By  on October 17, 2008

Zirh is going direct.

In a step toward further diversifying its distribution base, the men’s grooming brand has reached a long-term product development and distribution deal with California-based direct seller Jafra Cosmetics International Inc.

The two companies plan to launch eight jointly developed skin care products next summer via Jafra’s network of more than 500,000 sales representatives.

Brian Robinson, president of Zirh Holdings LLC, indicated the Jafra pact was part of a strategy to explore alternative channels of distribution.

“We thought direct selling would allow us to [connect] with many consumers who have never tried Zirh,” said Robinson. “We also want to bring men’s into direct selling in a big way.”

The Zirh brand, which primarily consists of skin care items and is currently rolling out a new scent called Ikon, is among the top men’s treatment brands in department and specialty store doors and is found in retailers like Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Sephora. It also appeared on HSN in June.

The Jafra launch is slated to take place first on an international basis in July and then in the U.S. in August. Similar third-party distribution deals have taken place recently involving Avon, which signed a deal to market Christian Lacroix fragrances in spring 2007, following that with a deal for Emanuel Ungaro scents earlier this year.

Jafra, which is based in Westlake Village, Calif., operates in 24 countries. It was acquired in 2004 by Vorwerk Group, a Germany-based firm with sales of $3.2 billion last year, from private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Inc. Jafra said it expects the Zirh deal to help grow its “brand presence” in the U.S.

While the new products are to be developed jointly by Zirh and Jafra’s research and development department exclusively for this initiative, Zirh will handle marketing and manufacturing of the new line, Robinson noted.

He would not discuss sales projections, saying only that he sees the Jafra strategy as a “significant long-term volume opportunity,” given that the direct-sales business structure is free of overhead costs typically found in traditional retail environments, such as demonstrators.

“Different strategies have to be implemented in this economic environment,” said Robinson.

Plans call for the Zirh-Jafra items to be launched in Italy, Germany, Mexico, Brazil and the Netherlands prior to their introduction in the U.S. next August.

Industry sources estimate that in the Zirh-Jafra line’s first year on the market, it could generate global retail sales of $20 million.

As part of the new initiative, Zirh recently named Juan Gomez as Jafra project manager, overseeing the Jafra business. Gomez was most recently at Avon, where he spent 10 years in a number of marketing and product development positions, and helped develop scents like Derek Jeter’s Driven and U by Ungaro.

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