Bob Seidl, president and chief executive officer of H2O Plus, has visited Tokyo twice since June to meet with Pola Orbis, the new owners of the Chicago-based skin care brand he has overseen for six years.
Located in the tallest building in the upscale fashion hub of Ginza, Seidl said working with the fourth-largest beauty company in Japan is refreshing, from its young senior management team (most are in their 40s), to its hands off management style to its synergistic quest to grow both brands.
“They are entrusting us to run our business and execute our strategy,” said Seidl. “We have begun a series of synergistic things, such as research and development, and they run a series of manufacturing facilities and distributors in Japan. We are already engaged in international expansion for both Pola and H2O Plus. About 96 percent of Pola’s $2 billion sales are in Japan and by 2020 the company aims to accelerate growth in global markets with consolidated sales of $3 billion, an operating margin of between 13 and 15 percent and overseas sales that comprise 20 percent of overall sales.”
Considered the “Avon of Japan,” with direct-to-consumer sales distribution through a sales organization of 130,000 women and nearly 500 retail stores they own and operate, Pola’s vision is to take some of its higher-end luxury skin care products and get them into department stores and boutiques, with the help of H20 Plus’ built-in distribution blueprint.
But now the focus is on H20 Plus. A global brand relaunch is slated for March 2012 with a full conversion date planned for that June. Previewing this month is a glimpse at new packaging on two of the brand’s nine ranges, Aqualibrium Bio Boost Systems (a daily line for normal skin) and Marine Calm (for sensitive skin). Each family addresses specific skin care needs and offers a cleanser; several also offer a serum. A new logo will make its debut on all products with the March relaunch. Other families within H20 Plus include Sea Results (antiaging), Oasis (oil free), Sea Pure (natural antiaging), Sea Clear (oily skin), Anti-Acne, Waterwhite Advance (clarifying and brightening) and Aquafirm+ (firming). Star products include Face Oasis Hydrating Treatment, Aquafirm + Intensive Lift Serum, Waterwhite Advanced Brightening Essence and Sea Results Line Resolution Cream SPF 30.
H20 Plus is priced higher in international markets compared to the U.S., where it has an entry price point in prestige beauty in the $30 range. Internationally, H20 Plus selects its channel of distribution based on the region, for example in Russia the brand is carried in perfumeries, in China it is in high-end department stores and in Thailand it is in its own stores.
Seidl and Bill Colli, senior vice president of sales and marketing, started rebranding H20 Plus two years ago by first claiming a marine science skin care positioning. They conducted six months of research in North America and Asia (where H20 Plus is a dominant player) and worked with LEK Consulting to identify and define their consumer, who averages 31 years old. Newer customers are even younger, aged between 18 and 30 years old. They also tapped Ozz for brand positioning and platform development to clarify its marine science positioning. From there H20 Plus worked with New York-based Pearlfisher to work on “communicative vernacular” such as tone of voice, logo, packaging and visuals.
Seidl snapped at Wall Street naysayers who have commented that H20 Plus was financially underperforming and needed to sell to a partner.
“In these difficult times, you couldn’t sell a troubled business. They paid a premium,” he said, adding that H20 Plus will end 2011 with sales gains of 20 percent, up to more than $120 million. Gains are attributed to both organic growth in North America and to increased international expansion.
In regard to expansion, the company is planning a February 2012 opening of a new flagship in Istanbul. In the U.S., where it operates eight stores, updates are planned for next year, from new merchandising displays to ripping up tiled floors. In September, the brand is expanding into Korea; in October it will open nine company-owned stores in São Paulo, bringing 2011’s expansion of the brand into eight additional countries. By 2012, H20 Plus will be available in 31 countries. Its percentage of business in the U.S. is 55 percent with 45 percent comprised of international stores. In three years, Seidl looks to boost international sales to 60 percent.
Orbis has operated as a private company for more than 80 years. It became public in December 2010 and ranks fourth in size in Japan after Shiseido, Kao and Kanebo.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast