By  on May 24, 2013

Aliza Jabès, president and chief executive officer of Nuxe Group, turned a small laboratory into an international skin-care and spa brand growing at double-digits over the past 10 years.

Nuxe is the number-one natural skin-care brand in French pharmacies and is now sold in 64 countries. “We used to be a start-up, we aren’t a start-up anymore,” Jabès told the audience of the company that has almost $200 million in wholesale sales.

“We want to become a leader nationwide. We want to stay close to our distribution,” she said, noting that is somewhat of a challenge in the U.S. since there is not a channel mimicking European pharmacies. “We want to stick to our business model of ‘pharmacylike.’”

However, sensing a “path emerging” for her brand to grow in the U.S. as some American drugstores adopt a more apothecary positioning, Jabès is bringing Nuxe to select doors. The “deliberate” slow expansion includes about 200 Look Boutique doors operated under the Walgreens and Duane Reade banners, as well as upscale pharmacy Bushard’s in Laguna Beach, Calif. “We believe there is a new hybrid distribution,” she said.

Jabès is accustomed to blazing new trails. She fled the corporate world at age 25 to found Nuxe knowing that if she didn’t do it then, she never would. “If I wanted to start my own business, I had to do it before I got used to having money,” she chuckled.

Following five rules learned from her father, a chemist, she wanted Nuxe to be derived by nature, well researched and innovative, closely evaluated and tested, not necessarily the most expensive (using aspirin as a model) and a line women want to use religiously. “If you want a treatment to be effective, you have to follow it,” she said. “I wanted the right pricing, not necessarily mass, but accessible pricing,” she said of her decision to select the pharmacy channel for distribution.

It wasn’t on overnight success in French pharmacies since many owners were satisfied with existing derm brands and didn’t have space available. “It really was a door-by-door operation,” Jabès said of the line now sold in 5,000 pharmacies in France. “There is a retail there. We are making money. We are profitable and pharmacies are happy because they are making money with us,” she said.

In other markets, including Canada, where Nuxe is in Jean Coutu and Shoppers Drug Mart, Jabès has found doors similar to France’s pharmacies.

Part of Nuxe’s emergence is linked to innovative products such as Huile Prodigieuse, a multipurpose dry oil. “At first, retailers didn’t understand it. How can it be for face, body and hair — it will never work, they told me,” Jabès said. “Women instantly loved the product.” Now Nuxe has sold 20 million bottles — a rate of one every six seconds — and the brand has a 50 percent share of oils at French pharmacies.

To keep it fresh and stand out against a now crowded field, Nuxe offers limited editions. It also gets product ideas from its 21 spas, including one that will open soon in Turkey — the first outside of France.

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