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Zuneta merges with LoveLula

Online beauty products retailers LoveLula and Zuneta have merged to form Zulu Beauty. The deal was backed by investment from Forward Venture Partners and sees Forward’s Paul Fisher join the board of the new company alongside LoveLula founder Claire Braithwaite and Zuneta founder Zu Rafalat. The two businesses will continue to operate

separately, explains Rafalat. “The Zuneta customer and the LoveLula customer have different needs when it comes to beauty.

Zuneta will always focus on high-end and niche brands while LoveLula will remain focused on natural and organic brands. We have a strict ingredient policy on LoveLula that will also remain in place.” Rafalat says that the “real merger

will occur behind the scenes”. Claire Braithwaite is a chartered accountant, and will head Zulu Beauty’s finance and operations divisions. Rafalat formerly worked at L’Oreal focusing on product


Tactics Views

development and launching new brands, and will head the buying and marketing divisions. Over the next few years, Zulu plans to launch new beauty sites, each catering to a different niche, says Rafalat. With the added investment from

Forward, the company is able to expand its business in Europe and further afield, says Rafalat. This will include local- language websites for new markets, as well as opening a distribution centre in Asia and in the US “at some stage in the not too distant future”.

Lovethoseshoes marches into Europe is a business that knows the importance of nurturing a niche. Launched in 2003 as a place to buy shoes with a health benefit, the profitable business turned over £1.2 million in 2010. For 2011, managing director Glen Berd forecasts £1.8 million thanks to more brands and a bigger product selection. All the products “do something”, says Berd. Even when selecting mainstream brands like Skechers or Reebok, Lovethoseshoes will only sell those that have “technology”—like muscle toning—built in. Another sales driver this year has been the launch of localised websites for the spring/ summer season. The business employed native French and German speakers to carry out translations and act as customer service representatives for customers in France and Germany. After the autumn/winter season stock is translated and live, Berd will start work on launching Italian and Spanish sites, which she says will also open up the business to customers in South America in addition to widening its European net. Berd has considered local-language sites

for the Nordics too, but decided to put them on hold as she says’s

Scandinavian customers are accustomed to shopping online with English-language sites. “I’d also love a Japanese and a Chinese site, but the business would need to be much bigger in order to manage them,” she adds.

Although predominantly an online business, print remains a key part of the mix, with Berd claiming the catalogue is “terribly important” to her customers. She says the business experiences a definite surge in online orders after a print catalogue is mailed. As a result, this autumn sees Lovethoseshoes produce its biggest edition to date. “We used to put all the brands in it, but this season, because there are so many new additions, some things are being cut.” Gone are sandals and specialist training shoes, to focus on everyday footwear, with the remainder becoming “online-only” brands.

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