Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty out to prove Africa is viable market

JOHANNESBURG (BLOOMBERG) – Rihanna upended the cosmetics market five years ago when she launched a makeup brand for people of colour.

Now she is bucking conventional wisdom again with a big bet on an often overlooked market: Africa.

The star singer and her partner, luxury giant LVMH, are taking Fenty Beauty to a continent worth an estimated US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) in retail value in 2022 across premium beauty and personal care, according to data from researcher Euromonitor International.

The line is available in South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Global beauty brands had passed over African countries for years because of lower consumer spending power. Historically, the industry also focused on making products for white skin and hair types.

Rihanna, 34, enters with advantages. She had a big social media following on the continent and a lot of consumers were already buying Fenty products online despite pricey shipping costs.

“Now we get to experience it ourselves, on our turf,” said Ms Foyin Ogunrombi, a beauty influencer who promoted the launch of the brand for ARC, a retailer in South Africa.

She predicts that Rihanna’s star power and the brand’s established popularity will help the products sell well.

For LVMH, which has a stake in Fenty, pushing the beauty line into Africa could help promote its house of brands, which include Hennessy and Tag Heuer, to the region’s young and increasingly wealthy shoppers.

The company generates about 90 per cent of its sales from Europe, Asia and the United States, meaning Africa is largely untapped.

Rihanna, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, redefined the cosmetics industry when the line debuted in 2017 with 40 shades of foundation.

It generated more than US$550 million in sales in its first year by appealing to people of colour who had previously settled for makeup that did not match their skin tone or had to mix their own.

Now Clinique, Maybelline, Dior and MAC Cosmetics all offer at least that many options, too.

“Rihanna stands out,” said Ms Deborah Aitken, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

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