Séan Harrington, Elemis

Séan Harrington, Elemis

Premium Beauty News - How does Elemis size up against the competition in the premium beauty industry?

Séan Harrington - Elemis is one of the leading British beauty brands with a turnover of £75m (about 90 billion euros) in 53 countries. In the UK, we have reached a strong position of influence and market share. The past five years have seen our best performance, despite the economic downturn.

Pre-Elemis, I experienced many ups and down, including going through receivership, which taught me what not to do. So in 2008, the signs were there for me and I remodelled the entire business, dropping headcount by 30% and stripping back the cost base. In 2009, we were able to deliver profitability and from there built a very lean business. I believe that emerging brands can react quicker and appeal to the undecided consumer during uncertain economic times. The boom years tend to favour the bigger corporations.

Premium Beauty News - What is the potential for British beauty brands overseas?

Séan Harrington - It’s been a really exciting time for British brands over the last three years, following the Royal Wedding, which was conducted with class and humour and the Olympics that combined competition with creativity. Great Britain is perceived as having heritage and considered trustworthy and principled, not just in the world of beauty, but in fine fragrance, aromatics and technology in beauty. There is a lot of quality and depth in British brands.

It’s a fantastic time to sell overseas. When I travel overseas I see that British brands are well represented. Asia is crying out for whatever Britain can throw at it and the emerging markets in India and Russia are also keen to have British brands.

Through our association with Steiner Leisure, Elemis has 160 spas on cruise liners and 85 in resorts. But you can’t succeed abroad until you have a level of success at home. This is something we are working on, but it can be challenging when you are working with different cultures, languages and time zones and there is a lack of awareness for your brand. It’s only sustainable if you have the resources to support your brand.

Premium Beauty News - What is your strategy for retail vs spa?

Séan Harrington - Elemis is a multi-channel business and our spas and beauty salons represent 50% of our total. I wouldn’t want the percentage spa represents to be any bigger. The remainder is divided into thirds between retail, online and QVC. We were one of the first beauty brands to launch on QVC and have been number one for the past 18 months. Since our launch on QVC in 1994, there have been no peaks and troughs, just a continuous upwards growth.

We do 20% of our business in department stores and deliver a range of services aimed at getting consumers to spend time at the counter and to visit our stores more frequently. In October, a new counter opened in the refurbished Debenhams store on Oxford Street offering a whole new image, which is forward looking and incorporates a lot of interactivity.

The game plan is to put a big investment into retail, regenerate the offering in high street beauty salons and invest in e-commerce.

Premium Beauty News - Which are your most successful product lines?

Séan Harrington - Product development is incredibly important for Elemis and we have fantastic innovation coming through with exclusives for QVC and ecommerce.

Our largest franchise is Pro-Collagen, which has been extended with several new lines and lots more development planned. It takes a long time to find something that good. The hero product is Pro-Collagen Marine Cream which is ten years old and has entered the canon of beauty greats. There were 52 formulations for Pro-Collagen before we achieved what we wanted, which is an anti-ageing formula packed with ingredients, including three different types of seaweed and liposomes of gingko biloba which galvanise the micro circulation of the face. Today, it’s the only anti-ageing skincare line with collagen sold on airlines.

Premium Beauty News - What is Elemis doing in beauty salons that is innovative?

Séan Harrington - We looked at mobile phone technology which is capable of carrying so much data and thought how we could apply this to machinery in salons, which still tends to be very large and cumbersome. Next year, we will launch a new 5-in-1 treatment machine in salons called Biotec.

Noella Gabriel, director of UK sales, training and new product development, has been empowered to create a new treatment menu for Biotec that incorporates the best from the world of high-end skin care technology. Biotec is the next generation of Elemis professional treatment facials including lifting and toning to light therapy and an ultrasonic peel that works as an alternative to microdermabrasian.

Techno beauty for in-home use is a huge and fast-growing category. We’ve looked at the success of Clarisonic and at the end of next year will be introducing our own version designed to complement Elemis in-salon treatments.

Premium Beauty News - What is your goal for Elemis?

Séan Harrington - To double our turnover in the next five years. I have a clear plan and know where we can do it and how to make it happen.

We are still growing, learning, emerging and aspiring - these are all words I like to use.