By  on March 1, 2002

NEW YORK -- Prestilux Inc., billed as the largest prestige beauty distributor in Canada, is setting up business south of the border.

The Montreal-based company will open for business in New York today, making its debut in the U.S. market for the first time in the distribution company's 32-year history. The move also is meant to coincide with the arrival of Carita, which will bow March 28 when Barneys New York raises the curtain on its new cosmetics floor.

Jacques D. Perusse, president and chief executive officer of Prestilux, maintains that this is the first time that one distributor has attempted to cover both the U.S. and Canadian markets. "We're the first instance of a distributor becoming continental," he said. Veronique Hamel, senior vice president of retail sales and marketing for North America, noted that Prestilux has a track record in Canada of being able to handle the emotional dichotomies of dealing with both fragrance on one side of the equation and color cosmetics and treatment on the other. "We have people who are launching fragrances and developing cabines," she said.

In addition to introducing Carita, Prestilux also will also launch the repositioned By Terry color cosmetics brand from Terry de Gunzberg and a new Tabac for Men fragrance, while taking over the U.S. distribution of Nuxe and the Sonia Rykiel fragrances. The French fragrance brand previously had been distributed by Boucheron, which had shed the business after it, in turn, had been acquired by Gucci and joined YSL Beaute. Perusse is thinking in terms of a fall launch for the Tabac scent, with a target distribution of 600 doors.

Prestilux reportedly does $50 million at retail in Canada with about 11 brands. Since the Canadian economy is only 8 percent of that of the U.S., sources estimate that Prestilux could do $150 million to $200 million here within three years.

The transplanted Canadian firm will operate out of the New York offices of Decleor USA on 48th Street in Manhattan. Prestilux is a second-generation family business, in which Jacques acquired the shares of his father Jean in 1989. The business then gained a partner in the form of Decleor, which became the second partner in June 1999. Roughly six months later, Decleor France was acquired by Shiseido, which also owns Carita.In an earlier interview, Herve Lesieur, former owner of Decleor, who continues as its president and the head of Carita said he is dedicating himself to twinning the two brands into an aromatherapy-wellness-professional salon business and in the process turning Carita profitable. Sources estimate that Carita does about $35 million in sales, with Decleor doing about $90 million.

Lesieur reasoned that one of Carita's problems is distribution; the upscale department store channel is too crowded with high-priced skin care brands. But he found fertile ground in an area where Decleor, with its aromatherapy orientation, is strong. That is in the professional services and retail areas of spas and salons. Product sales amount to $1 billion worldwide, he points out, and when services and other charges are added, the total can hit $5 billion.

Lesieur and Perusse have formulated a strategy of plowing 75 percent of Carita's distribution into spas and the remaining 25 percent in upscale stores like Barneys. Perusse said that talks are under way with the spa in the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Fla., as Carita's first salon partner.

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