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Natura Bisse Reveals Expansion Plan

<CS:BOLD>NEW YORK -- After following a steady sales path for more than 20 years, Spanish skin care firm Natura Bisse is ready to kick its sales plan into overdrive -- with an aim to come close to doubling sales, from $12 million retail this year to...

NEW YORK — After following a steady sales path for more than 20 years, Spanish skin care firm Natura Bisse is ready to kick its sales plan into overdrive — with an aim to come close to doubling sales, from $12 million retail this year to $20 million in the next two years.

The Barcelona-based brand, founded in 1979, started as a salon-only concern — and in Europe, salon products still account for 60 percent of the brand’s sales, while retail products, introduced in Europe in 1990, account for the remainder.

But in the U.S., where Natura Bisse began selling in 1994, the family-owned business’s executives have successfully focused on one part of that equation: retail sales.

“It was clear to us that upscale retail sales offered the best opportunities for us to grow and get our message across in the States, so we concentrated on that,” said Joaquin Serra, chief operating officer of U.S. operations and the son-in-law of founder Ricardo Fisas. Fisas’s daughters, Patricia and Veronica, are also heavily involved in the business. Veronica serves as chief executive officer of U.S. operations, while Patricia is the firm’s export manager and marketing director.

Neiman Marcus was the brand’s first U.S. account, followed by selected upscale specialty stores such as Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. The brand is now in about 50 retail doors domestically. In the U.S., 85 percent of the brand’s sales come from its retail products. The company now operates a U.S. office in Southlake, Tex., in addition to its Barcelona headquarters.

Global sales have increased an average of 10 to 15 percent a year over the last five years. Global sales are expected to top $12 million at retail by the end of this year, with sales of $20 million retail globally expected by 2004.

Part of the projected growth will come from expanding international distribution, including business in Asia, South America, North America and Europe, and maximizing growth in existing doors.

Another chunk of growth is expected from the company’s increasing pace of new product launches. The current lineup includes 88 retail-only products and another 200 for the salon business only. The retail lineup includes lines designed for oily, dry, mature, hyperpigmented and sensitive skin. A number of additions are planned to these lines, including the next three off the launch pad — Slim Body Concentrate, Oxygen Complex and Brilliance Hand and Body Lotion.

Slim Body Concentrate, a gel, is intended to slim body contours and reduce the appearance of flabbiness. Its key ingredient is fucus vesiculosus extract, a type of seaweed which is particularly rich in iodine, vitamins A, B, C and E, and mineral salts. The product will be launched in March and retails for $110 for a 5.3-oz. bottle.

Oxygen Complex will join the existing Oxygen line in May. The line’s key ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, intended to decongest, purify and hydrate the skin. It will retail for $120 for a 1-oz. bottle.

Brilliance Hand and Body Lotion will be added in July to the existing Brilliance line, which is formulated for hyperpigmented skin. Retail pricing is now being determined.

The company’s keystone product is the pricy Diamond Cream, which retails for $230 for a 1.7-oz. jar. According to Veronica Fisas, the cream encourages the skin’s cellular energy through the use of artemia salina extract, which contains DGTP (diguanose tetraphosphate), said to be the highest cellular energy source available in skin care. Building on that heritage, the company last month added Diamond Bio-Lift, an eye cream version.

But in all of the growth plans, one thing is for sure, insists Veronica Fisas: “We are a skin care company, and we will remain one. We respect our heritage.”