Innovative Retailer: Bite Beauty

Brought to you by Retail Insider and PCMS Group

Name: Bite Beauty generally and its Lip Labs specifically.

The Place: Not here sadly. The ladies out there will have to wait to visit a Lip Lab. Or fly to the States/Canada if customised lipstick becomes necessary to continue living.

The Story: Some retail sectors we just keep coming back to in this series on innovation, don’t we?

Do we? Yes! Don’t you read them! Oh never mind, so one of them is beauty. I wonder why…

They have to be innovative so people don’t realise that they are essentially being sold the same small bag of tricks over and over again: So young and yet so cynical. Well, whatever the reason – here we are again at Beauty’s golden door.

Get on with it: How much do you know about what exactly is in make-up – this is the question.

Virtually nothing: Of course, but I mean normal people.

Um: I’ll tell you – virtually nothing. And specifically it is lipstick where women really should know as the average female will ingest a good few sticks through her lifetime.

Aha, hence Bite Beauty: Exactly. Specialising in one product only is a huge risk for any business unless you think you have a very unique selling point which can stay fresh. Founder Susanne Langmuir is well aware of that but so far Bite is proving all her instincts correct.

Bite Beauty founder: Susanne Langmuir

Take me back to the beginning if you would: It’s 2011 and Ms Langmuir has had a career in cosmetics ranging from selling Avon to cosmetics consultancy with companies like Urban Outfitters. But she has a dream.

Lipstick you can eat: Sigh. Kind of. And actually “Can I eat Bite lipsticks?” is a question that automatically comes up on Google. Anyway, the dream is to have a very pure product made only of food-inspired products, cruelty free but which does not necessarily scream “LENTILS” at the consumer.

Ticks all the boxes. Kind to animals and humans: Exactly but with a properly chic and elegant design. Not in a weirdly childlike, over-coloured, screaming assault on the senses, virtual signalling kind of way.

Are you talking about Lush? No comment. And we do like Lush.

Well, it’s a great idea – I suppose it was all plain sailing: Not a bit. She could not find any manufacturers to make such products for her. No, they said, it cannot be done. All natural is not possible. Go away, strange Canadian woman.

How rude: So she had to create her own factory in Toronto, where she’s based, which is still where the products are laboriously produced batch-by-batch. But then came her lucky break. I give you one word – Sephora.

Ah, another innovative retailer: The make-up giant gave Bite a pop-up in the window of its Toronto store where people could watch the lipstick being made.  Her partnership with Sephora remains intact and they are the exclusive bricks and mortar stockists.

I’m guessing people liked it: No, they didn’t. They LOVED it. And a mere few weeks later the first Lip Lab was born.

Lip Lab: Customized lipstick

Wow. Somewhere near and secure that she knew and felt safe with I’m sure: Nope. Straight into leasing a shop in Manhattan. Boom. That’s the Langmuir way.

A Lip Lab consumer pact in fact: It’s a logical extension for the brand to allow customers in to customise their own shades and fragrance of lipstick.

Not to mention tapping into a major personalisation trend: I know right, how cool is it if you are the only person in the word with that particular lipstick. Blimey.

How many are there? Four Lip Labs to date, three in the States and one in Canada. A consultation will take less than an hour and will set you back $55 for one lippy and $80 for two.  You get to choose from a ready done palette of colours, a range of finishes, and then top it off with a scent.

I want. I want: But there is another even higher tier. For $150 you can make your own colour with a technician.

Forget the first one. I want that one. It’s just like paint mixing at B&Q: You see – degrees of personalisation. But do you know what’s really clever. Bite Beauty gets to talk very directly with their customers and find out what is hot and what’s not for their consumers. Free focus groups anyone?

Like it. But I’m curious as to what exactly constitutes non-toxic, natural ingredients: It’s organic beeswax, and castor seed oil, shea butter, grape extract, and jojoba oils, that kind of thing. Lots of dermatology-focused groups have given it the once over and then the thumbs up. Legit.

What’s new at Bite this year then? More clever ways to part people from their money. For instance the Astrology range. A new lipstick every month which channels your inner Leo or Virgo or Sagittarius. Implying that merely applying the correct lippy will ensure a suitably Leonine night out. Grrrr.

Does anyone believe it? Well, plenty of people bought it so that’s irrelevant!

I wonder if anyone has actually ever eaten one: At $26 a pop I can definitely think of cheaper things to fill my stomach.

I bet they have though: Yeah, so do I.


PCMS is a global provider of IT software and services for the retail industry. PCMS offers a full-range of integrated commerce solutions across selling touch points and also provides turnkey managed services and cloud hosting. Its client list includes John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Whole Foods, as well as Walgreens in the US and fashion brands including Prada and Ferragamo across Europe

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