their promises it will not sell.

You must have to do a lot of research on new and niche brands – how do you keep up?
I have a network of sources and it is important to keep communicating. I get a lot of information from the internet and magazines and beauty blogs are also very important. I also have a fantastic team who dedicate a lot of time researching the newest trends.

Greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement would be that the beauty team achieved the highest sales and profit growth within House of Fraser in 2008.

Who else do you admire in the beauty industry?
Four people immediately spring to mind- Per Neuman from Estee Lauder, Kenneth Green, Robin Vincent from Clarins and Liz Garrett, Managing Director of Coty. They have given every woman a taste of affordable luxury and continue to retain the premium status of their brands in the UK without alienating their customers.

What are you hopes for the future of the HOF Beauty Department?
We hope to be the UK No 1 Premium destination for beauty, maintaining our integrity being true to our customers. We want to deliver the best with newness and great customer service in a welcoming environment.

I don't know about you, but I'm adding Debbie to my 'people to aspire to' list as we speak.

Check out House of Fraser at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

who are you kidding! Ben

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