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Growing A Global Brand In Poland

27th February 2017 Paul Andrews

It’s a long way from a town in southern Poland to the bright lights of Broadway and the catwalks of Fashion Week, but one family firm has not just gone the distance, but done it in style.

Inglot Cosmetics was founded 33 years ago by Wojciech Inglot, supported by his sister Elżbieta. They were later joined by a second brother, Zbigniew.

The company is at the forefront of the science of beauty, exploiting an in-depth knowledge of chemistry, physics and pigmentation to create its huge range of intense and vibrant shades, which have made it the darling of the fashion and entertainment business. There are over 1,500 different colours to choose from across eyes, lips, face and nails, and Inglot’s signature ‘Freedom System’ allows customers to pick their own special palette of tones.

These days, you can find Inglot at all the glitziest show biz events, from the sets of film and TV studios to backstage on Broadway, but the company has never lost touch with its roots, and still prides itself on its Przemyśl presence. Even the huge advertising billboard they have on New York’s Times Square is actually managed from the head office in Poland.

As Zbigniew says, “We belong here, and we’re a big employer here. That’s a huge responsibility. And we’re committed to making our make-up here, too – 95% of it is manufactured at our site.”

The next big step at Przemyśl will be extending the R&D facility. True to its roots, Inglot devotes huge resources to the scientific development of new products, often in collaboration with universities. The state-of-the-art O2M breathable nail polish was developed by Wojciech Inglot and tested in cooperation with the AGH University of Science and Technology. The revolutionary breathable formula, which was created specifically for health reasons, has quickly become a global success and coincidentally helped the company get a foothold in to the lucrative luxury malls in the Middle East.

With the second generation now joining the management team, the roles within the team continue to be clearly defined: Elżbieta focuses on operations and new product development, and after the sudden death of Wojciech in 2013, Zbigniew has taken over full responsibility for strategy, investment, and international expansion.

Since the first store opened in Canada in 2006, the company has established, owned or franchised Inglot outlets in nearly 80 countries, including 650 boutiques in some of the world’s smartest locations.  They’ve also opened concessions in department stores like Macy’s in the USA, Edgars in South Africa, and Falabella in Chile, Peru and Columbia.

Right now, they’re opening up to two new stores a week, all over the world. “We could grow quicker, but we can't afford mistakes. And getting each new store right takes a lot of thought – it’s not ‘one size fits all’. We actually manufacture the fittings and furniture ourselves and employees from Przemyśl go out and install them.”

E-commerce isn’t as fully developed as yet, but it’s coming: “We initially thought we wouldn’t need to sell online, especially in Poland, given we have such a big retail presence, but we know now that was a mistake, and we’re catching up. We’re lucky that cosmetics is a hugely active category online, and the items are small and easily shipped.” In fact, according to PwC’s 2016 Total Retail survey, 65% of the people who buy cosmetics products bought at least some of them online in the previous twelve months.

So what does the future hold? “Product-wise, we’re looking at moving into face creams, lotions – what we call ‘white cosmetics’. That could be an amazing category for us. As for the brand, my dream is to make it the most recognised Polish retail brand in the world.” Given that one beauty website calls Inglot “the makeup-lover’s ultimate dream brand”, it looks like they’re well on the way.

About the piece - This feature forms part of the PwC Global Family Business Survey 2016, a piece of research that interviewed over 2,800 representatives around the world.  It has been reproduced with permission of PwC.  Click here to see the full results of the survey and other features.

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