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Made In Italy: Collistar Marks 30 Years

The cosmetics brand is unveiling limited editions of some of its best-selling products throughout 2013 to mark its anniversary.

The Made In Italy label carries weight in beauty as well as fashion, and cosmetics brand Collistar is a prime example.

The company is blowing out 30 candles this year, and to celebrate, the firm is unveiling limited editions of some of its best-selling products throughout 2013, including a lipstick packaged in a Murano glass.

Daniela Sacerdote has been there since the beginning, when Alberto Zambeletti, owner of pharmaceutical company Zambeletti and the fledging Collistar brand, recruited her in 1983 as chief executive officer, a role she has held ever since. She believed Collistar could carve out a specialized niche, offering quality products at lower prices than typically found in perfumeries.

“I have always deliberately worked for Italian companies — it was a choice,” said Sacerdote. Before her arrival at Collistar, she held a marketing position at Bertelli cosmetics, worked for the Fiorucci fashion brand as image director, and later at Deborah cosmetics as marketing director. “For me, it was important to build here.”

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Three decades later, Collistar is thriving, with 193.5 million euros in volume in 2011, or about $255 million at current exchange. It has been owned by the Bolton Group since 1993.

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Product origin is paramount to the brand’s identity: from the outset, Collistar was exclusively Made in Italy, conceived at the headquarters in the research and development department and produced in collaboration with specialized partners throughout northern Italy.

“I always thought it was a shame that the name doesn’t sound Italian,” Sacerdote observed, “but the fact that [the brand] was Made in Italy — I definitely wanted that to be clear.”

The Milan native noted that most cosmetics companies in the Eighties labeled packages in French or English, but Collistar used Italian labeling with English and French as subtitles. The company still relies on Italian labels, although with international expansion it became necessary to include leaflets in a wide range of languages, which total 18 today, including Arabic and Russian.

Originally limited to make-up and a handful of eye creams, Collistar seized on an opening in the market for products that targeted specific problem areas of the body, and in 1985 began developing creams for the stomach, legs, breasts, hands and face, in addition to a range of anticellulite capsules, which it initially struggled to sell.

“The first year that we came out with them, we barely sold anything,” Sacerdote said. “It was a trauma. The year after that, we came out with a cream sold alongside the capsules, and from then on, the capsules sold well.”

Today, 60 percent of the business is skin care and 40 percent makeup. In Italy, Collistar has been the top-selling brand for 10 consecutive years in terms of volume, and currently accounts for 16 percent of skin care; 21.7 percent of body care; 57.5 percent of anti-cellulite products; 50.3 percent of exfoliants; 31 percent of men’s grooming products; 35.7 percent of sun care products; 49 percent of self-tanners and 13 percent of make-up sales, according to The NPD Group market research firm.

Collistar was first available outside Italy in 1996, when it entered Malta and Portugal. Exports now make up 34 percent of Collistar’s business, and worldwide, the brand is present at 6,500 doors. The Netherlands is an important market, with 540 doors, and new areas include Poland (103 doors at perfumery Douglas) and Russia, where distributors L’Etoile and Exagone bring the door count to 820.

Collistar entered China last July, and is available in all 125 Sephora shops in the country. This year, 80 sales locations in Germany will carry Collistar for the first time through an agreement with Karstadt.

Sacerdote hopes some of the energy she has witnessed abroad will return to Italy, which has suffered from Europe’s prolonged economic crisis.

“Those are countries that are opening up,” she said. “There’s an effervescence and vitality that unfortunately doesn’t exist in Italy right now. I’d really love for this dynamism, this passion, this vitality to come back to us.”