NEW YORK — Nearly four years after licensing his North American business to Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc., George Korres is back in the U.S. and he is brimming with ambitious plans.
Earlier this week, Korres, a cofounder of Korres Natural Products, said the two companies had agreed to end the licensing agreement in North America, effective Dec. 28. In an interview Tuesday, Korres reiterated that the breakup was amicable. “What I can say is that the relationship is great and we highly appreciate the efforts J&J has made to support the brand.”
His enthusiasm for Korres’ prospects in the U.S. were so great that he said he will personally plant his flag here by moving to New York to live while building the American business. He said the company will continue to focus distribution on Sephora and HSN. Korres said he intends to explore the distribution possibilities offered by the Internet. He also plans on opening two freestanding stores — one in New York and the other in an undecided location. Korres previously had a store in SoHo and another in Brooklyn, but both had been closed.
The U.S. business is growing, Korres said, and he expects the brand’s American volume to equal that of his home market in Greece, eventually becoming Korres’ largest market globally. It is now second. While Korres said he could not discuss financial details of the deal, the company is traded on the Athens Stock Exchange. The sales volume of Korres in Greece has been given as 30 million euros, or $38 million at current exchange, at wholesale. The Greek portion of the business is thought to represent nearly 60 percent of Korres’ worldwide total.
While he would not comment, market sources estimate that the Korres business in the U.S. had approached $10 million in 2010.
In an earlier statement in Athens, Korres had pointed to its international business, citing its key markets as Germany, the U.K., France, Russia and Scandinavia, where the company chalked up an 18 percent sales growth in the first quarter of 2013. Other areas of Korres strength are Spain and Belgium. The statement also noted that Korres had gained market share in its sorely beleaguered home market of Greece.
During the Tuesday interview, Korres said the economy in Greece, where the company claims to have gained market share, appears to have stabilized, considering that the domestic industry increased advertising spending in May for the first time in four years of economic decline.
For J&J, the end of the deal with Korres freed the company to redeploy. “This decision will help the business focus on priority North America skin-care brands that are more of a strategic fit with our plans,” said J&J, which claims a 25 percent share of the mass treatment market.