Caswell-Massey, an 18th-century personal care brand founded 24 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, has struck a spark of rebirth. And it happened on the ultimate 21st-century launchpad — Facebook.
This story first appeared in the June 22, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
During the last two weeks, the new management team — chief executive officer Robert Brady and Carlos Timiraos, executive vice president of sales and marketing — have been using the Internet site to distribute samples of one of the three new brands they are launching this fall in an ambitious agenda to renew the 260-year-old franchise. Facebook visitors are being asked to click the “like” button if they wish to receive a packet of Almond & Aloe body lotion. The number of like clicks hit 75,000, Brady said, noting that 90 percent of respondents have been women aged 25 to 35 years old, which is on-target for the new marketing campaign. The typical Caswell-Massey user is now about age 50, he observed.
The three brands that will be launched this fall include Botanicals, a 22-stockkeeping-unit line of personal care products containing plant extracts, essential oils and other natural ingredients. The products are formulated in a choice of three different fragrances — fig and bamboo, coriander and mandarin, and vetiver and cardamom — to provide different skin care benefits. Brady said the three fragrances are all based on essential oils. “It’s more about essential oils and benefits; the fragrances are derivative.”
Price points range from $10 for a bar soap to $35 for a Dual Phase Body Oil, which is designed to hydrate, nourish and restore the skin.
The Signature Bath and Body Collection is an updated version of the brand that traditionally formed the core of the total business, which industry sources have estimated at $15 million wholesale. Signature has an assortment of 23 sku’s, available in almond and aloe, lavender and verbena. The lavender and verbena scents are also marketed as stand-alone eaux de toilette, priced at $38 for 1.7-oz. bottles. Other price points range from a $10 bar soap to an 8-oz. Body Butter for $28.
The men’s line also is a modernization from the original brand, which carried the name 1752, referring to the founding date. The new incarnation has a more consumer-friendly moniker, Shave Essentials, which is a 22-sku range of shaving products that comes in three scents: almond for moisturizing, sandalwood for soothing and eucalyptus to refresh the skin. Like the other ranges, natural ingredients stem from plant extracts and essential oils. A pre-shave oil is priced $18, an 8-oz. jar of shave cream is $22, a 4-oz. aftershave balm is $18, a 6-oz. face wash is also $18 and a badger brush is $55.
There also is a limited-edition, holiday-oriented bath and body collection, called Caswell-Massey Pure Frost, which includes a $24 hand and body lotion and a $22 hand and body wash, as well as a soap. But the heart of the collection is a $40 2-oz. eau de toilette. It is a blend of bergamot, star anise, soft spices with a floral bouquet of vanilla orchid, Indian jasmine and Casablanca lily. Base notes include tonka, vanilla, benzoin and crystal musk.
Brady noted that the limited-edition collection is a way of introducing the fragrance. If the consumer accepts the scent, it will become part of the line. If not, it’s a holiday promotion. The management team includes Chad Lavigne, who is designing the packaging.
Another project in the works is what Brady describes as an apothecary-type brand that will reference the genesis of the company when Dr. William Hunter set up shop in Newport, R.I., in 1752. The new line is expected to be shipped next year and it is assumed to have somewhat higher price points and be merchandised in more premium distribution.
Caswell-Massey’s existing distribution amounts to about 1,000 doors, consisting of gift shops, small pharmacies and some retail stores. The strategy laid down by Brady and Timiraos is to elevate the game somewhat by expanding distribution of the new lines into midtier department stores, like Belk, Bon-Ton and Boscov’s. The Botanicals line, in particular, will be aimed at the new distribution, due to its higher price points. Also the Caswell-Massey Web site is getting a facelift. In September, about 100 new sku’s will be shipped. The executives declined to discuss figures, but industry sources indicate that the company’s goal is to double sales in the next two years.