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Pangea Organics is planting its roots in specialty beauty retail.
This story first appeared in the December 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After launching on Sephora’s Web site last month, the Boulder, Colo.-based eco-conscious brand is joining 50 stores in the retailer’s skin care assortment starting in the spring. Pangea Organics hopes to broaden its audience by entering Sephora, which will become its anchor brick-and-mortar partner outside of the traditional natural arena; Sephora claims the addition will beef up its green beauty selection.
“We’re currently experiencing a movement toward both organic products and environment-friendly packaging,” said Mary Beth Peterson, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for skin care at Sephora. “Bringing Pangea to Sephora gives our clients an additional option in an often requested category.”
Sephora stores will carry Pangea Organics’ complete skin care range of around 14 stockkeeping units priced primarily from $24 to $55.
Bath and body care items from $8 to $24 are available at Sephora online and could eventually break into stores but aren’t in the initial Pangea Organics’ merchandise mix at Sephora doors. “In Sephora, we wanted to focus the team only on the education of the skin care. There is so much technology that goes into it,” said Joshua Onysko, founder and chief executive officer of Pangea Organics. “We really have to get the consumer past this concept that organic doesn’t work.”
Onysko explained that Pangea Organics has established its reputation as a legitimate organic brand at Whole Foods, which has sold the brand since its founding in 2006. At Sephora, where consumers have the choice to purchase doctor-related skin care brands such as Murad, Dr. Brandt and Perricone MD, he contends Pangea can win over consumers who care as much or more about spending money on efficacious products than about saving the earth.
“Everybody knows about us from Whole Foods, but I feel they are going to understand the brand from Sephora,” said Onysko, who added Pangea Organics’ research shows that 80 percent of consumers in major cities recognize the brand, although most don’t make it to the beauty section at Whole Foods. “Our biggest challenge is that there are a lot of people that raced to get an organic seal on their product, and their product just doesn’t perform….Secondly, there are a lot of people who put ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ on the label that aren’t. We take formulation seriously.”
Pangea Organics’ arrival at Sephora comes shortly after the brand cut back its overall retail distribution. It pulled out of Macy’s, which had stocked the brand in its Beautiful Planet shop-in-shop; Nordstrom; Trade Secret, and PureBeauty, according to Onysko. Outside of Sephora and Whole Foods, he estimated the brand is currently in 300 independent spas and boutiques across the country, and on HSN. As far as efforts abroad, he noted the brand has spread to 13 countries, including China, where it was introduced about three months ago in Sephora.
“The first part of the year, Pangea stepped back to look at its business model and decided to leave a lot of doors to focus on the doors we really believe in,” said Onysko. “It was one of the hardest decisions, but one of the smartest decisions we made.”
Due to the retail withdrawals and the poor economy, Onysko projected that Pangea Organics’ sales would be down around 30 percent this year to $3 million. “We took a hit for the first two quarters and then have seen growth in the last eight months,” he said. He went on to predict a return to annual growth and some “pretty strong numbers” next year.
“People are starting to see the value of health and wellness and, because of that, we have seen growth in a few channels,” said Onysko. “I think there is going to be a tipping point in the next three years when consumers are really asking for their brands to be clean and healthy.”