By  on August 4, 2011

Beauty and fitness innovator extraordinaire Marcia Kilgore has found a new U.S. retail partner for Soap & Glory, the bath, body and skin care line she created in 2006: Sephora.

The relationship between Soap & Glory and Target, the brand’s original retail partner where it launched in 2007, fell apart after efforts to “manage the inventory situation and get [Target] to buy more [product]” failed, said Kilgore. She added she had received numerous complaints from customers that shelves were always empty.

“You can’t sell something that isn’t there,” said Kilgore, who stopped shipping Target product that spring.

In May 2010, Kilgore said Sephora executives heard her speak at WWD’s Beauty CEO Summit, where she led a presentation on how to build a brand. Kilgore later got a call asking her to visit Sephora’s headquarters in San Francisco to discuss a possible retail deal.

Kilgore admitted she had initially courted Sephora prior to the brand’s Target deal but, “they weren’t sure if it was a fit for them. But when I gave the speech, Soap & Glory was already three years old [in the U.S.] and [the overall brand] just turned five. We are quite successful in the U.K. and we had launched in Sephora Singapore so I am sure by then they knew more about the brand,” she said. Kilgore owns the brand privately, which she said will generate an estimated $69 million by yearend.

Soap & Glory, she said, was inspired by a “kitchen apron, ridiculous tabloid headlines and a takeout container that was beautiful, and I whipped those three things together and came up with Soap & Glory.”

The collection for Sephora, said Kilgore, has many new products that were not available in Target, such as skin care items. There are also items that have not been available to the U.S. market, which have been successful internationally. The line has grown from about 18 to 45 items. New items include: Righteous Butter Lotion ($20); EDT Pink ($35); Make Yourself Youthful Eye Cream ($30); Glow Job ($25); Face Soap & Clarity ($16), and Clear Here ($22). Items will enter 101 Sephora stores Sept. 16 and go live on Sephora’s Web site Aug. 16. Products will be displayed on tables and endcaps.

A new Web site and microsite are in the works, as well as Facebook page teasers of the upcoming launch. “We want to build Soap & Glory in a very grassroots way. We are still a very independent brand. Our customer is relatively young and quite media savvy and we are building a rapport with her.”

Earlier this week Kilgore celebrated Soap & Glory’s success in Germany, where it has been sold for nine months in Douglas. In honor of the German people’s acceptance of the irreverent brand, Kilgore partnered with artist Oliver Voss to create a large mermaid-like bather that was installed in Alster Lake Tuesday.

Kilgore attributes Soap & Glory’s runaway success to its affordable luxury positioning. “It is in a great position because it is doom and gloom out there. It’s well formulated and just a little more expensive than mass.” Kilgore is as amazed at her success as anyone: Other businesses included Bliss day spas, which she sold to LVMH in 1999, and FitFlop, which she still owns and generates nearly $280 million.

“I don’t have a normal perspective of what we should expect in terms of [sales goals] because I have these two brands that just went ‘boom!’ and I am thinking, ‘I don’t know going on!’ I sort of feel the zeitgeist. I think of it like [the electronic game] Tetris. If I get the blocks to fall and fit in one after the other, I think that’s how my brain works, if the blocks fall and I get enough information, the ideas all come at the same time. It all comes from so many places but I have been lucky to have that.”

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