Premium Beauty News - It’s already a long story between L’Occitane and Brazil!
Nicolas Geiger - We have been among the first ones to bank on this country by starting a joint venture in 1995 with a local partner. In 2005, the economy began to quickly develop, and both our sales and investments were boosted. We purchased the whole subsidiary in 2009; there were 45 L’Occitane en Provence stores throughout the country then.
Premium Beauty News - Where are you up to now?
Nicolas Geiger - We have about 100 L’Occitane en Provence sales outlets throughout the whole territory, both wholly owned stores and franchises. Then there are 30 sales outlets for L’Occitane au Brésil; the first store was opened one year ago. This brand is mainly present in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, but it is spreading fast. Shopping mall managers have got to know us better, and they like us. Of course we do have good arguments, and our best store achieved a 25 % sales increase in 2013.
Premium Beauty News - How would you describe the Brazilian market?
Nicolas Geiger - Exciting and dynamic, but also complex because it is very closed and competitive. On the one hand, the Brazilian tax system results in huge additional costs for imported products. On the other hand, the market is very concentrated, with large groups such as Natura, Avon or Boticario. Just to give you an idea, the O Boticario brand alone counts about 3,600 sales outlets. So to succeed and make oneself a place among local players, one has to have a real offer to make. Our 19-year experience is a tremendous asset from this standpoint. We have learned a lot, including from past mistakes.
In order to keep developing, it seemed crucial to us to produce on a local basis; hence the launching of the brand L’Occitane au Brésil. This was not achieved without any difficulty, especially to find an industrial partner that corresponded to our quality requirements, and who would accept to produce in our current quantities for costs that remained competitive.
Anyway, with a 20 % growth in 2013, we are the fastest-growing market in the group. Brazil is currently the 6th or 7th market for L’Occitane, and we aim to make it first. Therefore the next step will be the opening of a research and development laboratory in Brazil.
Premium Beauty News - What are your strengths on this market?
Nicolas Geiger - Here in Brazil, L’Occitane is traditionally viewed as a toiletries and perfume brand. For instance, our more premium eau de toilette line La Collection de Grasse has experienced a great success, and so has the Cherry Blossom fragrance derived from the “classic” line, with only one ingredient highlighted. But our Divine face care cream is also very popular around here: it is part of our Top 5 in terms of sales.
However, our strength is more about the story told by our products. We invest a lot in training to transmit and make people share the love of tradition and of the ingredients we use. Brazilian consumers also like the traceability of these ingredients.
Premium Beauty News - Didn’t founding L’Occitane au Brésil have an impact on the sales of L’Occitane en Provence?
Nicolas Geiger - There is a small loss in market share, but these brands do not exactly target the same consumers. L’Occitane en Provence aims at women of 35 and over, whereas “au Brésil” targets the 25 and over.