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United Perfumes’ Niche Strategy

Founded in 2007, United Perfumes plans to build a distribution business in the U.K. and Europe focusing on a handful of independent beauty brands.

LONDON — A new player is aiming to make it big on the niche beauty scene.

Founded in 2007, United Perfumes plans to build a distribution business in the U.K. and Europe focusing on a handful of independent beauty brands.

“We’re looking to build brands that have a story and a personality — something that shines through the product,” said Laurent Delafon, who, with United Perfumes co-founder Christopher Yu, previously handled Diptyque’s distribution in the U.K. and Ireland. “The products have to be unique — something really different that means we’re able to grow the brand and make it work.”

The company’s first signing was L.A.-based candle and fragrances line Apothia, by Apothia at Fred Segal founder Ron Robinson.

“Apothia is unashamedly contemporary,” said Delafon, adding in the U.K. it’s carried in stores including Harvey Nichols, Liberty and The Shop at Bluebird.

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It also bowed in stores in France, Belgium and Germany last month and will be rolled out to doors in Italy later this year.

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United Perfumes has also taken on European distribution for bath-and-body collection Olivina, which was founded by food writer Susan Costner-Kenward and inspired by ingredients found in Napa Valley.

“It’s for the entire family,” said Delafon.

“We’re about the health and well being of the skin,” said Costner-Kenward. “I want people to be able to use them everyday.”

The line’s pricing is meant to reflect that utilitarian positioning — a 500-ml. bottle of body lotion sells for 17.95 pounds, or $35.73 at current exchange. The brand bowed in The Conran Shop stores and Liberty in London, and in stores in France and Belgium last month.

United Perfumes also handles U.K. distribution for scented candles by Cire Trudon, a French manufacturer founded in 1643, which includes the court of Louise XIV among its past clients. The line of 12 candles is carried in the U.K. at Liberty, Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie at Harrods, Brown’s and Petersham Nurseries.

“We won’t sell to a store unless we’ve visited it,” said Delafon. “It’s very time consuming, but what we’re after is not just to sell product but to build relationships.”

With that model in mind, Delafon and Yu aim to restrict their portfolio to a limited number of lines. With distribution contracts for four to five brands, industry sources estimate United Perfumes would generate turnover in the region of 2 million pounds, or about $4 million, within two to three years.

Maintaining a boutique approach to the business, Delafon and Yu said they believe they can tailor a bespoke strategy for each brand, relay feedback from the shop floor and participate in product development.

“We can’t just use one structure for every brand,” said Yu, adding United Perfumes could eventually take on larger brands as well as niche players. “We have a very old-fashioned approach,” added Delafon. “It’s all about service.”