PARIS — Feelunique.com is further honing its French accent – and bricks-and-mortar expertise.
The 10-year-old British e-retailer of premium beauty products will enter France following the purchase Friday of the Rive Droite independent perfumery chain. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Rive Droite has four boutiques in Paris and its outskirts — in the 16th arrondissement, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Levallois-Perret and Boulogne-Billancourt — measuring, on average, just under 800 square feet. They are to be renamed Feelunique.
“It gives us a showcase in Paris. Our plan is to progressively localize our French business,” Feelunique.com chief executive officer Joël Palix told WWD, adding the company’s core model nonetheless remains online. “We believe we can build an interesting offer [there], combining our sourcing in the U.K. and in France.”
As reported, Feelunique will from Nov. 27 to Dec. 13 host a pop-up store in Paris’ 3rd district, stocking 16 British beauty labels and combining sampling, retailing, online ordering and special events.
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Feelunique has other physical stores. Five years ago it acquired perfumeries, salons and spas in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands.
Today the online platform carries 450 prestige brands.
“It’s the biggest choice you can find on any site worldwide in beauty,” Palix asserted. “This is one of our main points of difference — the depth of our product selection.
“Our concept is not inspired by a store,” he continued. “It’s completely defined by what and how the consumer wants to buy online.”
Feelunique executives have studied peoples’ bathrooms to see what types of beauty products they accumulate. Hair care plays a large role there and so also on the site, where the category rings up about 30 percent of sales. Skin care generates an equal amount.
“But for us skin care can be a perfumery brand, a pharmacy brand, a spa brand — we don’t make [a distinction],” Palix said.
The site’s color cosmetics mix, which includes makeup artist and blogger brands born online, contributes a similar portion of sales, while fragrances make up the remainder.
Feelunique employs diagnostic tools and personalization algorithms as part of its service-oriented focus.
“Our belief is that in this huge beauty offer, there is a particular product that we can help you find that we carry and you will enjoy,” Palix said.
A call-in beauty-advising center — open daily — has hair, makeup and skin-care experts (20 in all), who speak 11 languages, for instance.
“They can even do video chat, to make the beauty consultation as easy as possible,” Palix said.
Feelunique sells to more than 100 countries, but makes 70 percent of its sales in the U.K., where revenues are growing between 40 percent and 45 percent annually and about 90 percent of the business comes from the site.
Feelunique’s other largest markets are China — where the company one month ago opened a cross-border site — along with France, Germany and Scandinavia.
The long-term objective in France for the company is to make about 90 percent of its domestic business through the site and capture 15 percent of the online beauty market.
According to Feelunique estimates, some 4 percent of overall beauty sales today are rung up online in France; 9 percent in the U.K., and 10 percent to 11 percent in the Germany and in the U.S.
Feelunique, which was launched by two entrepreneurs in Jersey, is majority-owned by private equity partnership Palamon Capital Partners, which bought its stake in the firm three years ago.
“They want to bring the company above 100 million pounds [or $152.7 million at current exchange] quickly,” Palix said.
The executive would not discuss current sales, but industry experts estimate Feelunique will generate 100 million euros, or $106.9 million, in 2015, up approximately 30 percent on-year.
Since his arrival at the company in February 2014, one of Palix’s missions has been to transfer the bulk of Feelunique’s commercial and marketing teams to London from Jersey. The site’s distribution center, working in partnership with third-party logistics concern Dalepak Ltd., is now in the U.K.’s Northampton and can process up to 20,000 orders daily. Same-day deliveries to London and click-and-collect to 5,000 delivery points in the U.K. are possible today, too.
“We are really improving the whole customer experience all the time,” said Palix, adding part of that involves scouting out new brands. In France, that will be spearheaded by Claire Blandin, now general manager for the country.
Sampling is important for Feelunique, which last year added a concept called Try Me. For the price of a full-size product, consumers can receive the item with a sample of it. The idea is that people may try the sample and — if it’s not to their liking — return the product at no charge. No one has.
“We have a profile of consumers that is quite different from what you would find in a store — very much younger,” continued Palix, explaining the core of Feelunique’s consumers is under 35 years old. “They do a lot of research online, do a lot of ‘social shopping’ — so when they have identified a product, they check with friends if it is right. They have a blogger they trust, so it’s a new way of shopping.”