PARIS — After three years in business, Maison Francis Kurkdjian has come a long way. The brand will be profitable for the first time this year and see revenue growth of 50 percent, chief executive officer and cofounder Marc Chaya revealed.
The growth comes after a period of soul searching in 2011 for the independent brand, set up in 2009 by Chaya and perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, the talented nose behind best-selling scents like Le Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier and Narciso Rodriguez’s namesake fragrance.
“We decided last year, strategically, to stop opening doors,” Chaya said. “We got to 130 doors, and my fear, in our business, was to say we can drive growth by opening doors, but then if I don’t pull the right triggers in terms of visual merchandising, training, incentives, marketing and p.r., I’m not going to drive revenues in every door.
“Last year, we managed not to open doors and to get revenues up. This year, our revenues are going to be up 50 percent, of which 70 percent is based on existing doors, and only 30 percent from new business.”
According to industry sources, Maison Francis Kurkdjian will see retail revenues of $18 million this year.
The problem, said Chaya, was that retailers often did not understand the brand’s message. While the bulk of its business is in fragrance — around 95 percent of sales, up from 75 percent two years ago — its offer including scented laundry detergents and fragrant bubbles to create a layered universe of scent was misunderstood.
“The start was hard, because when you have detergent and bubbles, etc., people didn’t really know how to present the line,” he said. “We learnt that we had to train, we had to do events, etc., and all of a sudden growth was there.”
The brand has worked on its visual merchandising, too, developing a counter design that is now in 50 of its locations and will be in practically all new doors going forward, as well as expanding to further existing locations.
At Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, for example, where the brand has been present since its launch and has seen sales up 70 percent this year so far, Maison Francis Kurkdjian will unveil its own counter design before the end of this year.
The brand has opened 20 doors this year, including signing distribution agreements with Orange Square in the U.K. to expand its presence there, and with Bluebell Japan in what is a new market.
In the U.S., Maison Francis Kurkdjian operates its own subsidiary. Over the past year or so, it has taken its department store distribution back in-house, recruiting talent to deal directly with its specialty store clients, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. A distributor was taken on this year to deal with distribution to its perfumery doors.
The U.S. is the brand’s biggest market, accounting for 40 percent of revenues, followed by Western Europe with 37 percent, Eastern Europe and Russia with 11 percent, Asia and Oceania with 10 percent and the Middle East with 1 percent.
Its best-selling fragrance is Aqua Universalis, which launched in 2009, while the Amyris duo and unisex fragrance Oud, both 2012 introductions, are performing well, Chaya said.
In 2013, there is the May launch of a variation on one of the brand’s existing scents, a new body-care addition in June and a major fragrance introduction in September.
In terms of retail expansion, the brand plans to add around 40 doors in 2013, and is banking on revenue growth of a further 50 percent over 2012.
Chaya is looking for the location for a second freestanding boutique in Paris, in the Marais area, to add to its intimate location just off the Rue de Rivoli, before opening a third Paris store on the Left Bank further down the line.