Premium Beauty News - What have been the highlights of 2008 regarding new launches and innovation for L’Occitane?
Philippe de Brugière - 2008 was a transition year. Launches were aiming at reinforcing the positioning, the legitimacy, the value and efficiency of each product in proposed to our women customers. This policy was also applied to products’ packaging, where we chose not to introduce breakthrough innovation. Generally speaking, we focused on the know-how of our suppliers and we have been seeking in every little place on the planet to find the best quality/price ratio.
We focused on improving the quality of the manufacturing in order address higher expectations from Asian customers. We have performed series of tests and issued new specifications in order to improve the aesthetics and reliability of the packaging.
Actually, the real breakthrough is occurring silently, in a humble way, in order to be always more consistent with our eco-friendliness commitments. This breakthrough will only be possible with the help of our suppliers.
Premium Beauty News - Many industry insiders are announcing harsh times in 2009. What is your message to the supply side for this new year?
Philippe de Brugière - Well it’s a plain message that makes the headlines. Brands have started a fierce competition to keep their market shares. Huge investments are made in order to appeal customers, with unprecedented retail offers. These efforts have a cost. L’Occitane is not different and we are expecting our suppliers to share at least a small part of the efforts we are making. Supporting our sales is also supporting their business. They are dependent on our sales. In such a situation, being a fair player means to rethink its own business, to eliminate useless burdens and costs. Pro-activity is required and being the first to make proposals is important.
Premium Beauty News – Is your business impacted by the current volatility of raw material markets?
Philippe de Brugière - L’Occitane is partly protected from these fluctuations, the first reason being that we are making our best to reduce the weight of our packaging. However, we had to fight against general pressure. We also seize this opportunity to question some established business relationships and to meet interesting new suppliers. The cooperation between our Development and Purchase departments proved to be efficient.
Premium Beauty News - Is there a risk that environmental concerns do not survive difficult economic times?
Philippe de Brugière - On the contrary I think that environmental concerns will be reinforced by the crisis. I am going to be iconoclastic but we do no longer make packaging for the pleasure of making packaging. We merely seek to preserve our products together with the environment.
We have seized the growing interest in sustainable development as an opportunity to launch several initiatives that would have been longer to develop otherwise, but we are not going it alone. The important, is to be able to make a smart selection between all the options, to sort good and bad ones, to find the right partners, who will cooperatively and proactively explore a new direction. Eco-design is now a full part of our projects development process.
Premium Beauty News - What is your supply policy with regard to “full service” opportunities proposed by some suppliers?
Philippe de Brugière -L’Occitane is producing a wide variety of products in its manufacturing facility in Manosque, using a range of processes. In particular, we produce everything linked to essential oils, it’s our core business. The plant’s capacity is always growing. At the same time, research needs to be more and more specialized, and investments in state-of-the-art processes are required. Over the latest years we have developed industrial partnerships with companies offering specialised know-how or technologies and complying with our quality insurance requirements and our brand’s values.
As far as we are concerned, full service is not an externalisation strategy, its added value for our brand and the company’s know-how. It’s exactly the philosophy that lays behind the launch of ‘L’Occitane do Brasil’ this year, the first sun care range with 100% mineral filters, which is made in Brazil using ingredients from the Amazon region and locally produced packaging.