For generations of women, Revlon’s red Fire & Ice, introduced in 1952, was the favorite lipstick shade on a Saturday night.
IN ‘In the 70’s, they sprayed Charlie perfume on their wrists and hummed the ubiquitous clink. And when supermodel Cindy Crawford appeared in ads with Raisin Rage in the 1990s, millions of women invented brown lipstick shades.
“All the big megaglam supermodels were advocates for Revlon,” recalls Tina Catania, 41, who remembers shopping for Revlon at a pharmacy as a young girl in the Bronx. “They had the biggest screen,”[ads1]; she said, remembering the stickers on the bottom of the Revlon products that show the shadow and the excitement of trying on the lipsticks when she got home.
For much of its 90 years, Revlon was the leading cosmetics empire, a mainstay of bathroom cabinets since the Great Depression. But in recent decades, the company has struggled under the weight of huge debt and competition from new generations of cosmetics brands. Coronavirus-related closures in China and related supply chain bottlenecks have now put additional strain. This week, Revlon applied for bankruptcy protection, the accounts filled with red ink.
The makeup that shoppers now flock to to buy looks different. In recent years, lines from big names like Rihanna and Kylie Jenner have emerged and reached fans directly. Social media superstars have promoted these products to their millions of Instagram and TikTok followers, embracing inclusive color palettes and bypassing the pharmacies that Revlon traditionally relied on to sell their products.
Consumer brands “can get in trouble if they burden themselves with too much debt,” said David Garfield, CEO of AlixPartners and an expert on the consumer industry. They can also “get into trouble if they fail to deal with major disruptions in the supply chain,” he added. “The problem there is that there can be a vicious circle: So supply chain disruptions can lead to production delays, which can lead to late shipments to retailers, which can lead to loss of shelf space and sales – and then the cycle repeats.”
The mass cosmetics category, which includes products such as eye shadow, foundation and lipstick, has grown, but has not returned to pre-pandemic sales and perhaps not until 2024, analysts at Jefferies predict. Also, while makeup brands such as Maybelline, Nyx and ELF each saw double-digit sales growth from a year ago, Revlon’s growth was 5.2 percent, according to data from Nielsen and Jefferies.
Revlon’s bankruptcy could be a sign that there are more problems for consumer brands, said bankruptcy advisers. High inflation, rising interest rates and warnings of a recession have made shoppers more cautious about opening their wallets. The number of defaults in the US this year is 40 percent lower than a year ago, according to S&P Global Ratings. But the agency warned that the share of distressed securities in the United States was rising rapidly.
Revlon was founded in the early 1930s by brothers Charles and Joseph Revson and Charles Lachman, who introduced a new nail enamel. The makeup company grew to become the second largest in the United States, behind Estée Lauder.
As is well known, Mr. Revson courted female shoppers by promoting the lid with matching red lips and nails. The heyday of the company came in the 1980s with the campaign “The most unforgettable women in the world”, taken by the famous photographer Richard Avedon and with many of the supermodels of the time, including Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Iman and Christy Turlington.
In 1985, Revlon was bought into a $ 2.7 billion deal by Ron Perelman, who used a small supermarket chain he controlled, Pantry Pride, to construct the takeover. Supported by junk bonds, the acquisition was credited with launching a wave of hostile acquisitions.
The acquisition helped drive Mr. Perelman to a billionaire and man in the city, who made large donations and got his name on the wings of museums, hospitals and universities when Revlon’s shares rose to a peak in 1998.
But then sales had already begun to fall, and soon Revlon’s share price. In 1998, the interest rate on Revlon’s debt of $ 1.7 billion exceeded operating revenues.
But as many of Mr. Perelman’s other companies went bankrupt, and even after an attempt to sell Revlon, he stuck to the cosmetics brand, investing millions of dollars of his own money to support it and declaring it one of the “big ones”. consumer brand names ”in an interview with The New York Times in 2000.
In an effort to diversify and strengthen its business, Revlon acquired other companies, including, in 2016, the international business of the nail care brand Cutex and Elizabeth Arden, in an agreement financed mainly by debt.
But Revlon struggled to regain its market presence when a new group of cosmetics entrepreneurs emerged.
“Consumer demand for our products remains strong – people love our brands, and we continue to have a healthy market position,” said Revlon’s CEO, Debra Perelman, who is Mr. Perelman’s daughter, in a statement. The company’s extensive balance sheet “has limited our ability to navigate macroeconomic issues to meet this demand,” she said.
Aside from buying an emergency tube of lipstick in Astoria, Queens, a few years ago, Catania stopped buying Revlon makeup a long time ago, she said; she now prefers more exclusive brands such as Chanel, Nars and Mac. She said she would consider becoming a customer again, for the right product. But, she said of Revlon, “I have not seen any rebrand for cool products since, I guess, the heyday of the ’90s.”