By  on February 2, 2007

In September, Expanscience Laboratories, an estimated $246 million Paris-based pharmaceutical company, appointed former La Roche Posay marketing vice president Judy Carlo to head Mustela, a baby and mother-to-be skin care line. Mustela, a brand leader throughout Europe, is best known for its premium-priced and specialized products with multilanguage, baby sweet packaging. The $100 million brand looks to increase sales this year by 20 percent, according to Carlo, by expanding distribution in the U.S. and by educating consumers. Here, Carlo talks about Mustela’s biggest opportunities for growth, her goals as the brand’s new leader and why entering Babies ‘R’ Us is a good thing for the prestige-oriented brand.

WWD: Where is Mustela sold?

Judy Carlo: It’s the leading line of baby skin care in European pharmacies and is sold in over 42 countries. The U.S. is the largest subsidiary in terms of market potential and the most untapped. In the U.S., our core distribution is in baby and maternity outlets and independent pharmacies. We are sold in 2,000 doors in the U.S. That number should increase by 20 percent by the end of 2007.

WWD: What are Mustela’s bestsellers?

J.C.: Our Mustela 9 Months Stretch Marks Double Action, the Cleansing and Soothing Wipes for Diaper Change and our 2-in-1 Hair & Body Wash.

WWD: How does business in the U.S. compare with other markets?

J.C.: The biggest difference with baby skin care in Europe is that it’s predominately distributed by pharmacists. Based on the products’ success in Europe, we have learned that recommendations from specialists are very important.

WWD: So educating consumers must be an important part of your new strategy. How do you plan to execute that in the U.S.?

J.C.: Through assisted selling at point of sale. We’re hiring a merchandising and training specialist to train staff and conduct events. We also have literature that can be handed out to our customers.

WWD: What are your biggest opportunities for growth and what markets hold the biggest opportunities?J.C.: Our first area of growth is within our current distribution. Many of our retail partners are expanding their doors, and we’re working with them. Secondly, there are new outlets for distribution, but on a select basis. Our new avenues of growth have been Nordstrom department stores, Babies ‘R’ Us, beauty retailers and the Internet. We expect to more than double our doors with Babies ‘R’ Us within the next year.

WWD: Do you think expanding to Babies ‘R’ Us will erode your brand’s premium image?

J.C.: Babies ‘R’ Us is the largest baby product specialty store chain in the world and a leader in the juvenile industry, and sells merchandise through 232 stores in the U.S. They are the perfect partner to reach the Mustela consumer.

WWD: Will you branch out into beauty items for women who aren’t current or soon-to-be moms? How about men’s items?

J.C.: No, not during the next few years. We believe that our expansion will come from innovations and research technologies for our core targets. Although, with our parent company, Expanscience Laboratories, having expertise in dental and other medical areas, we may be tapping into that in the future.

WWD: What are your goals as managing director?

J.C.: I definitely want to learn how we can better service and satisfy our current retailers while also taking action on distribution expansion. We have a renewed emphasis on the medical heritage that started Mustela 55 years ago. I also want to build the brand and build talent. Over the last 20 years we’ve had growth, but it’s been conservative. It’s now time to accelerate that growth.

WWD: When you say build the brand do you mean increase advertising and public relations efforts?

J.C.: Total marketing effort will increase approximately 20 percent this year to support a new emphasis on communicating the medicinal aspect of the brand.

WWD: Assess the baby skin care market. Where do you see it going in the future?J.C.: In the last year or two, the baby care market has had a fairly modest growth rate. Going forward, the birth rate will also grow modestly. Right now, we’re at four million births per year, and by 2010, our numbers show 4.3 million. I would say that’s moderate growth. But these consumers are going to use more products as they become enlightened to the special needs of their babies’ skin. It’s not just about changing the diaper with some zinc oxide, but it’s really about using special products and multiple products. So for Mustela, the growth will be far more than the average.

WWD: How do you plan to keep the brand current, considering the trend toward organic products?

J.C.: With our technologies and our clinically proven formulations. That is our first priority. Organics are important, but are not our point of difference or our reason for being. Our reason for being is safety, efficacy and using the highest grade ingredients possible.

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