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End of the Road for, but Personalized Cosmetics Live On

2005-06-29 - San Francisco, CA, USA: Reflect True Custom Beauty, (better known as ceased trading on 17 June. Parent company Procter and Gamble closed down the operation, which has been providing customized cosmetics since 1999. Procter and Gamble had invested $60M in Reflect over three rounds of funding.

Around 40 employees were affected by the closure of Reflect. Most of the staff affected were counter staff in retailing outlets. Reflect had a retail sales operation in addition to the online store.

The enterprise was frequently put forward as one of the 'shining lights' of product personalization, a textbook example of what could be achieved by combining electronic ordering technology with mass customized products. This website considered it important to find out more about the reasons for the closure.

It is difficult to determine the level of financial success or otherwise that was achieved by Reflect. As a subsidiary of P&G, Reflect did not disclose separate financial information. However, a representative of Reflect said that the company had 10 million customizations since the brand's inception.

Assuming that this was in line with expectations, the reasons for the closure must lie elsewhere. There did not appear to be a lack of interest by P&G in the company. A management figure at Reflect told this website that "P&G has supported the Reflect brand with a great deal of commitment and servitude. We have worked together on a series of P&G and Reflect projects and have enjoyed our collaboration and leadership that they have provided throughout our existence."

Some questions were put to P&G concerning the closure of Reflect. A representative of P&G told this website that the company (P&G) had carried out a strategic review of its operations recently, and had decided to focus on its more established mainstream brands. It was this, rather than anything relating to the performance of Reflect, was the root cause of the closure.

Part of the statement which announced the closure of Reflect made reference to the knowledge of customization that was gained being transferred to other brands in the P&G group. The representative of P&G cited in particular the example of the Cover Girl brand, where the 'CoverGirl Custom Compacts' range of cosmetics has been developed directly from the knowledge gained at Reflect. These products can be filled and refilled with magnetized pots of lip colour, lip gloss and eye shadow in a range of shades.

The Custom Compact range will be available at Wal-Mart and Target stores in the U.S. beginning in July 2005.

A small number of the staff affected by the closure of Reflect have transferred to positions elsewhere in P&G, and are likely to apply their knowledge to other brands within the group.

From the point of view of those who support the concepts of personalization and mass customization (including this website), it is important to understand the reasons for any situation where a relatively high-profile mass customizer ceases trading. Mis-informed or un-researched comment might use Reflect as an example to criticise the mass customization business model. This article should help to clarify the true situation behind the closure.

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