Sue Y. Nabi, Coty Inc. chief executive officer, has a unique vision for the beauty industry.
“Instead of redefining beauty, maybe a good way to create the beauty of today, of tomorrow, is to ‘undefine’ the notion of beauty,” she said.
“What constitutes beautiful? An eternal question, the answer for which has built and fueled our industry over time,” Nabi said in a video played. “It is this point of view on beauty that will grow Coty apart from the rest.
“We believe that today no one can control or dictate what is or is not beautiful,” she continued. “Beauty becomes formless, like water — a constantly evolving and adapting concept. We need to undefine the notion of beauty. It’s not fixed, it’s formless. And it’s not singular, it’s plural.”
So what does that mean from a business and a strategic standpoint? asked Jenny B. Fine, executive editor, beauty, WWD and Beauty Inc, in conversation with the CEO.
“It opens endless possibilities. The idea is to unleash every vision of beauty,” said Nabi, who explained Coty will talk to people around the world to understand what they feel is beautiful. “We are there to serve their desire of beauty.”
Nabi addressed WWD Beauty CEO Summit attendees a day after Coty released its third-quarter fiscal-year results. For the three months ended March 31, Coty’s net revenues came in at $1.9 billion, up 9 percent on-year and beating analyst forecasts for $1.23 billion.
The results marked 11 consecutive quarters of growth for the group, outpacing expectations.
“Our businesses are booming in every category, in every division, in every region,” she said.
Coty also recently announced it is mulling a dual listing, considering going public on the Paris Stock Exchange, alongside the New York Stock Exchange.
“European investors are waiting to buy Coty stock,” said Nabi, adding an IPO in Paris would bring the group back to its roots, as it was born in Paris in 1904.
Nabi considers Coty as a company full of white spaces, prime for growth.
“I think this is the reason why you are seeing this company interesting more and more people around the globe,” she said.
Coty’s prestige division is mainly driven by fragrances today.
“We have huge white spaces in prestige makeup and skin care that we are just starting to tackle now,” said Nabi. “When it comes to consumer beauty, we are mainly a makeup-plus-fragrance company. There, we have huge white spaces.”
China is a big opportunity for Coty, according to Nabi, who was back from a trip there a few weeks prior. She carried out some home visits in the country.
“I was surprised by the level of expertise of consumers,” Nabi said, citing one who said she had purchased a certain beauty product over another because its opaque packaging protects the stability of the molecules inside the formulation it held. “This is normally something I can hear from R&D teams.”
As a beauty company in China, she said: “You have to be very precise, innovative and best-in-class on all KPIs. The classical marketing tricks do not work anymore. Forget marketing — do good products. That’s the most important lesson I took from this trip to China.”
Coty wants to double sales in that country. There, the group mainly trades in fragrances, so skin care could become a major growth driver. To wit: A few weeks ago, Coty launched in China its most premium skin care line, Ligne Princière, from Lancaster. Early results are promising.
“At the end of the day what counts are formulations that deliver and surprise people in terms of efficacy,” said Nabi. “Second, that people love to tell your story, to amplify your story. So it means that your story is interesting, meaningful and new to the market.”
Third, it’s key to have the right people making that happen.
Nabi expects Orveda — the brand she cofounded with Nicolas Vu, which is now in Coty’s portfolio — will take the skin care industry into the future.
Nabi said she learned everything from being an entrepreneur. Her years at L’Oréal taught Nabi how to run big brands, then Orveda gave her the experience of starting something from scratch.
“At the end of the day, one billion is just one plus one plus one, one billion times,” said Nabi. “A small brand is the same story as a big company. So in fact, I learned my current job when I was at Orveda mainly.”
At Coty, there are some smaller brands she’s beginning to infuse into the company. One — revealed a few days after the summit — is Infiniment Coty Paris, a rebirth of the Coty Paris brand. That together with Orveda’s new serum, called The Omnipotent Concentrate, both in the ultra-premium beauty segment, will set the group on a new route, called “Coty Protopia.” That melds science, sustainability and art.
“We love to create brands, too. This is what our business is all about — creating new things from zero,” said Nabi, who is talented at reviving brands, as well.
“Brands are points of view on the world,” she said, calling them also “partners in life.”
Nabi believes every brand needs to speak to a person’s brain, heart and soul.
“It is really important not to forget any of these three,” she said.
Nabi and her team challenge themselves on a daily basis.
“I always try to put myself in the shoes of an entrepreneur, while having the Coty power behind us,” she said. “This, in facts, help me to unlock many bottlenecks in the company.”
Growing small brands allows her to troubleshoot in ways that well serve the rest of the group.
Wellness is the name of the game for Coty overall, Nabi explained.
“This idea of looking better, feeling better is at the center of our world and our business,” she said. “We believe that wellness is the next frontier for most of our brands. There are ways to go there that are different from one brand to another. I believe this is probably also a great way to make beauty the love category for consumers.
“We need to fight against beauty that makes people feel uncomfortable,” she continued. “Wellness is giving beauty this depth and this essentiality that sometimes it can lack, so that people feel that it’s something visible, but also working on what’s not visible — even more importantly.”
In the third quarter, Coty registered double-digit growth in Europe and in the U.S., thanks to the group’s fragrance business. Nabi believes the uptick in perfume consumption is due to it no longer being treated as a commodity.
“It’s really a one-of-a-kind creation,” she said. “It’s a lot of science, artistic creation and storytelling — and this is back.”