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The Estee Lauder Companies (EL) Q2 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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EL earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

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The Estee Lauder Companies (EL -1.85%)
Q2 2021 Earnings Call
Feb 05, 2021, 9:30 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Estee Lauder Companies fiscal 2021 second-quarter conference call. Today's call is being recorded and webcast. For opening remarks and introductions, I would like to turn the call over to the senior vice president of investor relations, Ms. Rainey Mancini.

Rainey Mancini -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Hello. On today's call are Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer; and Tracey Travis, executive vice president and chief financial officer. Since many of our remarks today contain forward-looking statements, let me refer you to our press release and our reports filed with the SEC, where you'll find factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from these forward-looking statements. To facilitate the discussion of our underlying business, the commentary on our financial results and expectations is before restructuring and other charges and adjustments disclosed in our press release.

All net sales growth numbers are in constant currency, and all organic results exclude the impacts of acquisitions. You can find reconciliations between GAAP and non-GAAP measures in our press release and on the Investors section of our website. As a reminder, references to online sales include sales we make directly to our consumers through our sites and through third-party platforms. It also includes estimated sales of our products through our retailers' websites.

[Operator instructions] And now I'll turn the call over to Fabrizio.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Rainey, and hello, everyone. Let me first wish that each of you are in good health and that your families are well. Our hearts continue to be with those impacted by COVID-19. And our focus remains, first and foremost, on the health and safety of our employees, their families, and our consumers.

To our employees, you have lifted us up from caring for the physical and emotional well-being of our colleagues to making hand sanitizer, seeking opportunities to support charities around the world, generously contributing to the ELC Cares Employee Relief Fund and so much more. In December, the company made an additional donation to the employees' fund, and we continue to make progress on our citizenship and social impact commitments. Our employees' agility and creativity empowered the company to deliver the exceptional results we announced today. For this second quarter in fiscal year 2021, sales rose 3%, a 12-point positive swing from the decline of 9% in the first quarter.

Impressively, 10 brands grew led by the double-digit from Estee Lauder and La Mer as well as great performance from Jo Malone London. Le Labo and Frederic Malle also rose double digits. We focused our investment decisions on engines of growth while also employing strict cost discipline in other areas, delivering strong double-digit adjusted diluted earnings-per-share growth. In the quarter, we faced increasingly complexity from the pandemic, yet still delivered results that exceeded our record second half quarter of fiscal year 2020, when sales grew the strongest in 20 years in our seasonally largest quarter.

Our multiple engines of growth strategy continued to prove its value, enabling us to pivot with agility in this challenging moment. We successfully activated efforts behind the growth engines of skin care, fragrance, Asia Pacific, travel retail in Asia and global online. Our skin care category have performed extraordinarily. Its accelerating growth reflected the strong and locally relevant innovation, successful hero strategies, compelling ingredient narratives and deeper consumer relationships enabled by sophisticated data and analytics.

Growth of our high-repeat hero products was broad-based across these categories from cleansers to watery lotions, serum, eye care and moisturizers. Our skin care business has continued to go from strength to strength, bolstered by the piece of mind of the ritual of skin care as an expression of self-care. From entry prestige through luxury, our brands excelled in skin care. Many brands have contributed, demonstrating the breadth of our performance.

Dr. Jart+ provided incremental sales from our double-digit organic growth with its appealing derma brand positioning. The Estee Lauder brand once again delivered double-digit growth across several of its hero franchises in skin care. Its new advanced night repair serum was a powerful force, thanks to its new formula and luxurious, more sustainable glass bottle.

The serum delivered this quarter a healthy fit to advanced night repair eye. And these two hero products benefited from their synergies and desirable sets. The brand's revitalizing supreme franchise accelerated significantly. Gaining momentum with its hero moisturizer.

La Mer, leadership in luxury skin care grew as consumers demand for its iconic products with powerful proven efficacy or sort. Here, two serum was a vibrant subcategory. Its new The Concentrate was such a big contributor to growth, amplifying strengths of heroes like Creme de la Mer and the treatment lotion. The new Genaissance de la Mer Concentrated Night Balm performed exceptionally well, driving the brand's ultra luxury franchise to new highs.

Clinique returned to growth, lifted by skin care, as its hero franchises that are focused on hard-to-solve skin care problems like acne and dark spot thrived. Even Better Clinical Interrupter is now firmly established as a core performance of the brand and continues to deliver significant growth. It was complemented by the acceleration in the brand's three-step product and acne solution lines. Our luxury and artisanal fragrances captivated consumer desires.

For Tom Ford Beauty, Jo Malone London, Le Labo, Frederic Malle and Kilian Paris, innovations and iconic products were both highly sold. These brands all delivered stellar online sales growth along with improving brick-and-mortar sales in certain markets. Jo Malone London and Le Labo home products continue to flourish as consumer craved the sense to elevate the sanctuary of their homes. Our global online channel delivered outstanding double-digit sales growth, significantly accelerated from the previous quarter and driven by every region.

Growth was also robust across the board as the, third-party platforms, pure players and doors all contributed meaningfully. Our go-to-market strategies for each of these were tremendously successful, particularly during Black Friday, Cyber Week and Tmall 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, driving strong consumer acquisition and retention. We continue to enhance our brand sites with high-touch services. These strategies have -- these strategic investments are elevating the consumer experience from convenience buying to enriched shopping complete with useful tools, targeted recommendation and expert advice.

Across our brands, we are uniquely combining technology and data with our talented beauty advisor on a global scale. Virtual Try-On is proving to be incredibly powerful, driving over twice the engagement as well as higher conversion and retention rates. In the quarter, we added Virtual Try-On to more sites around the world. The number of sessions now nearly doubled from the prior quarter, reflecting both the expansion to additional sites as well as a big uptick in activity on brand sites that had previously launched it.

Video chat is also proving to be very impactful. In North America, conversion of live chat session is nearly four times higher than average conversion in the market. Video chat usage accelerated during the holiday season as our skilled beauty advisor offered useful insights and customized education to consumers, driving a very much higher basket size than average. Our brands are increasingly offering other engaging virtual services and experiences.

Two examples are found on Clinique Reality, the brand skin diagnostic tool instructs the consumer in a highly personalized manner, driving notably strong conversion rates. And Clinique Skin School addresses are growing demand for credible education in an entertaining format with a new focus on real-time interactions. Skin School brilliantly integrates live chat and trend-based programming with the brand expert consultants.

We continue to pursue high-touch innovation online as evidenced by the Estee Lauder brand new AI-driven product recommendations based on real-time consumer behavior and the past preferences that we are piloting in North America. We anticipate that this dynamic merchandising holds great promise and are excited to scale in this year for Estee Lauder as well for other brands. We are welcoming new consumers on our brand sites but also successfully driving repeat, enabled in part by our loyalty programs. In the first half of fiscal year 2021, the number of loyalty program members who both rose strong double digits, driven by triple-digit growth of international loyalty program members.

In so many ways, we are building really deeper relationships with our consumers. Our brands delivered excellent results for Tmall 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, leveraging the latest live streaming technology and capabilities to generate product discovery. For 11.11, the Estee Lauder brand moved into the No. 1 rank in beauty.

La Mer notched No. 1 rank in luxury beauty. M.A.C was the No. 1 prestige makeup brand.

And Jo Malone London was the leader in fragrance. We have long believed in the compelling growth prospects of online and have been investing in for more than two decades. At the onset of COVID-19, we nearly doubled our rate of online investments, including accelerating our consumer-facing investment like Virtual Try-On, social selling, omnichannel or loyalty programs. We're also increasing our investment in our digital infrastructure and fulfillment network to meet the much higher traffic and demand.

In addition to these capital investments, we continue to optimize our advertising investment in some digital channels as well as invest in our great online talent domestically and our headquarters in New York and in our local markets around the world. Among the regions, Asia Pacific delivered the strongest sequential improvement, with sales growth accelerating from 7% to 27%. Mainland China, prospered, while Korea and several smaller markets contributed organically. In Mainland China, momentum in brick-and-mortar carried into the quarter, with sales again growing double digit.

Online also accelerated significantly, elevated by a remarkable 11.11 event. Nearly every brand grew, as across the brands we reached more consumers, thanks to locally relevant innovation, hero products, rich storytelling and successful influencer and activations as well as the dedication and creativity of the local team in China. Travel retail grew single digits organically driven by strong results in Asia, particularly in Hainan, as we fulfilled the desires of our traveling Chinese consumers with ideal merchandising. Traffic to Hainan continue to rebound, And the duty-free annual partial limit had increased threefold there in July, providing a favorable benefit in the quarter as consumers sought to spend to the new annual limit before year-end.

Conversion was also a very strong driver of [Inaudible] now which newly offered live streaming. Across channels, demand from Chinese consumers accelerated, especially in skin care and fragrance. The long-term growth opportunity we foresee in the dynamic Asia Pacific region are very abundant. And over the last 15 months despite the challenges of the pandemic, we made three significant investment commitments as we strive to best meet the desires of Chinese and Asian consumers.

In late 2019, we acquired the Korean-based skin care brands Dr. Jart+ while in early 2020, we committed to build an end-to-end innovation center in Shanghai. Today, I'm pleased to confirm we are building a state-of-art manufacturing facility near Tokyo. We are on track to open our Shanghai innovation center in spring 2022.

This will increase our local capabilities in product design and formulation. We are also strengthening our consumer insight and these trend analytics in this vibrant market. We broke ground in our new manufacturing facility near Tokyo, which is to be operational in late 2022. It will be enabled us to better meet demand and increase speed to market in the region.

The facility will house advanced technologies and engineering equipment, with high standards of sustainability and safety and will be designed to really promote flexible and leading-edge working environment. Across our engines, innovation contributed significantly in the second quarter ahead of our aggressive goals, driven by focus on fewer, bigger and better hero innovations. We have an enticing pipeline of new product launches for the remainder of our fiscal year. Already out are these two in skincare.

The Estee Lauder brand launched Supreme+ Bright. It addresses the trend of brightening in Asia and is also highly relevant for consumers of all skin tones around the world with its Even Better Skin Tone and dark spot benefits, meeting top needs of the multi-ethnic consumers. Clinique introduced Moisture Surge 100-Hour with an exclusive aloe vera bio-ferment that provides hydration that goes to 10 layers deep into skin surface and also last 100 hours even after you wash your face. In makeup, Clinique launched Even Better Clinical Serum Foundation, a weightless liquid foundation with 24-hours wear and good for skin ingredients to help visibly improving skin instantly and over time.

Our strategic focus and investment in our ESG goals remain of utmost importance for us and our key stakeholders, and we continue to advance our work in the quarter. Let me share a few examples in climate, sustainable ingredients and packaging, and inclusion and diversity for many areas of our recent progress. We are pleased to have join CDP's 2020 Climate A List, having been awarded the highest score of A. In January, Aveda proudly announced that its products are vegan.

As a mission-driven brand, this was a natural step for Aveda, a brand that continuously works to reduce its environmental impact while also responding to the fast-growing consumer trends. Our brands are employing more innovative and sustainable packaging as they launch new products while also improving the packaging of existing products. The two new Clinique products, which I have just described, are two such example of innovation launching in more sustainable package. To continue to invest in and advance our diverse talent, we created a sponsorship program for equitable advanced and professional development of the Black talent.

From every chair leadership development program, we'll ensure that our Black employees have the support and advocacy of senior executives and equitable access to leadership training mentorship and career development opportunities. In closing, we delivered excellent performance amid the pandemic, leveraging the strengths of our multiple engines of growth strategy, hero products and robust innovation. We did this while also driving our values as we increasingly embedded ESG in everything we do: focusing on safety and well-being of our employees, making progress on our environmental goals, and acting on our racial equity commitments. We also invested in technology and data for new capabilities to support accelerating these growth drivers.

These accomplishments and actions give us confidence that we are well positioned to continue to drive recovery and return to our long-term growth targets after the period of recovery. I'm incredibly grateful to our employees whose grace and fortitude are making us a better company throughout this very difficult moment. While the role ahead will be challenging, but together we can be optimistic the brighter days are coming. I wish each one of you good health.

And now I will turn the call over to Tracey.

Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Fabrizio, and I certainly echo your comments regarding our wonderful employees. As a reminder, my commentary today is adjusted for the items that Rainey mentioned at the beginning of our call. And net sales growth numbers are in constant currency. Our net sales rose 3% in the second quarter.

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to pressure traffic in our brick-and-mortar distribution, but sales declines in stores were entirely offset by strong growth across our online channels and in travel retail in Asia. The December 2019 acquisition of Dr. Jart+ added approximately three points to net sales growth. Sales performed above our expectations, to be in large part reflecting the outstanding execution during the annual Tmall 11.11 Shopping Festival, as well as the many activations our brands deployed during key shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Week.

In addition to the acceleration and growth we saw in skincare, fragrance sales were strong in the quarter, and home fragrance continued to resonate during the pandemic. Our gross margin increased 10 basis points compared to last year's second quarter. Favorable channel mix was driven by the growth in our online sales and also reflects lower cost for such testers in the brick-and-mortar distribution. From a category perspective, the acceleration of sales in skin care also benefited gross margin.

The positive mix was partially offset by higher obsolescence and a negative currency impact. Operating expenses improved by 160 basis points as a percent of sales, reflecting both the strength of our sales leverage during key shopping moments and our cost containment measures. Many of our COVID-related cost containment measures remained in place during the quarter and contributed to our improved profitability along with benefits of our Leading Beauty Forward initiative. Lower selling costs and other in-store promotion costs also reflected the mix shift of our business from brick-and-mortar to online as well as some remaining government subsidies in certain countries.

Given the challenged environment, we continue to experience periodic door closures. Partially offsetting the cost favorability was higher than investment behind our strategic priorities, including China, online and digital technology as well as the inclusion of Dr. Jart+ expenses this year. As a result, our operating margin rose 170 basis points to 24.3%, a significant accomplishment during this important holiday quarter, considering the record results achieved in the year-ago period.

Our effective tax rate for the quarter came in at 15.9%. The lower tax rate for the quarter was also primarily due to the recognition of a onetime retroactive benefit related to recently finalized GILTI U.S. tax regulations. We now expect our effective tax rate for the year to be approximately 20% reflecting this development.

Diluted EPS of $2.61 increased 24% compared to the prior year. EPS was higher than expected due primarily to the combination of strong performance in our key shopping moments in the quarter and the lower tax rate, while maintaining strict cost management. This performance is truly a testament to our team's ability to navigate the business through the difficult macro environment. Our plans under the post COVID business acceleration program that are progressing.

Through the past six months, we have taken charges of $46 million, primarily to close underperforming freestanding retail stores in our EMEA region, and in employee-related costs as we realign resources to support our online business and our digital capabilities. As our program continues in the second half, we expect to continue to rationalize our retail footprint, primarily in western markets. Additionally, we took an $81 million impairment charge for our Glamglow brand, reflecting the COVID-related disruption of the brand's growth plans and lower-than-expected growth from its planned geographic expansion. During the first half of our fiscal year, we generated $1.98 billion in net cash flows from operating activities, which are substantially above the prior year due to improvements in working capital management.

Accounts payable increased, reflecting timing-related items that also support our second half growth plans. And accounts receivable reflected the rapid growth in our direct-to-consumer business and a five-day improvement in DSO. We have invested $250 million in capital expenditures to support key investment areas like additional production capacity and technology. Conversely, we spent far less on counters and stores due to lower traffic and brick-and-mortar doors.

We ended December with $5.5 billion in our cash and cash equivalents, just above our total debt. With the strength of our cash position, free cash flow generation, and our confidence in our business drivers as we recover, we expect to reinstate share repurchases and maintain our dividend during the second half of our fiscal year. So now let's turn to our outlook. We are also obviously encouraged by the sequential improvement we saw in every region as we continue to manage through the effects of the pandemic.

While cases of COVID-19 and new variants are surging again in some markets, resulting in renewed door closures, restrictions and lockdowns, we are optimistic that once the vaccines reach enough of the global population, the restrictions on travel and social activities will ease. Nonetheless, we had not assumed this second wave. Therefore, the more accelerated global recovery we originally anticipated in our second half has clearly been delayed. So while we are pleased with our performance in the first half, the prolonged uncertainty with respect to the pace and timing of the recovery makes it still difficult to provide sales and EPS guidance for the full year.

We do continue to really expect sequential quarterly sales growth improvement as comparisons to the prior year ease and the global recovery unfolds. The inclusion of six months of incremental sales from the acquisition of Dr. Jart+, which benefited our growth in the first half, adds two percentage points to sales growth for the full fiscal year. As you know, several of our retail customers are liquidating or reducing their store footprints.

Notably, our Lord & Taylor, Stage Stores, and Debenhams are liquidating; and Macy's, Nordstrom and Douglas have announced door reductions. Additionally, we expect to close certain freestanding stores in North America and EMEA now that the holidays are behind us. In aggregate, the lost sales represent between 1% and 2% of our total full-year sales, and we do expect to recapture a portion of those sales in other locations and online. While we continue to execute our cost savings programs, it is important to recognize that some of the temporary cost measures we took last year will be returning in the coming months.

The principal areas of returning costs include some additional advertising, promotion and point-of-sale employee costs, which were all meaningfully reduced during this time that our retail doors were closed last year. As well as the restoration of certain temporary pay reductions we took, travel and retail consulting costs are expected to ramp up more slowly. Costs will also increase as offices reopen and our facilities continue to implement enhanced safety protocols. We will incur incremental spending for our new Asian manufacturing plant and innovation center.

And as we continue to see signs of consumers' willingness to also resume their normal activities, including return to our stores, we plan to invest incrementally as we normally did pre-pandemic in our fourth quarter, to strongly support our launch programs and to begin to reaccelerate our makeup business in the upcoming fiscal year. Looking at the near term, for the third quarter, we expect sales to rise between 10% and 11% in constant currency. We have a terrific lineup of these product offerings and the activations for the Lunar New Year, and we expect continued strong online sales. You may recall that we had an exceptional January last year.

We have lapped the purchase of Dr. Jart+ at the beginning of our third quarter, and the brand is now part of our organic growth. Currency is expected to be accretive by approximately three percentage points. Third quarter EPS is expected to be between $1.10 and $1.20, reflecting the sales outlook and a careful balance between cost containment measures and our investment in key growth areas such as online and technology.

And currency is expected to add $0.03 to EPS. We remain optimistic that the pandemic will be controlled and out-of-home activities will resume under a new normal. With this solid first half behind us, we have proven we can deliver in the context of a difficult macro environment while continuing to support our employees, our social and environmental commitments, and invest in the capabilities needed to sustain our growth in the long term. The resiliency of our business during this time and the passion and dedication of our teams reinforce our confidence in our strategies and the continuation of our ability to deliver long-term sustainable growth.

And that concludes our prepared remarks. We'll be happy to take your questions at this time.

Questions & Answers:


[Operator instructions] And our first question is going to come from the line of Dara Mohsenian with Morgan Stanley.

Dara Mohsenian -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, guys.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Dara.

Dara Mohsenian -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

So I just -- I wanted to focus on top line. Clearly, very strong performance in skin care and e-commerce during COVID. Can you just talk about the sustainability of that strength in each of those areas as we move to a post-COVID environment, as well as what some of your key strategies might be to maintain momentum post COVID? And then on the makeup side, that's obviously been a laggard area for obvious reasons. How quickly do you think category growth recovers in makeup post-COVID and what's your outlook there? Thanks.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

OK. So first of all, the key drivers for us, let's go one by one. Skin care, very sustainable, the consumers are always more and more enthusiastic for skin care. We have an amazing pipeline of innovation for the future years.

And the strength of Asia and particularly China is, in term of mix, one of the biggest builder of skin care. Because the penetration of skin care, the penetration of beauty in these -- for skin care in Asia is very, very high. So we assume the skin care strength will continue after COVID. The other driver is China and the potential of China, as we explained very well in our Investor Day is for the long term.

The Chinese I think -- the demographics are right. The potential of the smaller cities, tier three and tier four cities will continue to grow, the power of online and the online distribution will continue to be very strong. In TR, imagine that the TR growth today, the TR results are mainly driven by Asia and particularly by the domestic travel acceleration within China. So in the future, the domestic travel acceleration within China will continue but the international travel will be reinstated.

And so this will be a further acceleration in the long-term when COVID will abate. So all our key drivers are really here for the long term. And most importantly as you know, our drivers tend to be accretive in profitability, so that will create resources over time. The laggard is the brick-and-mortar, particularly in the west.

Now this obviously in the short term, is an issue, because there is lack of traffic, and the lack of traffic has now created issues of productivity. But also on this one, we are working for rebuilding this for the long term. And so what is a drag today, a big drag on what is about one-third of our business is still in brick-and-mortar in the west. And so if you imagine that the traffic post COVID will come back that there are all the retailer closures that Tracey summarized which are happening that will reduce the amount of stores, which will not be sustainable in the long term.

And our business acceleration program, which is really putting back -- our rightsizing if you want, all the channels for us, rebuilding productivity over time. And so the combination of traffic, closures and business acceleration program is our answer to, in the long term after COVID, being able to make also brick-and-mortar again an engine of growth, which will be profitable building the company for the long term. So we are very positive in summary on the continuous strength post COVID of our drivers, new accelerated drivers. We are also working to make also what is a drag in the short term rebuild as a positive long-term channel, which is the brick-and-mortar in the west.

In terms of makeup, it was last part of your question, our -- makeup is very much driven by used at occasions; so used at occasion meaning going to the office, to be going out for dinner, having a party, etc. So clearly the makeup category growth will be associated with the post recovery, and we will be ready for that. Our point of view is that when the used at occasion will go back into the life of people, this recovery will be fast and steep. And so we are ready for that.

Now if you -- when do we assume this will happen, frankly, the answer is difficult to answer the same way Tracey's plan is difficult to answer on when vaccination of the rest will have a full impact. But we believe that from what we see in the market starting the fall of 2021, we could see a beginning of certain used at the occasion to be reestablished because of this makeup growth -- will flow back, in our opinion, starting from this moment particularly.

Dara Mohsenian -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Great. Thanks. That's helpful.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer



And our next question is going to come from the line of Lauren Lieberman with Barclays.

Lauren Lieberman -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great. Thanks. Good morning. I was curious if we could talk a little bit about e-commerce development in Western Europe in particular because I think with -- sort of hidden, if you will, in the numbers, and you worked through contribution from travel retail and so on is that Western Europe while still down of course, was down I think a lot less than has been the case thus far through the pandemic.

You also mentioned the Cyber Week and the shopping dynamic in Western Europe, but my sense is that that is a channel that had been somewhat less developed historically. So I'd love to hear more about how that built up and thinking about kind of stickiness of that behavior going ahead, particularly in a quarter or two where there aren't big shopping events that are typical for that market. Thanks.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So first of all, the online business has done very well this quarter, plus 60% globally. And it's interesting, we are growing double or triple digit in every brand, every region, every channel, a meaningful channel,,, third party platform, pure plays. So in Western Europe is the same as Western Europe is growing, depending by market, double-digit or triple-digit in online.

And obviously, the holiday season has been because of the lockdown, as you know, in Western Europe particularly, COVID was pretty high in November, December. Because of this, the brick-and-mortar were closed. In countries like the U.K. as an example, the December was a super difficult month.

And so there was no regular Christmas holidays in brick-and-mortar, and obviously, U.K. was not the only place. And so because of this we were able to pivot to online in an extraordinary way. I think we have -- our teams have done a magnificent work in taking care of our consumer online when they were because of prudent behavior for COVID, not going to the brick-and-mortar.

And what we have seen that this works in many, many cases. Meaning, at the end, our consumers are -- certain categories were working because of repeat. Meaning the consumer didn't do without their preferred La Mer cream or their preferred advanced night repair, whatever. And so we got a lot of selling via the online channel.

But also that we are able to speak to their gifting habits, and we created gifting opportunities and delivery model for gifting, etc. And so there was a lot of creativity and invention in this area. Now this online, in general I believe the online will continue to be very strong also in the long term. And this acceleration will continue also post COVID.

And one of the reasons for that, which is particularly true in Western Europe, is that the new online focus created -- brought online or then created new consumers, including the more mature consumers. Online, particularly in Europe, it was really dedicated to millennial and younger consumers, while during COVID, more mature consumers came online and they are liking it. And they are becoming loyal. And so they will also post COVID have a bigger percentage of the shopping online than before.

On top of this, if you think that we are adding high-touch services online, so what were the services that before were available in brick-and-mortar have now gradually, but they are also available online. And we have been able to scale this at the speed of light. Just to give you a number to understand our ability to scale new ideas is today Virtual Try-On is now already available in 90% of our brand comp sales in term of coverage. Imagine that, and that was the -- it was not even close to that six months ago.

And so the consumer responding to that, and this is driving also in Western Europe to be a lot of online and probably sustainable and more loyalty online across different group of consumers. So online had a big role in Western Europe in quarter two and will continue to have a bigger and growing more over time in next years.


And our next question is going to come from the line of Erinn Murphy with Piper Sandler.

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Sandler -- Anayst

Great. Thanks. Good morning. I guess it's a question around the landscape here in North America.

We've seen some pretty unique partnerships inked recently with Kohl's and Sephora and Ulta and Target. Do you expect to participate in these partnerships? I know historically mass hasn't been that appealing, but maybe with the Ulta-Target structure, would some of your brands make sense? And then I guess secondly, if you think about the post behavior of consumer or consumer behavior post pandemic, how comfortable are you with the entirety of the brand portfolio today? Would divestitures ever make sense? Thank you.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sorry, I didn't understand the second question. How comfortable are we with?

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Sandler -- Anayst

Yes with -- are there any brands -- I am thinking of the makeup portfolio in particular that you would ever consider divesting on the other side of the pandemic? I'm just curious on your comfort with the entirety of the portfolio today.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

OK. So the first answer is yes, we are working with our partners in discussing the Ultra-Target and the Kohl's-Sephora opportunities. As you said as part of your question, this will depend on which brands in our portfolio. These two opportunities may sit different brands in our portfolio and so we are evaluating this with our partners, and we are considering participation by brand to these activities.

And this could be a driver of future acceleration or recovery in North America as well. Importantly to underline, these two opportunities are both brick-and-mortar and online. And so obviously, it will be very important also to been able to manage the online part of that opportunity. In terms of the portfolio of brands, we continuously look at our portfolio.

We look at our portfolio for efficiency and we are open. We have done this already in the past, to rationalization decisions in our portfolio, meaning closing brands. Therefore, a good reason do not -- cannot sustain the long-term investments and we continue looking into acquisitions and opportunity for reinforcing our portfolio in areas where we have strategic opportunities or strategic gaps. So this is a continuous process, and during COVID, this is continuing.

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Sandler -- Anayst

Great. Thank you.


And our next question is going to come from the line of Rupesh Parikh with Oppenheimer.

Rupesh Parikh -- Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. -- Analyst

Good morning. Thanks for taking my question and congrats on a nice quarter. So I had -- so Fabrizio, I had a question just on your China business. I was curious what you're seeing right now in the makeup category in China.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, on -- the makeup category in China is stronger than makeup in the other regions because, as I say responded to broader social occasions and used at occasion. But it's still declining, so it's not different than the rest of the world, China. Meaning skin care is very strong, fragrances are accelerating. And makeup is just the laggard, even in China, however, on a completely different proportion.

Because when you see that -- when you think of the explanation I just gave before, that makeup is completely correlated to the occasion of usage in China. Because of the good control of COVID and because of the occasions like business offices are opened, people are shopping more regularly. Brick-and-mortar shopping is also more present in most of the cities. Because of these more occasions, makeup is in better shape, but still is the laggard between the categories.

And mostly in China, I would say from our consumer understanding, is because of mask wearing. Meaning China is better controlling COVID but also better controlling COVID because there is very disciplined mask wearing, and mask wearing also is a reason for less usage of makeup. So stronger than the rest of the world, but still not as strong as it will be after COVID and post-COVID, where we assume there will be -- expect, there will be a strong recovery of makeup also in China.

Rupesh Parikh -- Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.


Our next question is going to come from the line of Nik Modi with RBC.

Nik Modi -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Good morning, everyone. Fabrizio, I wanted to go back on the online discussions. You guys have done such a great job with analytics and understanding kind of consumer behavior. And given how much migration has occurred on them, I'm just curious what your data and research and analytics is saying about the stickiness? For instance, you talked about these very mature consumers in the developed markets migrating online.

How sticky do you think that behavior will be? I think that will be an important kind of discussion going forward, given the margin differential between online and some of the other channels. Thank you.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes -- no, it's a very good question. And again our point of view, this will be very sticky because the people are shopping online. And obviously, some of them are shopping online because the brick-and-mortar we are closed, for sure in the case of luxury. But they are lacking it, and we really see all the statistics, all the data telling us that they are enjoying this still.

For example, our loyalty programs are working better and better. And we have more loyalty program, as we discussed, and they are getting expanded. And the level of loyalty is going up; and the repurchase rate, meaning the coming back, is going up. Then we see conversions very strong and also traffic increasing.

And there are ways where the conversion will be driven and will be maintained after. The most important of the investment we are doing in order to maintain conversion also after COVID is the high-touch services transfer online: so this chat with the consultants, the Virtual Try-On, the live streaming opportunities. The use of our particularly in this case also as media platform, because we see that the time that the consumers are spending online is increasing dramatically because when they have the Virtual Try-On service, the possibility to consult, they spend more time, and this time is time of exposure to all our equity messages so this is media value. This is really media value.

Meaning, we have more than half a billion consumers coming on our site every year, more in this moment. And then imagine that they stay nine minutes and they say the -- if we had to buy media to speak to half a billion consumer for nine minutes, this will be a huge cost, while this in place is another benefit of selling operations. So there is a lot of value in I think -- in these high-touch services. What they will do is they will increase differentiation of our sites from us.

They will increase traffic because people are coming not only to buy product before the services and we will maintain or possibly further increase conversion after COVID. And then finally, we'll increase the value of our online as media value, and so this is a very positive view for the long term. Obviously, we believe that there is a lot of consumer that will continue to shop also in brick-and-mortar after COVID. There is no consumer that is only online or only brick-and-mortar.

I believe the consumer will love the omnichannel experience. By the way, after this COVID they will be anxious to get again the brick-and-mortar experience, so they will come back. And that's why we are building around this reality, this expectation, a much better omnichannel platform where our consumer will be able to choose the percentage of purchase or time of experience online and how much they want in brick-and-mortar and they will navigate among the two channels in new ways. I believe the companies that will have these brands that will have a good omnichannel model in the future will have a competitive advantage.

Nik Modi -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Excellent. Thank you.


Our next question will come from the line of Olivia Tong with Bank of America.

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Great. Thanks. Good morning. First, just as a clarification.

Tracey, I believe you said that you were adding additional production capacity. So just curious what categories, what regions you're looking at for that? And then my question is really around the margin progression, especially just given this quarter. I think that's the highest quarterly operating margin you've achieved as a public company. And so realizing of course that there's a lot of normal expenditures that aren't happening right now, but as you think about second half, long term, are there things you've learned over the course of almost 12 months now on areas you can come back are the -- cut back on spend more permanently or are there areas where you have to really adjust -- push even harder? As you think about specifically for Q3, what's planned in Q3 to -- because while you're looking for margin expansion, it looks like it would only imply about similar to what you achieved in fiscal Q2, despite COVID obviously now entering the base.

Thank you.

Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

OK. Olivia, no, thanks for the question. So regarding our production capacity, as you've seen from our results over the last couple of quarters, clearly where we are in the-have been in need and have been investing in terms of production capacity is in skin care. And we have invested in North America, we've invested in Europe.

And as you heard us announce this morning in our prepared remarks, we are also investing in a new facility in Asia to really support primarily skin care, and there will be some makeup, primarily foundation as we're thinking right now in Asia. So very much having capacity closer to where our strongest demand growth is will be a real benefit to us, and we're looking -- we're certainly looking forward to that. As it relates to the margin, I mean I would -- as I said in my prepared remarks, Olivia, we had done an excellent job of controlling costs last year once the pandemic hit. Many of those cost controls were our temporary controls.

When you think about the management salary reductions, some of the rent abatements that we got given the effect that our stores were closed, some of the furloughing benefits and some of our other [Inaudible] back on, we can control the head count, T&E, etc. So in terms of the learning going forward, clearly there are some areas of I would say more discretionary costs as we emerge out of the pandemic that we will continue to control. But the long-term sustainable cost controls that are really -- come on from our cost-saving programs. That's where the permanent more sustainable cost takeout comes from.

So that's the reason why you're seeing, if you think about what we said last year in terms of our cost programs and the significant amount of management that we did in the third and the fourth quarter to also control costs, given the fact that all of our brick-and-mortar doors over the course of this [Inaudible] we ended up closing, that those -- some of those costs certainly will be back in the second half, in the third and the fourth quarter. But we will continue to manage costs in a disciplined way that we have up to this point.

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you.


Our next question is going to come from the line of Chris Carey with Wells Fargo Securities.

Chris Carey -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Chris Carey -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

So I just wanted to follow up on the operating margin question. I think it's important. EMEA, strongest margin we've seen, fragrances, I think strongest margin we've seen. And if I'm just hearing the answer to that question, it sounds like that there was -- there's been a lot of efforts around cost savings but certainly, there's a channel dynamic as well? With EMEA online doubling, and certainly, you've seen it strengthen skin care in Asia, and so I'm just wondering how much the margin improvement actually might be more sustainable over time from a product or channel mix standpoint.


Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Well, yes, I mean absolutely, we have tailwinds as it relates to margin, given both our category mix growth as well as our channel mix growth. We do have obviously a fairly large footprint of brick-and-mortar that right now, given where the traffic is, is a bit of a drag on our margin performance. And obviously we're addressing that, and we will see once the pandemic is just behind us and the traffic returns, how fast it returns. And in the meantime, obviously we're taking some actions.

But we are really comfortable that we have margin progression ahead of us once the pandemic is behind us in a more sustainable way, especially that given the tailwinds that we have, to your point, Chris.

Chris Carey -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.


Our next question will come from the line of Michael Binetti with Credit Suisse.

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Thanks for taking our questions here. I do want to follow that, Tracey. At the Analyst Day, you walked us to a margin that was well into the high teens with what you knew on your business there.

As we look around at some of the businesses that I would say are probably the closest in comparison to yours, we see some with let's start with the two on the operating margin. And obviously, you've made structural changes that a few of the other analysts have run through. But you're also going to end up in a bigger travel business, a bigger digital business, a bigger China business, closing some stores that were a drag. So, I mean do you see over a very long term, five to 10 years, can this business move into the 20s on margin?

Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

It's again, you said over the very long term. So, look, I would say that certainly, that is something that we are targeting. So all of our -- again, given the tailwinds in terms of channel growth and category growth might change, obviously makeup might, and we believe, makeup will really recover, and we're certainly going to support it to recover. And the margins will improve on makeup as well.

Makeup actually is the category that has the biggest penetration of freestanding stores and brick-and-mortar. So it is on the category that is particularly challenged from this margin standpoint in this particular environment. But certainly, Michael, everything that we are doing from a business management standpoint and from a cost management standpoint would get us to that north star of 20%.

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thanks. And Fabrizio, if I could follow that, you've seen some really strong growth, and Hainan has come up a bit in the last two calls. We've seen some new regulations even as recently as this week. The government is going to allow consumers to ship to home versus physical pickup in the past.

So it seems like there's more and more friction coming out of that process, and a lot of square footage is going to be also added there. Does Hainan Island change your travel retail business even after global economies reopen? Does it change the -- your outlook on travel and the Chinese domestic consumer?

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. No, this -- as I said before, our travel retail business in the short term is really driven by Asia in general, and China domestic. In particular within China domestic, Hainan is the star. And it's driven by the new traffic and by the increased conversion and by the quantities purchased because of the regulations that you just explained and by the development of retail.

So we -- those are all very important long-term strengths of the channel, which is developing. Now when the normal travel will now -- maybe it will never be normal, etc., but the new normal travel will be reinstated after COVID, and you add to this progress of the domestic travel in China, the international travel in America and Europe within the rest of Asia, and the Chinese consumer will go back traveling the world. And that's obviously the desire, one of the biggest aspiration if you talk to the consumer, look to the consumer opinions and research for the long term. So when there will be a combination of reinstated international travel with stronger domestic travel model that has been developed during the period that this will make TR still one of the most important long-term channels of opportunity, full of opportunities.

And again, the biggest opportunities remain technically driving conversion. So the conversion of travelers into buyers and retail, so the possibility of buying also without queuing in a store for a long time where you need to take a plane and things like that. Those two elements are big drivers of the future of travel retail independently from the short-term management of the crisis. And in terms of the China overall business, we do also monitor Chinese consumers.

We spoke to it last time. This time, our Chinese business between quarter 1 and quarter two has basically doubled the level of growth, our China Mainland business. Our TR business has also accelerated, but not as strong as the China Mainland business, which was driven by amazing online events like 11.11 during the November period. And so the combination of this development of online within China, the fact that brick-and-mortar in China is still double-digit in quarter 2, was growing double digits, showing the potential of brick-and-mortar when COVID is more managed or will be more manageable.

And then travel retail continues to do very well. So when we look also to our total Chinese consumer consumption, bringing all together what is domestic travel retail and mainland China, we still see an acceleration in total from quarter 1 to quarter 2. And so here, we believe this is a very, very strong potential. We are working to manage it in a way which is still building equity of our brands, still be protecting every single one of our partners, being able to do good business with us for the long term.

And that's our goal, and we are working on it.

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thank you so much.


And we have time for one final question. And our last question is going to come from the line of Mark Astrachan with Stifel.

Mark Astrachan -- Stifel Financial Corp. -- Analyst

Yeah, thanks and good morning, everybody. Maybe just one follow-up and one other question. So just on online, where does that settle as a percentage of beauty category sales post pandemic? And so how do you think about retention of those incremental consumers on versus your own I assume higher for you all? And then just quickly, holistically I'm thinking about your guidance on a go-forward basis. Are big events like 6.18 and 11.11 becoming to be more important in driving your business? Meaning that the June quarter might be a little bit bigger than historical levels? Same thing for the December quarter? And then did that partly explain kind of why we saw somewhat weaker September quarter guidance? And I think maybe people had really expected at the time the same for the March quarter today.

Thank you.

Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So -- go ahead, Fabrizio.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Tracey, you can go. I'll take the --

Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, let me talk about the key shopping moments. Absolutely, particularly in the holiday period. As you recall, last year in the second quarter, we had in -- a 16% growth in constant currency that's very much driven by key events that are in the second quarter. The fourth quarter 6.18 is a little bit -- quite a bit actually less meaningful to the quarter than certainly 11.11, but we are seeing concentration in some of those those events.

And certainly, that beat in terms of our expectation on sales really flowed through to the bottom line in the second quarter.

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And the, I mean the different -- online has different channels. They are,, pure-play and third-party platform, which we define that is the Tmall model. And we -- so these channels have different level of developments by countries, and this is the results of consumer preferences and historical development of the channel. So it's not that we are driving that -- we are driving all of them.

And particularly, we work with our retail partners very closely to drive their, which is most of the times doing very well, particularly in this period, but also for the long term. So for example, in China, is very limited. While, and most importantly third-party platform model is the most developed. While in the U.S. is really very strong. And we see a lot of great developments recently in the of our key partners. And this also serves in this moment as a mitigating factor to the brick-and-mortar issues or productivity that we have discussed before. So we will continue to develop each one of these channels and so, it's our consumer deciding where to go.

And obviously, we partner with each one of our retail partners to do their best possible job in every channel.


Thank you. If you were unable to join for the entire call, a playback will be available at 1 p.m. Eastern Time today through February 19. To hear a recording of the call, please dial (855) 859-2056.

Passcode ID number is 1484229.[Operator signoff]

Duration: 67 minutes

Call participants:

Rainey Mancini -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Fabrizio Freda -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Tracey Travis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Dara Mohsenian -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Lauren Lieberman -- Barclays -- Analyst

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Sandler -- Anayst

Rupesh Parikh -- Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. -- Analyst

Nik Modi -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Chris Carey -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Mark Astrachan -- Stifel Financial Corp. -- Analyst

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