Gen Z’s favorite makeup brand has delivered 16 quarters of net sales growth, CFO says

Mandy Fields, CFO of e.l.f. Beauty
Courtesy e.l.f. Beauty

Good morning,

“I was just always naturally drawn to the consumer goods sector,” Mandy Fields, CFO at e.l.f. Beauty told me. “I love finance. I like to go shopping. I love clothing. I love makeup. I love food and wine and all of these things. So why not find a career that allows me to participate across all of these categories?”

For Fields, CFO at Oakland, Calif.-based mass beauty company e.l.f. (NYSE: ELF) since 2019, her makeup knowledge and finance skills go hand-in-hand. The company has experienced 16 consecutive quarters of net sales growth. e.l.f. Beauty (eyes, lips, and face) announced Feb. 1 that net sales increased 49% to $146.5 million for the three months ending Dec. 31, driven by retailer and e-commerce channels. For the eighth quarter in a row, e.l.f. Beauty beat earnings estimates. It’s also the darling brand of Gen Zers. 

Value proposition, innovation, and community engagement are “the drivers of our business that have been very consistent,” Fields said. “e.l.f. products are $6 AUR [average unit retail], versus others, in mass market, at $9 or more, or prestige, where the cost of entry is about $22 or more,” she explains.

But due to increasing inflation last year, “We took pricing on about two-thirds of our items, but we left the one-third, our entry-level price points unchanged,” Fields said. “We have an eyebrow pencil that everybody raves about, and it’s $3.”

E.l.f., founded in 2004, has only raised prices two times in its history, she said. Once in 2019 when tariffs were put on the company’s products due to importing from China, Fields said. And then again last March. “There are others out there that can do value makeup, but it’s the innovation engine that we put behind it that really is special,” she said.

The Gen Z connection

Regarding community engagement, e.l.f. has the attention of Gen Z. According to investment banking company Piper Sandler’s annual Generation Z survey of 14,500 U.S. teens released this past fall, e.l.f. maintained its position as the No. 1 cosmetics brand. 

“I’m super involved in marketing,” Fields said. “I’m the BFF to our CMO. “Over the past four years, we’ve taken our marketing investment from 7% of net sales up to the high end of our target range of 19%.” And marketing to Gen Z is a high priority. 

Some examples? “We were the first beauty company to be on BeReal [a photo-sharing app],” she said. “We were one of the first beauty brands to really see success on TikTok, all the way back in 2019. We partnered with the Weather Channel and Meghan Trainor to do a holiday campaign and had almost 6 billion impressions.”

Fields said Gen Z also appreciates transparency about products. “We were the first beauty company to be fair trade certified, for example,” she said.

Finding your niche

Fields started her career on Wall Street in investment banking focused on oil and gas, but not for long. “I learned that I loved finance, but I did not like oil and gas; it just was not my thing,” she said. Before joining e.l.f. Beauty, Fields was a CFO at BevMo!, a specialty beverage retailer on the West Coast. She was also president of finance and analytics for Albertsons Companies, managing the P&L of the company’s $13 billion-dollar multibrand private label portfolio.

Fields said she’s had mentors and sponsors along the way in her career. And she’s also an advocate for increasing diversity in financial leadership. “I can count the number of Black female CFOs that I know on one hand,” Fields said. “There’s more that needs to be done on that front. So, I try to be a voice to encourage people of color and young people to get into finance.”

Before working at e.l.f., Fields was always one of the few women at the company, but that’s certainly not the case now. “Our employee base is 75% women,” she said. And two-thirds of e.l.f.’s board are women, she said.

Her go-to e.l.f. product? “My favorite new innovation is our O Face lipstick that I’m wearing today,” she said. “This color is called ‘Spicy.’”

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

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Big deal

A new EY global study of 1,200 CEOs finds that almost half of the respondents foresee a moderate slowdown in the global economy, and more than half fear a recession worse than the global financial crisis for the period 2008-10. In preparation of emerging from a potential economic downturn, CEOs plan to boost operations such as finance, accounting, and supply chain and logistics, and focus on marketing, including the customer experience, according to the report. However, there are also clear long-term shifts. This includes increasing investment in sustainability, environmental, and broader societal issues to focus on innovation and research. "CEOs are looking at a longer horizon," EY found.

Courtesy of EY

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“We think we’ll get another couple of hikes that take you to the low-5s rather than the high-4s.”

—Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs chief economist told CNBC in reference to the inflation rate, which is currently at 6.5% compared to the Federal Reserve's 2% target. 

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