By  on April 18, 2006

BERLIN — Beiersdorf's branded consumer division got off to a "real good start" in 2006, according to Peter Nota, the firm's board member overseeing the company's consumer division.

First-quarter sales rose a nominal 8 percent, based on preliminary figures, compared with flat growth in the first quarter of 2005.

"We are on track with our expectations," he said at Beiers­dorf's annual consumer division financial press conference here earlier this month. While figures have not yet been released, based on 2005 quarterly figures, sales for the division are projected to reached approximately 1.07 billion euros, or $1.28 billion at average exchange, for the first quarter ended March 31. On a currency-adjusted basis, quarterly sales rose 5.5 percent.

The group, which includes body and facial care under the brands Nivea, Labello, Florena, Eucerin and the La Prairie Group, as well as Curad and Curitas bandages, is eyeing acquisitions — particularly in its key growth markets of China, Russia and Brazil — and is "working on several concrete projects," said Nota. While he declined to give further details, he noted, "There are local brands to buy that are active [in these markets]. It's not impossible. And we don't rule out [acquisitions] in Western Europe or worldwide, if [acquisition targets] reach critical mass."

The La Prairie Group, which includes Juvena, Marlies Möller and SBT Skin Biology Therapy, has appointed Maike Kiessling managing director of its travel retail, duty-free worldwide and distributor markets in the company's Europe and Middle East division. The new position "reflects the group's decision to handle the travel retail and duty-free business from a global perspective," the firm stated.

Kiessling said La Prairie Group will intensify its efforts in travel retail. "I am delighted with this new challenge in an area which, along with the Asian region, represents our main future focus and offers huge business potential," she said in a statement.

Kiessling managed the launch of SBT, La Prairie's newest brand, in 2005. She joined the firm in 1992 after working at Estée Lauder Cos. and Parfums Christian Dior.

On the research and development front, Beiersdorf is working to bring innovations onto the market more quickly. "We want to concentrate on bigger innovations, and expand our portfolio via fewer but larger projects," Nota said. Without divulging details, he said he was very enthusiastic about major innovations being launched in skin care for fall and hair care this summer.The group is streamlining its global assortment. Worldwide, Beiersdorf has several thousand products on the market, and Nota said there are plans to cut the number of available stockkeeping units. For example, there are now 22 Beiersdorf lip care products on the market, and "we have to decide if that's too many. Or we can change our labeling from one to three languages, and thereby cut back on the number of sku's. We want to reduce the complexity of our assortment," he said, "and thereby reduce costs."

Another new focus is point-of-sale presentation. At the end of the month, Beiersdorf will unveil the first Nivea Haus in Hamburg. "It's an experiment, a place to experience the brand and make the product tangible. And if it's successful, we can imagine it in other cities," said Nota. The number of Nivea shops-in-shops, with sales personnel and self-service, is being expanded.

As reported, 2005 sales of the consumer division rose 5.2 percent to 4.04 billion euros, or $5.13 billion. Adjusted for currency effects, consumer sales rose 4 percent. Earnings before interest and taxes for the division rose 7.4 percent to 465 million euros, or $590 million.

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