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Kneipp Sets Goals on 100 U.S. Stores

Brick-and-mortar stores will help to gain U.S. recognition

With U.S. consumers seeking natural beauty products, Bavaria-based Kneipp, has big plans for U.S. freestanding store expansion.

Founded 125 years ago by Sebastian Kneipp, the line of bath and body products are plant based, all natural and mostly vegan.

Over the past year, Kneipp opened eight units in the U.S. with blueprints calling for eight to 10 more before the end of this year. The code name “Project 100” reveals the long-term store goal, which Christoph Hirschmann, Kneipp’s chief executive officer, believes can be achieved in the next five to six years. 

The entry point has been prime shopping centers in the Northeast such as Roosevelt Field in East Garden City, N.Y. and King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pa.

“We believe this part of the U.S. is closest geographically and culturally to Europe,” Hirschmann said. “We plan to start there and expand. Once we have it right, it won’t be difficult to open 80 more from there. Our business model is scaleable.”

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The timing couldn’t be better for the line, which includes ingredients such as calendula, lemongrass and olive. Market research expert Kline estimated the natural beauty and personal-care market represented $36 billion in manufacturer sales in 2015. Industry sources predict natural personal-care sales will soar more than 20 percent per year over the next decade. “There is a worldwide trend to natural food and people have an open mind to natural beauty,” confirmed Hirschmann.

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The decision was made to expand in the U.S. with physical stores with e-commerce as an adjunct. Although there is some distribution in spas and hotels, Hirschmann said the Kneipp name is relatively unknown in the U.S. “We believe it is important for customers to get in touch physically with our products,” he explained. “Doing brand building with just e-commerce does not work [for Kneipp].

That’s not to say Kneipp won’t build a replenishment business via online sales. Also, it will rely on social media influencers to generate consumer conversation about the brand. “But a blogger can’t give the real-life experience and trial — or demonstrate what a product smells like,” he said.

Kneipp is expanding in the U.S. at a time when shopping centers need new stores to replace retailers closing doors such as The Limited and even Macy’s Inc. The company joins other vertical beauty merchants eager to lure shoppers to malls such as Clarins, E.l.f. and NYX.

Store footprints are up 1,100 square feet with a  focal point of a working sink where customers can experience Kneipp’s healing water applications. Industry sources believe the doors can achieve sales approaching $1,000 per square foot.

Custom wood furniture and fixtures are designed to help the products stand out on shelves, according to Renee Zuckerman Knapik, head of marketing — the Americas. There are more than 200 items in the portfolio — each with ingredients designed to treat specific needs, such as Arnica for joint and muscle relief or Evening Primrose for calming. In addition to bath, body, shower and skin care, there are men’s and kids’ products.

Kneipp is intent to compete in the U.S. beauty arena. “It is the biggest market for cosmetics and we want to be part of the story and we think we know how,” concluded Hirschmann.