LONDON — Ar457 believes it has the code to crack the skin care market.

The French treatment brand, whose moniker is "code" for its ingredients — argan oil, four antioxidant tocopherols, five phyosterols and seven biomolecules — broadened its international reach this year, launching in the U.S. in June. It plans to enter China next month.

The nine-unit brand is currently carried in a network of specialty stores and spas in the U.K., France, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Romania, Russia and Brazil, among other countries. It entered the U.S. when Nicky Kinnaird, the founder of British beauty chain Space NK, opened a store on New York's Greene Street earlier this year.

"Nicky believed in the product really early on," said Pierre Saubade, chief executive officer at Ar457, adding the U.K. is among the brand's strongest markets.

Ar457 will bow in LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Sephora doors in China in September and plans to enter the spa market in Asia this year.

"It's never been company policy to advance too quickly," said Mark Holden-Hindley, the brand's vice president.

Industry sources estimate the brand will generate 3.5 million euros, or $4.8 million at current exchange, in wholesale sales volume in 2007.

Founded in 2004, Ar457's products are centered around argan oil, which is traditionally used by Berber women in North Africa to protect against sun and wind damage and as a protective lotion for babies. The oil is extracted from the fruit of the argan tree, which is nurtured to produce a nut, which is in turn crushed to retrieve an argan "almond." Oil is extracted by pressing the almonds.

To source its oil, Ar457 works with cooperatives in Morocco, which were created by Saubade's father, Michel Saubade, who also founded Ar457's parent company, La Maison de L'Argan. The firm also supports Les Femmes D'Argan, an association started by Saubade whose aim is to improve working conditions for women in Morocco.

Today, the line comprises [dmkr], a cleanser; [peel], a scrub; [dwlb], a firming day cream; [ny-t], an antiaging night cream; [eq-M], a mask; [lyf], an antiaging serum; [hcor], a body oil; [look], an eye contour cream, and [backup], a firming body cream, which works on reducing stretch marks. A 150-ml. pump bottle of [dmkr] goes for 32.50 British pounds, or $65.25, while a 30-ml. pump tube of [lyf] goes for 59 pounds, or $118.45.The products are used in spa treatment procedures, in addition to two spa-only products — a massage oil and a body peel. Ar457 treatments are available at spas such as the Hotel George V in Paris and The Pierre in New York.

"[Working with spas] gives us credibility," said Holden-Hindley, who added about 10 percent of the brand's sales are generated from professional products.

— Brid Costello

BMO Starts Personal Care Coverage

NEW YORK — BMO Capital Markets initiated coverage of the personal care and household products sector at the "outperform" rating.

Analyst Constance Maneaty started coverage of 14 consumer companies, including Alberto-Culver Co., The Estée Lauder Cos. and Revlon Inc. — all at "market perform" — and Avon Products Inc. at "outperform."

Pointing to Avon's four-year restructuring effort currently under way, Maneaty noted in a research report, "Avon has moved from being the company that in November 2005 said 'We have a lot of data, but not much information' to one that now seems to understand through detailed analysis almost every aspect of its business."

— Erica Owen

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