Just six months after entering a small number of brick-and-mortar doors in the U.S., Elle Macpherson is opening a New York flagship for her Australia-based supplement company WelleCo — and doesn’t plan to stop there.
The brand’s SoHo space is set to open today. This will be the first freestanding WelleCo door outside of Australia — Macpherson and her business partner, Welleco chief executive officer Andrea Horwood, also operate a stand-alone shop in Perth. Aside from a strong digital presence — 80 percent of sales come from the brand’s e-commerce site, and it is also available on Net-a-porter — WelleCo is in 100 doors globally including Barneys and Anthropologie in the U.S. in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.
Four-year-old WelleCo has amassed a strong customer base in the U.S. through its direct-to-consumer business and availability on Net-a-porter. Fifty percent of WelleCo’s online sales come from the U.S., making this market the ideal place to expand. Three more flagships are being planned to open over the next three years, in Los Angeles, Miami and Houston — these cities plus New York are where 75 percent of WelleCo’s U.S. sales are concentrated. WelleCo is also entering U.S. Sephora stores in October.
The brand has tripled sales every year since 2014, and industry sources project WelleCo does somewhere north of $25 million in retail sales per year. Harwood and Macpherson declined to comment on current sales, but did say the brand’s goal is to reach $200 million in sales in the next three to four years.
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Supplements and ingestibles such as collagen waters, greens powders and probiotics touting beauty-enhancing benefits have been a percolating trend in the beauty category over the past few years. Beauty supplements are growing faster in the U.S. than they are globally. Data shows a 7.1 percent increase in U.S. sales, versus a 1.8 percent increase in global sales for 2017, according to Euromonitor. Even Sephora is making a significant wellness push, increasing shelf space for brands like the Beauty Chef, Vital Proteins, Hum Nutrition and Crushed Tonic. WelleCo will be among the first ingestible brands to operate a stand-alone store presence in the U.S. Moon Juice, which started as Venice juice shop with a cult celebrity following, operates three cafés in Los Angeles, where it sells adaptogenic herbal powders and potions alongside smoothies and snacks.
“Our formulations are quite complex — there’s an education piece required around each elixir,” said Macpherson of the decision to expand in the U.S. via flagships. “The SoHo store is an extension of our digital offering — it provides customers with information they can’t access online. We have a huge following in New York, and our customers prioritize health and lifestyle, they make considered choices. They appreciate our scientific approach.”
WelleCo’s product assortment is a tight edit of vegan, non-gmo, dairy, wheat and gluten-free stockkeeping units, starting with the hero, the Super Elixir Greens, an alkalizing greens supplement that retails for $135 for a 300-gram refillable caddy. Since the Super Elixir launched, WelleCo has also introduced its Nourishing Plant Proteins in vanilla and chocolate flavors — $90 for a kilogram — and the Sleep Well Calming Tea, $69 for a fifty-bag caddy. There are also ancillary products, including a protein powder formulated for kids, a fruit and vegetable wash, pH-tester kit, and some beauty items — a salt scrub, lip balm, sleep calming mist and moisturizing cream for face, body and hair.
Macpherson came up with the idea for a wellness brand after she turned 50 and switched to an alkaline, plant-based diet and began taking a greens powder prescribed by her doctor. She’s not the first supermodel to launch a beauty-slash-wellness venture — Miranda Kerr has Kora Organics, Josie Maran has her self-named line and Lindsay Ellingson founded clean makeup and skin-care brand Wander Beauty. But don’t call WelleCo a celebrity line.
“I’ve been on my own wellness journey where I really understood how important good nutrition is and I speak for the brand based on personal experience,” Macpherson said. “People aren’t necessarily driven by hype when they’re buying this product — we communicate with them directly and intelligently, and WelleCo resonates with them as a quality, authentic product that works.”
Much of WelleCo’s business is driven by word-of-mouth, Horwood said.
“We have a genuine connection with our consumers,” she said, noting the SoHo flagship will house product demonstrations and a blender bar so customers can taste the product and learn various recipes before committing to it. The company’s New York offices will be located at the same address, and the bottom floor will house a shipping and receiving center for same-day deliveries in the city. “We produce all our own content and don’t outsource to agencies — it’s very important that our voice in talking to customers is genuine. We’re not a paid, influencer-driven brand.”
Horwood noted that in Perth, 97 percent of customers who walk into the store purchase a product. “It’s valuable for us to explain the product properly and to make up samples. We feel quite strongly they speak for themselves.”
Macpherson doesn’t see the beauty’s wellness boom slowing anytime soon. “If you nourish your body, it’s going to show on the outside,” she said. “It’s a very simple message, but it’s a powerful one and I think women are really understanding that feeling well is three-quarters of the beauty program — it’s not just what you put on your skin, it’s what you put in your body.”