By  on August 21, 2009

NEW YORK — Yves Rocher, one of the earliest pioneers of the botanicals movement, is opening franchise units in Canada and dipping its toe back into the U.S. market with distribution in Sears.

After operating company-owned stores in Canada, Yves Rocher is ready to rev up growth with a prototype called Atelier of Botanical Beauty offered as a franchise.

“Because the brand was not as well known in Canada, we wanted to grow it ourselves first and ensure the success of our stores before providing Canadians with the chance to purchase a franchise,” said Stephane Duval, director of stores, North America.

There are 67 Yves Rocher units in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick and the firm has a desire to expand further throughout Canada. Yves Rocher is also interested in uncovering a franchise partner for the U.S. in the next two years, said Christina Hane, director of communications. Yves Rocher had operated a few stores in the U.S. that were shuttered to focus on other markets. The company has found success with franchising — about 75 percent of its existing units in 80 countries are franchised or run by agents. Privately held, Yves Rocher’s most recent fiscal year sales were $2.88 billion, of which 85 percent is produced from household and personal care products.

Yves Rocher executives believe the economic climate is a good time to make the brand more accessible, while also reaffirming its expertise in plant-based beauty care at a time when competitors are touting similar messages.

In the Atelier format, Yves Rocher has a chance to communicate its heritage. For example, there is a reproduction of the actual table used by creator Yves Rocher, who made his first plant-based cream in his attic in 1959. There are also images of the organic fields in La Gacilly, France, where 30 percent ofbotanicals used in products are grown. Green bell-shaped lamps illuminate the check out areas, creating the ambience of a true artisan of botanical cosmetics.

Rather than using traditional merchandising tactics of grouping of skin care, makeup and perfume, the 400- to 700-square-foot Atelier units house products by “feeling” of the product. For example, a department called Feel Good includes organic skin care, body care and specific skin care such as items for dry, sensitive, oily or normal skin. Radiate Beauty includes antiaging skin care for women in their late 20s to 60-plus. Captivate is the space for makeup fragrance, while Savor houses bath with flavorful fruit and plant body mists, body washes and lotions. An overall umbrella called The Botanical Greenhouse resembles a market and features Captivate and Savor products, while an area more reminiscent of a Botanical Laboratory tells the plant story exhibited by Feel Good and Radiant Beauty products. The Botanical Beauty Spa is dedicated to the rejuvenating experience with plants. There are spa cabins for services such as manicures, facials, massages and hair removal.

Company officials hope the Atelier format will generate sales 15 percent higher than the older concept. In fact, in France, where Atelier has been implemented in several stores, the layout is generating increases of 20 percent on average. The first Atelier in Canada opened at the end of May and is producing a 35 percent increase in sales over the former design. All existing 1,600 stores within the next four years will be converted in a $300 million-plus overhaul. Yves Rocher also has a robust catalogue and Internet retail arm.

The company is actively looking for a brick-and-mortar partner in the U.S., as well as looking at launching the franchise concept in the next few years. The company would like to test a store-within-a-store concept that is an edited version of the Atelier of Botanical Beauty.

In the meantime, the company will begin testing shelf distribution of its products in 13 select Sears stores in the next two weeks and will be selling some of its best-selling products in a new Sears beauty section. The products include Serum Vegetal (France’s best-selling antiage cream), Riche Crème, Lipophenol, Couleur Nature and Plaisirs Nature. Many items have recently been repackaged to help convey the botanical ingredients message.

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