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H20 Plus Unveils Natural Side

H20 Plus is turning over a new leaf with its first all-natural collection of face and body products.

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H20 Plus is turning over a new leaf with its first all-natural collection of face and body products.

This story first appeared in the August 14, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The line, Sea Pure, is the firm’s first major launch since being acquired in May 2008 by Cordova Smart & Williams and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. The $120 million beauty company’s effort is an 11-item collection free of synthetic fragrances, parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates and sulfates, and expects to generate about $20 million in first-year retail sales.

Sea Pure fits in well with the strategy of Robert Seidl, chief executive officer, who joined H2O Plus three years ago, to transform the company’s paradigm, which meant growing the brand via retail partners rather than exclusively through its branded stores. The firm, which has grown sales in the double digits for the past three years, operates 60 stores around the world, with nine in the U.S., including outposts in Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco.

For 2008, store sales were flat, said Seidl, who is also expecting flat store sales for 2009.

“We needed to bring it out so consumers could find it. No matter how many stores you have, there are going to be parts [of the country] where consumers will not be exposed to it.”

H2O Plus, which was founded in 1989 by Cindy Melk (Seidl and Melk each own a small share of the company), is positioning Sea Pure to be representative of a new era. Bill Colli, formerly the head of sales at Frederic Fekkai, joined H2O Plus in April as senior vice president of sales and marketing, a new position.

“It’s the right time for Sea Pure, which not only implies natural, but offers items for less than $40,” said Colli.

Formulas are fortified with therapeutic sea lavender, sea moss, sea mayweed, marine extracts and the firm’s exclusive Sea Mineral Complex. Every Sea Pure formula is 100 percent natural, with the exception of Renewing Prep Tonic, which is 96 percent natural. Body care items include a Cleansing Body Oil, Reviving Body Buffer, Purifying Body Mud, Replenishing Body Cream and Finishing Body Silk. Face care products include a Creamy Facial Cleanser, Renewing Prep Tonic, Gentle Refining Polish, Sheer Lotion SPF 15, Deep Moisture Cream and Perfecting Eye Cream. All packaging for Sea Pure is recyclable. Items sell for between $18 for the Prep Tonic to $40 for the Sheer Lotion SPF 15.

Since the acquisition, H2O Plus has rolled out to nine countries in Latin America, as well as to countries in Europe, joining Spain and the Netherlands, where the brand is sold in Cortes Inglés and Body Bell (Spain), Ici Paris (the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg) and House of Fraser and Clerys department stores (Ireland). In China, H2O Plus has experienced 35 percent compounded annual growth over the past three years, where it is sold in 230 retail partners, including Sephora. Globally, the brand is sold in more than 20 countries in 2,000 stores; in North America it is sold in Ulta, Lord & Taylor, select Macy’s, Carson Pirie Scott and Beauty 360.

Building new locations is not a focus going forward, however the company operates flagships in major cities so consumers can “see the entire brand,” because sometimes with retail partnerships “you don’t get the full feeling,” Seidl added.

One of its biggest partnerships was formed last year with Disney, which brought H20 Plus into the amenities arena and into about 30,000 hotel rooms, producing about 20 million units of products each year.

“[Disney] continues to operate at 97 percent capacity. These people there are our target. There’s a higher-income family or individual,” said Seidl.

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