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Saje Natural Wellness Initiates U.S. Expansion Effort

The Canadian essential-oils specialist is planning to open 30 stores in the country within the next year and 150 stores within the next five years.

Long before today’s boom in essential oils, Saje Natural Wellness was cultivating a brand in Canada touting their health benefits, and now it’s ready to bring its message to the United States.

The company will open its first U.S. store on Nov. 21 in the Malibu Country Mart followed shortly by a second store in the Los Angeles area at Westfield Valencia Town Center. The openings are the start of a massive expansion effort expected to spread 30 Saje units in the U.S. within the next year, including a New York location in 2017, and 150 units over the next five years.

“We always had plans to grow this into a larger business because we always wanted to make our products accessible to a larger group of consumers,” said chief executive officer Kate Ross LeBlanc, who founded Saje with husband Jean-Pierre LeBlanc. “People more and more are interested in preventative measures, looking out for themselves and having their families use natural solutions.”

Preparing for its U.S. debut, Saje, a 24-year-old Vancouver-based brand pronounced sage, underwent a rebranding five years ago. Ross LeBlanc explained the purpose of the revamp was to elevate the packaging to reflect the purity of the ingredients in Saje’s products and to foster holistic environments in its stores. The firm Jennifer Dunn Design assisted in developing Saje’s store design featuring oak flooring, a living plant wall and a mounted copper seal.

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“We worked together to reimagine the stores to stand up against stores all over the world,” said Ross LeBlanc. Turning to the products, she added, “If you think about traditional products that you might find in a health food store, you might hide them away in your bathroom and you might not display them on your counter, and I always thought it was a real opportunity for natural products to stack up against beauty products.”

Saje’s product assortment contains some 500 stockkeeping units with an average price of $22 for essential-oil and personal-care offerings. Among the bestsellers are $59.95 Pocket Farmacy kit with five essential-oil remedies aimed at stress, pain, immunity, headaches and digestion, $9.95 Liquid Sunshine foaming hand soap and $12.95 Exotic deodorant. Saje’s plant-derived formulas are completely natural.

In the U.S., Saje is placing stores at a mix of malls, lifestyle centers and high streets. To identify appropriate real estate, Saje explored potential neighboring retailers. “We have quite a matrix of brands, everything from Lululemon to Nordstrom to Apple to Tiffany. We look at where SoulCycles are popping up because they’re drawing really large communities that are share a similar-minded consumer,” said Ross LeBlanc.

Saje has perfected its retail recipe at 45 stores across Canada. Inside the stores, it fosters a customer-service approach characterized by interaction and application. “We find out how you are feeling and how we can help you feel better, and actually get product on you,” said Ross LeBlanc.

The stores are registering double-digit percentage increases in comp-store sales and generate $2,000 to $4,000 in annual sales per square foot in Canadian dollars or $1,497 to $2,995 at the current exchange rate, according to Ross LeBlanc. Last year, privately held Saje’s revenues topped $50 million, and it’s on track to advance them 50 percent this year.

Although Saje is new to the U.S. with physical locations, 15 percent of its e-commerce business comes from the country. And it’s entering a territory in which essential oils aren’t a foreign concept. Utah direct-selling companies espousing essential oils such as Young Living and doTerra have been growing rapidly. According to a global estimate provided by Saje, the present $6 billion essential-oil segment is forecast to reach $14 billion by 2024.

Even before removing the façade on its inaugural location in the U.S., Saje is already considering stretching beyond North America. Ross LeBlanc named Hong Kong, Australia and the U.K. as potential targets for its retail. She said, “Our mission is to connect people to the healing power of plants and to make a mark on global wellness.”