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Cosmetics firm in US funds push

UPMARKET US department store chain Nordstrom is the latest feather in the cap of Perth’s Becca.

Nordstrom, with 88 stores across the US, plans to start selling Becca’s unique and highly acclaimed line of cosmetics in March.

This is the latest breakthrough in the short and remarkably successful life of Becca.

The company has not spent a cent on advertising, yet it has stores around the globe wanting to stock its cosmetics.

The stores already selling Becca are a who’s who of premium cosmetics retailers.

They include Space.NK in the UK, Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Mecca in Australia, and others in Italy, Sweden, Germany, Malaysia, Kuwait and Singapore.

To help fund the US expansion, the company has appointed corporate finance firms Poynton & Partners and Grange Consulting to raise approximately $1 million of extra capital.

Chief executive Steven Schapera expects the extra capital will help the company achieve rapid growth.

“Sales to June 2003 will be five times more than in the previous year, and sales to June 2004 will be up four-fold again,” he said.

Mr Schapera, whose background is in the wine industry, established the company with professional make-up artist Rebecca Morrice Williams.

They teamed up in 1996 and spent nearly five years on research and product development.

In March 2001 they established Cosmetics Development Ltd to commercialise the product, and brought in Grange’s Ian Macliver as chairman and Tony Taylor (ex KPMG) as a director.

Space.NK was the first store to sell Becca, starting in October 2001. Mr Schapira said Space.NK sold only five brands, yet it decided to stock Becca on the strength of unpackaged laboratory samples (the packaging had not been developed at this stage).

Becca is currently sold in 14 Space.NK stores, with 10 more planned for this year.

Space.NK was followed by Bergdorf Goodman, regarded as the pinnacle of retailing in the US, and specialist cosmetics stores in nine US cities.

Mr Schapera said he initially believed that selling through department stores such as Nordstrom would not be commercially viable, but the company’s early success changed that.

“We now have the strength to negotiate the terms for a good deal,” he said.

To accommodate planned growth, the company is looking for warehouse premises in Perth four times the size of its current warehouse.

The company is also on the lookout for extra staff, but Mr Schapera said the limited supply of people with relevant experience was a constraint on the company’s growth.

The key attribute of Becca cosmetics is their ability to deliver an improved complexion with a natural, “no make-up” look.

A unique feature of Becca foundation is that it can be used

on all skin types and colours.

Becca cosmetics also include Australian sunscreen technology, described by Mr Schapera as the best in the world.

The production process for Becca is unusual, since the cosmetics are manufactured in Germany, the packaging is manufactured in Italy, and the finished product is assembled in Perth.

“We are importing products from Germany and adding value to them here in Australia,” Mr Schapera said.

He is also full of praise for the resourcefulness and ingenuity of local suppliers who have helped Becca overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

These include printing company Frank Daniels, which produces distinctive Becca boxes, and a supplier who recommended automotive glue to assist in assembling Becca’s distinctive packaging.

Looking ahead, Mr Schapera has an open mind about ownership of the business.

He observes that all successful independent cosmetics makers over the past decade, such as Bobbi Brown and MAC, have been bought out by the industry’s big players, such as Estee Lauder.

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