On Sept. 6, the six-year-old brand, which officially entered the market here a year ago with an e-commerce site, will launch on sephora.com. An assortment of Jo Loves products will enter 14 Sephora doors in key markets on Oct. 27. The products will include candles, fragrance and Malone’s trademarked Fragrance Paintbrush, which will also launch globally in tandem with the Sephora debut.
The move into Sephora is a significant one for Jo Loves not only because it indicates further expansion into the U.S. — it is also the brand’s first-ever partnership with a major brick-and-mortar retailer. Until now, Jo Loves has been distributed solely through its U.K. and U.S. e-commerce sites, a freestanding flagship store on London’s Elizabeth Street, on Net-a-porter and via a partnership with Emirates Airlines.
But for the entrepreneurial-minded Malone, whose first brand Jo Malone London was sold to The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc in 1999, prior to her departure from the brand in 2006. The growth strategy for her second baby is more slow and steady than fast and furious.
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“The web site was set up [last year] to lay the foundations for what we knew was to come, and to make sure the product was much more easily available,” said Malone of her brand’s expansion thus far into the U.S. “The business has been growing at the rate of knots [rapidly], but what we needed was a physical distributor — people needed to see the product.”
Malone said she chose Sephora as the brand’s first retailer here based on a gut instinct.“Sephora understands that when you take on entrepreneurial brands, the long-term is what matters, because they need to be nurtured. [Sephora is] not frightened of creativity and doing something differently,” she said. “When I created the Paintbrush, I knew they were the right partner for me. It was instinctive, like ‘Yep, it’s a Sephora thing — that’s where I want to be.”
The entry into Sephora is timed with the launch of her Fragrance Paintbrush — a paintbrush-style applicator that releases a scented gel formula meant to be used on any part of the body and more long-lasting than a spray.
Going into Sephora are the Fragrance Paintbrush and 50-ml. eaux de toilette in four scents, priced at $55 and $105, respectively — Pomelo [the brand’s best-selling scent], White Rose and Lemon Leaves, Red Truffle 21 and Green Orange and Coriander. Also entering the retailer are three scented holiday exclusive candles. Store locations include New York, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Seattle, all of which Sephora vice president and divisional merchandise manager of fragrance Brooke Banwart noted are high-volume locations for the category.
Of course, there is the elephant in the room — Jo Malone London is also sold in Sephora, a recent development as the brand continues its rapid expansion. Last year, WWD reported that it was the fastest-growing brand in The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. stable, and that it was primed to hit $1 billion in retail sales by the end of the year.
But Malone does not see her former brand as a competitor.
“I still love it and always will, but it doesn’t carry my creativity any longer,” said Malone of Lauder’s Jo Malone London. “Both sides have been very respectful of each other — we’ve gone in our own direction, but what is important for the consumer is that the consumer understands Jo the person and that the red dot on the box has my DNA in it and creativity.”
Creative is one way to describe Jo Loves — in her second incarnation as a brand founder, Malone is hyper-focused on product innovation and retail theater.
In her freestanding store on London’s Elizabeth Street, there are several pieces of evidence — from her patented Shot Candle station, where customers can cocktail their own candle creations with a “base” scent and “shot scent,” to the Fragrance Brasserie Bar with a “Fragrance Tapas Menu,” which lets customers test out different scents in unexpected ways.
These experiences won’t be easy to replicate in Sephora stores — that’s why freestanding stores are eventually on the horizon, Malone indicated. But growing brand awareness here, said Malone, is more important to her at this point than growing sales. “There’s no point in building a store if no one knows who you are — the point of all this is to build awareness first, and the fact that I am Jo with the red dot, not Jo with the black-and-cream box,” said Malone. “Gary [Willcox, chief executive officer of Jo Loves and Malone’s husband] and I have seen three or four [locations] that I’m really tempted by, but let’s create awareness first, the voice of the brand. Then when you open, those shops are going to be full.”
In the meantime, she has found a coveted audience for her soon-to-be-launched Paintbrush — even before she fully conceived of the idea, she tested it out using real paintbrushes as a fragrance delivery systems in her Elizabeth Street store. “What’s interesting is the Millennials — this young, creative generation coming out — have such a willingness to do something very different, the willingness to be part of the creation of their products rather than just the consumer,” said Malone. “They were coming out saying, ‘I don’t want to spray fragrance anymore, I want to use a paintbrush.’”
Malone said she is talks with other potential U.S. retailers and that global expansion within Sephora is also a possibility, but again — she is in no rush, turning her attention instead onto building that brand awareness and bringing in more product innovation. She was mum on what exactly her next launches will look like, but she promised that they will continue to be creative and experiential in nature. “I’m only interested in doing what I really believe in — bringing that experimental feel to the brand,” said Malone. “If I try to repeat what I did 30 years ago, life has moved on; people are different.”