Rituals plans to speed up its growth in the U.S. by winning customers over to its philosophy of slowing down.
Founded 18 years ago by former Unilever executive Raymond Cloosterman, Rituals — after a tepid start — has soared in European countries. “You can’t put us in a box, we are a wellness brand, a beauty brand and a gifting brand. When we first came out, it took time for the consumer to understand the concept, but we are now the fastest growing beauty brand in Europe, opening two to three stand-alone stores each week,” Cloosterman said.
Rituals now operates 650 stores in 25 countries with a goal to have almost 700 by the end of 2018. Additionally, there are 2,000 kiosks in luxury department stores and 150 travel retail shops in airports. Cloosterman added that e-commerce is growing rapidly. “In Europe, we believe we can grow to 1,000 stores in the next couple of years along with strong growth online.”
Emboldened by that reception, Cloosterman is embarking on an expansion plan stateside beyond the 10 stores in the New York market. Rituals’ items are also sold in select Ulta Beauty and ulta.com and the brand has a partnership agreement with Macy’s and macys.com and wholesale business with Cos Bar. The timing is right, he believes, for Ritual’s unique mix of fragrances home, body and beauty products.” While not committing to a total, industry sources believe the company could be eyeing at least 100 doors within five years.
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“This year, we are making significant efforts to create a footprint in the U.S.,” he said, in an interview at the company’s new New York office. “At a time when everybody is closing down stores, we’re opening two or three a week.”
Next up will be the debut of 10 stores on the West Coast starting in the spring. “We feel our ethos fits well with West Coast consumers,” he said. While New York stores are on high streets, California will be dominated by shopping centers owned by Westfield Corp.
“We are also looking for additional partners.” In tandem with physical door growth, Cloosterman is ramping up the online presence which he feels helps educate consumers about the brand’s backstory. The brand’s signature app will also be relaunched to layer in more wellness content like yoga and other relaxation tips.
As it hammers out a strategy for America, the company wants to enhance the experience selling aspects stores which average about 1,200 square feet. Tea is offered upon entrance to stores and all have sinks to encourage product trial. Industry sources estimate the U.S. stores churn out sales approaching $1,000 per door per day. Rituals did not comment on sales.
After taking stock of the performance of the freestanding stores, the company will decide its blueprint for growth. “We will make the decision to push the retail-driven concept in combination with online or pursue in-store growth with just a few stores and online,” he explained. “Those are the two models in the back of my mind.”
Cloosterman said the Rituals’ assortment hits a sweet spot in the U.S. market on the prowl for quality at value pricing. Candles are one of the largest categories and typically an entry point for new customers. “Once they fall in love with our exclusive fragrances, the door opens for body care, skin care and gifts.”
The company keeps a strong pipeline of products flowing to keep loyal shoppers coming back while attracting new. “We always start with ancient stories that we think are worth telling. We use natural ingredients that lead us into new fragrance experiences. We create based on holistic inspiration,” Cloosterman said. A few examples of the collections include The Ritual of Dao or the Ritual of Ayurveda. The company continues to move more toward total sustainable products such as natural dry oils and refill systems for certain products.
Fusing technology into the experience, Rituals is experimenting in Holland with a device that allows the consumer to fragrance their home at pre-controlled times using an integrated app.
“This was the first step to integrate technology into our stores,” he said.
Exclusivity is part of the recipe, he added. “We’re doing more with kitchen cosmetics and limited editions,” he said. “We were a little ahead of our time at first,” acknowledged Cloosterman. “We still have a lot to learn in the U.S. and a long way to go. But we are certain that the U.S. consumer is ready for more mindfulness, health and the ‘slowdown’ movement.”