Premium Beauty News - You joined the group four years ago.
Laurent Mercier - Four beautiful years. Eurofragance is the wonderful story of a family company founded 27 years ago. At that time, visionary Santiago Sabatés successfully developed his company in the Middle East. When I joined the group in 2013, 90% of our turnover was achieved with exports, including 80% in the Gulf. This Catalan firm is little-known in certain regions, and yet Eurofragance is the leader in oriental perfumery: it is ahead of the biggest global players in fine perfumery there, including Firmenich, Givaudan, and IFF. Today, we aim to open new markets and new categories, so the idea when I came here in 2013 was for me to diversify activities, while preserving our leadership in Fine Fragrance in the Middle East.
Premium Beauty News - Has the change of direction been initiated?
Laurent Mercier - We opened a development centre in Dubai in autumn 2015 with 25 people, two perfumers, laboratories, an analysis team, and a sales force. The development phase used to be managed from Spain. In June 2016, we inaugurated a second, 1,100 m2 centre in Singapore, and then a plant last year, still in Singapore. All this involves our production for Asia. The first subsidiary of the group was created in 2009 in Mexico City, where we have more than 40 employees and a plant mainly dedicated to the Central American market. Ultimately, last December, we bought Atlanta-based Fragrance Design in the United States, to make it easier for us to penetrate this huge market at the right time.
In Europe, we have put back our Turkish subsidiary on the rails. It completes our centre and plant in Barcelona. Turkey is both an interesting and competitive market. So, today, we count five development centres, in Spain, Mexico, Dubai, Singapore, and Atlanta, as well as four production plants. In terms of infrastructure, we have everything we need.
To me, it was essential not to centralize it all. The Sales Director is in Dubai, the perfumer manager is in Singapore, and so is the Development Director. The idea is to create a real global group, a Fragrance House boutique with 13 perfumers and as many evaluators. Today, Eurofragance represents 300 people, 60% in Spain and 40% elsewhere.
Premium Beauty News - What markets have you been scrutinizing the most?
Laurent Mercier - South-East Asia, because there are several major perfume fortresses like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia… Thanks to our unique history, we have the advantage of being really familiar with Muslim markets, which makes it easier to penetrate them. There are olfactory bonds that can be worked on in Indonesia and Malaysia.
From our Dubai centre, we are taking serious interest in India. It is an economically very dynamic continent country that boasts a real perfume culture. Iran also deserves attention, because you need to be there today to be ready tomorrow. The same goes for Africa.
In Europe, we aim to reach niche brands. We are not very demanding in terms of volume, compared to major perfume houses. The complexity of creation even motivates us at a small scale. And we have all the skills needed to succeed in the field of Home Fragrance.
Lastly, following recent groupings and acquisitions, the American market has known a concentration that, to us, creates the opportunity to serve small to medium-sized brands.
Premium Beauty News - What are your ambitions?
Laurent Mercier - For the year 2017, we ended with 72 million euros, i.e. +7.5% compared to 2016, but with a very slow growth in the Gulf region, where it is quite complicated right now due to the different conflicts going on (Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq…). We aim to become part of the club that achieves 100 million euro turnovers within the next three to four years, and to stabilize the Gulf region at 50% of our turnover.
Eurofragance belongs to a family that is much attached to the industry. Today, there is no discussion about eventually selling the group.
Premium Beauty News - What seduced you in this project?
Laurent Mercier - Our new President Santiago Sabatés is a real entrepreneur, meaning he embodies everything the term involves. He knows how to take risks and work things through. I have a more standard manager profile and a global experience, so we complete each other quite well.