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Caudalie Sets Sights on Asia

Cofounders Bernard and Mathilde Thomas are moving to Hong Kong in about 18 months so that they can learn the market.

The cofounders of Caudalie are turning the page to the next chapter in the global development of the spa and skin-care company: Asia.

This story first appeared in the April 4, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We are going to Asia for two years,” said Bernard Thomas, who cofounded the Bordeaux vineyard-based company with his wife Mathilde nearly 20 years ago. He noted that the couple plans on making a move to Hong Kong in about 18 months, either in the summer of 2015 or in 2016.

Thomas asserted that the move is a necessity so that he and his wife can learn the market — “the geography, the people, the distribution, we need to understand all of it” — and apply their experience with the brand so the business can grow. “We cannot talk about it, without knowing more about it.”

After spending three years in New York, the U.S. subsidiary is now profitable after growing sales 25 percent a year, basically doubling the North American business, he noted, declining to elaborate.

As part of the evolution of Caudalie USA, the new loftlike office in midtown Manhattan will be the hub of the Americas, and Carole Silverman has been promoted to chief executive officer with responsibility for the U.S., Canada, Brazil and the rest of the Americas.

The U.S. subsidiary has been busy. This week, a new West Coast flagship boutique and spa opened for business in the hip neighborhood of Venice, Calif. Located at 1416 Abbot Kinney Blvd., the 1,000-square-foot space contains a boutique, a treatment room for facials and body treatments, a nail salon using the French brand Kure Bazaar and a tea bar. On April 8, Caudalie plans to open its first boutique and spa in Canada. It will be located in the upscale Quartier DIX30, an outdoor mall in Montreal. This on the heels of opening the London boutique in February.

In Brazil, the company will open its third unit in May in Curitiba, following boutiques and spas in São Paulo and Rio. The same month, the company will enter Sephora Brazil.

Thomas had once reflected on the difficulty of making money in the U.S., but that is now behind him. “Making a profit in the U.S. was a problem of scale,” he said. Thomas declined to cite specifics but industry sources estimate that Caudalie generated about $30 million in retail sales in the U.S. last year.

The founders are thus free to explore the rest of the world outside Europe and the U.S. The company has an office in Hong Kong, and Thomas said the company will be looking to establish a spa there, and perhaps in Shanghai. Caudalie also has subsidiaries in China and South Korea.

On the new product front, Caudalie will launch a trio of antioxidation, antiaging products later this month in company boutiques and in full distribution in May. The key ingredient is Polyphenol C15. The company had patented its first grape-seed polyphenols in 1995 and maintains that these natural molecules are 1,000 times more effective in fighting free-radical formation than vitamin E, the benchmarked ingredient. In its latest incarnation, Polyphenol C15 is combined with a stabilized vitamin C, which is said to capture free radicals while protecting and stimulating production of collagen. It is also used to boost radiance and even out the complexion.

The trio of products includes: Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum, which will be priced $66 for 30 ml.; Broad Spectrum SPF Anti-Wrinkle Protect Fluid, priced $49 for 40 ml., and Anti-Wrinkle Eye and Lip Cream, $49 for 15 ml.

Caudalie does not break out projections, but industry sources estimate that the new regimen could generate $10 million in U.S. retail sales in the first year.