What's going on?
On Wednesday, American beauty brand Avon Products agreed to be bought by Brazil’s Natura & Co – owner of The Body Shop – for over $2 billion. At the same time, founders of Swedish cosmetics brand Oriflame faced taking it private for $1 billion.
What does this mean?
Avon is the world’s fifth-largest beauty company with annual sales of almost $6 billion, thanks to over six million global representatives who iconically sell the company’s products to prospective customers. Some of these customers become Avon salespeople themselves in a “multi-level marketing” scheme – which has courted controversy among investors in recent years. In buying Avon, Natura hopes to accelerate its global expansion plans.
Oriflame, meanwhile, needs a makeover: its founders have offered to repurchase the 69% stake they currently don’t own, hoping to shield the company under a private umbrella as it work work works on restructuring the struggling business.
Why should I care?
For markets: Good consumer staples gone bad.
In uncertain economic times, investors tend to buy shares of “defensive” companies, whose sales are predictable – including companies which sell staple products like lotions and makeup, which consumers are often loath to go without. But such companies face challenges from ecommerce upstarts and may find their valuations punished by investors if they lag behind their now-accelerating consumer staples peers. Taking Oriflame private gives the founders an opportunity to adopt a fresh-faced strategy without having to publicly answer to demanding investors.
For you personally: Rude boys get punished.
Ethical investing’s projected to become a larger part of investors’ portfolios. And that’s already being reflected in consumers’ product choices too, with cruelty-free makeup sales (like those at The Body Shop) growing apace – and customers turning their backs on brands that don’t adapt, or worse. As with the veganism trend, successful new firms will likely cause the old guard to change with the times or get left behind – Avon’s days of being number five may be numbered…