Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Camera Ready Cosmetics, the ultimate pro makeup store.

Camera Ready Cosmetics, founded by makeup artist Mary Erickson, is becoming more and more appreciated by makeup artists worldwide due to a simple strategy: they offer only the best makeup brands at the lowest guaranteed price, the most efficient customer service, and they ship worldwide at the most convenient rates. In other words: straight forward top quality, top service, no bull and above all (and most remarkably) no greed. I stopped at the CRC showroom in La Mesa (San Diego) a couple of months ago, on my way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Not the most efficient route, I realize, but I had a sizable order to collect so I thought I would see what the place looks like, and if it would hold true to its website description of a "playground" where you can test products without obligation and with the help of  knowledgeable staff. Well, what can I say? I left two hours later wishing I could have bought the entire place, and feeling like I had made some new friends. The strategy obviously works!

The Showroom at CRC
 The showroom space is not huge, but it is big enough to display the whole collection of products in a very user friendly layout. There they were: RCMA, Face Atelier, Cinema Secrets and all those other brands I had read so much about but had been hesitant to order finally at my fingertips (literally). No amount advertisement and  no guru's opinion can be a substitute for hands on testing of a a product's colour, texture and wearability, and although the CRC website offers a sampling service, which is rare among online stores, here you can see the whole range taking the guess work and the expense out of the equation. 

The perfect testing post.
The same applies to their very extensive stock of airbrush makeup of course. They even had a Graftobian kit plugged in and ready for use, so I could actually test some colours with an airbrush, rather than just out of the bottle. They have all the major professional brands except for one of the most famous ones, that shall remain nameless here. For some reason this brand hasn't been able to include CRC among their distributors, which is a terrible shame because not only do they lose credibility with the professionals (many think that if CRC doesn't carry it, it is not worth having) but they also lose a major International outlet, as CRC will ship to countries they will not. Oh well, I hope they can take a hint. 

During my visit I was helped by the very knowledgeable and super helpful Ashlie, and later I had a chance to also chat with the stunning Ashley (similar name, different person) and with Nicole, who leads the marketing department with unsurpassed efficiency, elegance and grace. What I didn't expect was to be able to meet Mary Erickson herself, and boy am I glad I had a chance. Mary gave me a whole tour of the operation, from the offices to the extensive mail room which is the heart and soul of CRC, taking two thirds of the space. At the time of my visit the staff was processing an average of over 250 orders a day, yet everyone would smile and say hi, leaving me with the impression of a very happy crew. Mary explained to me that every single batch of makeup that comes in is personally checked by a dedicated employee for flaws of any kind, and immediately sent back if found in any way imperfect. To further guarantee the freshness of  the makeup there is also an unwritten "two weeks rule" applied on the merchandise: CRC does not stock anything that doesn't sell out within that period. Well, I couldn't have been more impressed. Mary herself is exactly as I thought she would be by checking her WEBSITE. Most makeup artists only store their portfolio and their CV there. She went out of her way to incorporate a Q&A page with a lot of information on all aspects of the profession, something I had not seen before and that can be of great use to aspiring MUAs. In other words when so many in her position and with her level of artistry are often standoffish, aloof and a little full of themselves,  she remains enthusiastic, generous and gifted with a biting sense of humour in spite of her strong business savvy. 

You don't have to be an insider to know that the cosmetic industry, at any stage from creation to distribution, is one of the most dynamic and competitive business environments in the world. Add an international economic downturn such as the one of the last few years, and you are left with a question: is it possible for an independent business to thrive, and most importantly to do so ethically? Is it possible to generate high customer satisfaction, create a happy working environment and still adhere to a strict commitment to excellence in the product that you offer? The answer is a resounding YES, and the proof is an Enterprise called Camera Ready Cosmetics

PRO TIP & UPDATE: Since we wrote this article Camera Ready has been going from strength to strength: after a major website redesign, a free App was launched bringing the latest update to your phones and tablet (available on Itunes). The Pro discount program was redesigned to include discounts of up to 40%, and the Aspiring MUA discount was increased to 10%. A reward points program was also put in place, allowing any customer to get back 10% on each purchase.

Some of the lovely CRC Staff. Fourth from the left is Mary Erickson