NEW YORK — Nick Braden has been named managing director of L’Occitane’s U.S. affiliate, succeeding Delphine Hibon, who became managing director at O & Co., a marketer of olive oils and related goods that is also owned by the French beauty firm.

Before joining L’Occitane Inc., Braden, a 33-year-old native of Scotland, spent a year at office supply retailer Staples, where he was vice president of strategy. For six years before that, he worked at McKinsey & Co. in various global regions for the management consultancy, eventually heading its retail group from the U.S.

During an interview at a press launch for a new orange-based L’Occitane collection called L’Oranger on Tuesday, Braden outlined U.S. plans for the company, which include expanding its reach to grow L’Occitane’s customer base and profile, store openings and even new retail concepts.

“The focus must be on finding ways to get the product out there and trialed,” Braden said of the brand, which encompasses 11 product ranges and 550 stockkeeping units. Just as important as luring new customers through product trials, he noted, is leveraging the brand’s existing customer loyalty. “We have a 95 percent return rate [of] people who shop and come back within a year,” he said, adding — the brand “is at a level now where people know it and where it comes from [but] we’re at that first step.”

Taking the next step, he indicated, includes expansion of both company-owned stores and the wholesale business. Braden noted that L’Occitane will operate 108 freestanding stores in the U.S. by yearend and could open as many as 40 more next year. “If I think about where we can be,” he added, referring to opportunities in the U.S. market, “it becomes easy to identify within a state where to go.” He noted that the brand is in more than 300 U.S. wholesale doors.

Braden refused to discuss sales volume, but L’Occitane’s U.S. business reportedly accounts for 40 percent of the worldwide business, which was estimated by sources to be $162.7 million last year. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at currentexchange and are based on a reported number of 144.8 million euros.“Historically, we’ve been growing at [more than] 50 percent a year,” Braden said of the U.S. business. “Can we continue to do that? Yes, absolutely. The issue is: How do we do it in a controlled way, together, across all channels? We have to be selective, but always provide the customer with an opportunity to use, try and fall in love with the product.” This includes continued development of the brand’s Web and catalog businesses — ideal venues for customers to read about the brand, Braden said.

Expanded reach also means expanded vision within the company’s retail operations. In October, L’Occitane plans to open its first “lifestyle store” in Manhattan’s SoHo district, according to Braden. Blueprints call for a 5,000-square-foot unit at Mercer and Prince Streets to fuse a restaurant, an O & Co. location and a L’Occitane shop. They will all be “interrelated,” said Braden, “a place you can go and pause during the day.” He also spoke of plans to open L’Occitane’s first U.S. spa, pointing out that spa “protocols,” or product ranges, already exist within the full L’Occitane assortment. The company operates spas in Brazil, France and Belgium.

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