Buying brands—and doubling their productivity and earnings—is the ultimate goal of investment groups. Enter TPR Holdings, the Manhattan-based investor, developer and operator of beauty and consumer brands who’s looking to turn its buy of Cargo Cosmetics into its latest success story.
TPR, which also owns French Connection Beauty, Freeze 24/7 Skin Care and Oscar Blandi Hair Care, among others, bought Cargo last year for an undisclosed amount.
“The color cosmetics category is a sexy one,” said Brian Robinson, President of TPR Holdings. “But unlike skincare where you have to go step by step, if you hit a trend or innovation right, cosmetics has the ability to explode. That was very attractive to me,” he said of his buy of the Toronto-based beauty brand from founder, Hana Zalzal.
Moving the company to New York was the first change.Then came switching out mom and pop suppliers with ones that could handle supplying a broader distribution. Having an in-house marketing, PR and general administration team at TPR’s headquarters meant not duplicating these departments. Hana stayed on as the company’s creative director, and Jason Hoffman was hired as Global Director, Artistry and Education.
Ulta became their key retail partner and the brand embarked on a total redesign spearheaded by famed artist, Bernadette Pascua.
“Makeup is a woman’s cargo. She travels with it from place to place and we wanted to keep that theme running.We really wanted to reposition the brand and create a Brooklyn/hipster feel,” Brian added. “Instead of using models we created Chloe, a young woman who we’ll send to a number of places, like a cabin in the mountains or to Paris.Next year she’ll be headed to California.”
Bernadette has worked with Chanel, J.Crew, Tiffany & Co. and Christian Dior, and was responsible for creating the monochromatic, canvas-like packaging with whimsical grey watercolor sketches that appear on the new products.The items represent five places: a vista in Asia; an old European city; an urban skyline; the beach and the countryside.The concept took almost half a year to create and nearly four months to execute.
In September, Cargo launched their High Definition collection, perfect for the constant camera-ready culture who want a flawless face-to-film façade. Twelve eye shadow palettes were also released which sold out nationally at Ulta in 45-minutes. In November, Cargo is set to release another color combination along with a mini lip gloss kit and holiday gift sets.Over the next year more than 70 more sku’s will enter the marketplace, which includes Duane Reade’s Look Boutiques and Macy’s Impulse Beauty departments, the websites for Macy’s and Nordstrom, as well as dermstore.com and beauty.com.
Since TPR bought Cargo, Brian said sales have doubled from 2012 to 2013, with industry sources estimating the brand will end the year with $30 million in sales. The repositioning also includes a greater retail presence in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., where 19 new counters in department store Debenhams are expected.
“You can’t be a trendy color comp without participating in social media,” Brian said.“We’re one of the fastest growing brands on twitter and we’re re-launching our ecommerce site in the next two weeks.”