By  on February 18, 1994

NEW YORK -- L'Herbier de Provence Ltd., the French bath and body store, is growing new roots in the U.S.

L'Herbier plans to open five to 10 stores in 1994 in addition to its five existing locations. The store hopes to open 30 new units in the next three to five years, according to managing director Laurence Gross.

Units in Stamford, Conn., Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., are company owned, while locations in Atlanta's Phipps Plaza and Palm Gardens in Palm Beach, Fla., are franchised.

The line is also wholesaled to about 450 accounts nationwide, including drugstores, specialty stores such as Walt Disney's South of France shop in Epcot Center and spas.

Executives would not discuss figures, but industry sources estimate annual net sales for the three American company-owned stores to be about $2 million.

When the L'Herbier line was first brought to the U.S. in 1989, it was sold to about 100 wholesale accounts, from department stores to specialty stores and pharmacies, according to Aubin Wilson, assistant managing director.

Today, she said, the line is in about 450 non-L'Herbier doors. Wilson would not discuss figures, but sources familiar with the company estimate a wholesale volume approaching $8 million in those doors.

The L'Herbier stores range in size from 528 to 750 square feet, although the Atlanta store is 1,000 square feet, accommodating a small tea room where customers can sit down. All of the stores are in shopping malls.

L'Herbier products are made from natural ingredients such as fruits, flowers, herbs indigenous to Provence and essential oils such as wheat germ oil, which is used as a natural preservative.

In the stores, about 50 percent of the merchandise consists of L'Herbier products. The remainder of the stock was chosen to fill out "the look of the shop," Wilson said.

The non-L'Herbier products include bath accessories such as loofah brushes and sponges, aprons, French foods and related books.

The target audience is a "sophisticated, fashion-oriented customer between the ages of 25 and 50," said Wilson. "About 75 percent of our customers are women." Many come into the stores looking for gifts, she added.

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