DALLAS--The sizable ranks of direct-marketing beauty companies based here have gotten bigger with the entry of Swiss Balance.
The company was launched in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1992, but relocated its corporate headquarters last fall. Until then, its skin care products were available only in Asia and Europe.
Swiss Balance is projecting sales of $20 million this year, up 50 percent from 1994. While this is small compared with Dallas-based giants Mary Kay Cosmetics, which topped $850 million in overall sales last year, and BeautiControl Cosmetics, which reportedly hit $75 million, owners Willy and Franca Schopfer think they can forge an auspicious debut in the North American market.
"We chose Dallas for several reasons," explained Willy Schopfer, president and chief executive officer. "It's centrally located to almost any city on the continent and also has a great business environment--new companies tend to flourish here."
The couple felt it was time to break into North America because of the booming treatment industry here and because of Swiss Balance's initial success in Asia and Europe. The brand is still sold in some retail venues on those continents, but will only be available via direct marketing by the end of the year.
"Women in the U.S. are so much into fitness," said company vice president Franca Schopfer. "Everywhere you go they're jogging, skating or on the way to the gym. They're into taking care of their skin, too."
The 21 items in the Swiss Balance collection--15 for the face and six for the body--are formulated with mostly natural ingredients, aren't tested on animals and won't cause blemishes, the company claims.
The products are manufactured in Lausanne and formulated there, often based on concepts by Franca Schopfer, by Italian chemist Dr. Alberto Fauci.
Swiss Balance's focus on different skin types--from acne-prone to aging--appeals to the teenage girl to the woman in her 70s, claimed Franca Schopfer, adding that several of the products, including an exfoliator, moisturizer and cleansing gel, also are geared for men.
Prices range from $12 for Eye Make-Up Remover to $44 for Cellulite Trimming Gel or Regenerating Nourishing Cream. A top seller in the collection is Moisture Relief Mask, at $40.
This spring, Swiss Balance will launch Renoveau Fluid AHA Complex, an alpha-hydroxy-acid-based product for the face.
The Schopfers aren't novices to the beauty business. In 1982, Willy Schopfer launched Valmont Cosmetics in Lausanne. The prestige line, marketed to compete with La Prairie, was named after a beauty clinic and spa in Montreux, Switzerland. Schopfer founded the company with $75,000 and sold it in 1989 when sales hit $10 million. It is not sold in the U.S.
The Swiss Balance packaging is white with black lettering, silver graphics and a silver and white cross boxed in red, denoting ties to Switzerland. It was designed by Willy Schopfer, a former New York advertising executive.
About 100 women have signed up as Swiss Balance beauty counselors, with the ambitious goal of recruiting 5,000 within the first year of business here.
"We're counting on a strong word-of-mouth business," said Willy Schopfer. "We've watched it happen in Europe and Asia, where we have about 10,000 consultants now."
There is no fee to enlist with Swiss Balance, though consultants must purchase, for $145, an attachA holding the 21 items in the line plus various forms, beauty charts and a calculator.
To promote the line and entice beauty counselors, the company will stage marketing seminars in hotels around the country and advertise in regional newspapers that target affluent neighborhoods, starting this month in Dallas.
Keeping retail prices in check was paramount when launching Swiss Balance, the Schopfers stressed. "Our aim was to offer a line that would benefit all skin types while also being accessible to all pockets," noted Willy Schopfer.

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