What began as a small flame is turning into something of a bonfire.
Since being acquired by Manzanita Capital Ltd. in 2005, Diptyque has evolved from a brand best known for its scented candles — Baies is a perennial favorite among the style set — into a burgeoning lifestyle company specializing in everything from scents to skin care to stationery.
Founded in 1961 by Christiane Gautrot, an interior designer; Desmond Knox-Leet, a painter, and Yves Coueslant, a theater director and set designer, Diptyque started life as a stylish shop on Paris’ chic Boulevard Saint-Germain. At the time of its acquisition a decade ago, the brand had expanded into a well-regarded collection of scented candles and sales were reportedly about $10 million at retail.
Over the last four years, Diptyque has significantly broadened its reach — both in terms of product categories and retail outlets — and its sales. According to industry estimates, the brand now generates about $40 million in retail sales and is projected to grow 20 percent this year.
Its growth reflects the strength of the home-fragrance category overall. According to The NPD Group, in the prestige beauty market, home ancillaries represent a small but vibrant niche. For the 12 months ending July 2015, sales in the category grew 34 percent, driven by the luxury market and brands like Diptyque, Nest Fragrances and Jo Malone.
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“Growth in the last years has come from a right balance between new products and innovation both in the home and fragrance segments, together with strong animations to continue to push forward our products,” said Fabienne Mauny, global managing director at Diptyque, who declined to comment on the figures, but noted sales have quintupled in the last four years.
Key to its growth is the company’s store expansion. Four years ago, Diptyque only had three company-owned boutiques in the U.S. By 2016, it will have a total of 15, including most recent openings in Houston and its first outpost in Bal Harbour. The company is also eyeing real estate in Canada.
“We do a lot of research [before entering a new territory],” said Donna DiDonato, U.S. managing director. “We often start off with a wholesale account to see what the market will bear.”
The brand is also accelerating its department store presence. Currently, Diptyque is sold in more than 150 doors in the U.S., including Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Nordstrom. DiDonato said the strategy is to develop the brand in what it considers the best doors worldwide, rather than opening too many new ones with limited potential. “[We want these retailers] to be branded with our concepts so consumers get the true Diptyque experience,” she said.
Barneys, which launched Diptyque more than 20 years ago, is still behind the brand. “It continues to be an incredibly strong business for us,” said Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s at Barneys New York. “And it’s one of our top brands, particularly for candles.”
“Diptyque has had significant growth over the past few years,” agreed Kate Oldham, senior vice president of beauty at Saks Fifth Avenue, noting that each of the line’s distinctive fragrances offers a unique storytelling opportunity with which to engage shoppers.
And Diptyque is looking beyond the U.S. By the end of this year, the company will have 36 stand-alone stores worldwide. In June, the company opened a store in Madrid, marking its first venture in Spain. Asia is also beckoning, with a store set to open in Tokyo this month in the Tamagawa mall, and outlets in Nagoya, Japan, and a second Tokyo locale in 2016. “On top of this Japanese extension, we will open our first flagship in Mainland China in October, in Shanghai’s Plaza 66,” Mauny said.
As Diptyque expands its footprint, it’s also growing its number of product categories. In the last year, the company has launched eight scents and six lifestyle items, such as stationery and candleholders. In October, it will unveil its first oud scent called Oud Palao, priced at $145. Inspired by Gautrot’s love of zellige, which is Moroccan terra-cotta tilework, the scent’s composition is governed by similar principles as the artisanal architecture and blends Bulgarian rose, Laotian oud, Indian cypriol, Madagascan vanilla and Indonesian patchouli.
“It’s always very challenging to convince loyal customers to try [new innovations], because the candle has been there for years,” said Myriam Badault, marketing and creative director at Diptyque. “You have to explain and teach and give them a way to use those [new] devices.”
Although fragrance is currently driving growth, Diptyque’s skin- and body-care assortment, called L’Art du Soin, has been a harder sell. It launched in March 2014 and prices range from about $55 to $72. According to Badault, it has taken time to communicate the benefits of the line, which is based on various botanical infusions, to consumers. She added that there would be new products in September 2016 that will be focused more on treatment.
“We have chosen to launch this line in a very limited distribution, knowing that it would take time to build this totally new category,” Mauny said. “We continue to heavily sample it and we have also developed a travel offer to allow customers to discover the range in a different way.” The travel set sells for $75.
Diptyque is also looking to add new categories and grow its lifestyle range called La Collection 34, which is inspired by the company’s first storefront in Paris.
“We have started working on prints and decorative objects,” said Mauny, ticking off the many new products currently being launched. “We have proposed photophores [Diptyque-speak for candleholders] in metal, ceramic and glass, with different prints and designs. We have also developed a new stationery line including cards, wrapping paper, notebooks, all reinterpreting the house’s historical prints.”
As with the brand’s distinctive diffusers, which are striking, hourglass-shaped objects, Diptyque continues to push the envelope design-wise. “We are experimenting in the development of objects in wax, like vases for flowers, or new objects in ceramic,” Mauny said. “Our goal is to continue in this lifestyle direction.”
And therein lies the rub. Succeeding at that mission will be critical for growth. “The key to the brand is that it’s a lifestyle company,” DiDonato said. “We have a strong penetration in the world of fragrance and we are not just a home brand. The other piece that is incredibly important is for us to represent ourselves in all categories, in all of our wholesale accounts and treat ourselves much like a beauty brand.”