Nail care is one of the hottest sectors in the beauty industry. According to Mintel, the nail color and care market in the US has grown 72% since 2007, with sales estimated at $2.5 billion at the end of 2012.
With use of colored nail polish highest among women aged 18-24, it is a fashion-driven category for sure. Big names like OPI, CND and China Glaze are salon staples, but there’s a crop of luxury and niche brands that are highly coveted—and often cost a lot more than mass market polish players like Sally Hansen and Revlon. For example, Butter London’s polish is in the area of $16 while limited edition Chanel Le Vernis Rouge Rubis nail color is $27 at Neiman Marcus.
And these are tiny bottles of paint; consumers can buy an entire gallon of paint at Home Depot for just about the same. Maybe they only want to don the color for the holiday season or a wedding. And what if that shade of oxblood isn’t, well, oxblood enough?
That's when nail fanatics Ashlene Nand and Liza Liza Kindred step in. They are the duo behind Lacquerous, a new online business that offers access to 20 different brands of nail polish through a monthly membership plan that costs about $18 per month. Members pick three shades that catch their fancy, use some for 30 days and send the bottles back in a prepaid envelope.
Yep. Netflix for nails.
“There isn't a service that allows women to try and compare brands. Prices for nail polish are going up, it's a competitive space and if women can try colors, they will be more likely to purchase,” Nand told HAPPI.
Lacquerous works closely with brands like “Deborah Lippmann, NCLA, LVX and lots of great beauty insider brands,” and Nand sees benefits for nail care marketers, not just her subscribers.
“Through Lacquerous women are exposed to a brand and then they have to return it, so it works in the brand’s favor. It also means getting your brand in front of women who love nail polish—it's targeting your specific consumer. The only other way to do this is securing retail space in a department store and that isn't ideal for a lot of nail brands,” she explained.
Nand and her business partner created the site in December 2012 but didn't officially launch in beta until August 2013.
“We had a waiting list of 4,000 when we launched so we needed to make sure we had some of the backend developed. We were not expecting this much demand but it's been awesome!” Nand said, although she wouldn’t reveal how many members are currently using Lacquerous.
And while Netflix is shifting to online streamlining—it has approximately 7 million mail-based customers today compared to more than twice that two years ago—cosmetics companies can’t; products still need mailed the old-fashioned way (that’s is, until Wonka Vision becomes reality).
But the sample society and the idea of mailing beauty products is a proven business model these days. Birchbox has 400,000 paying subscribers who get products in the mail each month.
But with unlike Birchbox, a Lacquerous subscriber can’t keep product for her own use. And, when a bottle comes in the mail, she may not be the first owner either.
That may not be a fit for everyone, admits Nand.
“Sharing nail polish is not new; we're not doing something that isn't already been done around the world. We've created structure and a business around the idea of a swap club and it's only a matter of time before it isn't innovative and becomes widely accepted. We've had people from Canada to Brazil ask about the service—it's US only at the moment.”
She continued, “We understand there might be a desire for women to try polish in other ways and we're certainly open to it in the future as we grow. Our goal is help Lacquerous members get access to new shades and brands. Nail polish is the ultimate fashion accessory. Demand isn't going to slow down.”