Kiehl’s Since 1851 is breaking new ground to mark its 165th anniversary.
This story first appeared in the March 30, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Rooted in skin-care innovation and proud of its penchant for service, the beauty chain is playing on its strengths with the launch of Kiehl’s Apothecary Preparations, a move aimed at tapping into the growing personalization trend.
“We had not done anything like this before,” said Cheryl Vitali, Kiehl’s worldwide general manager and a seven-year veteran.
The new Apothecary line consists of a collection of skin-care concentrates that are designed to deal with five skin concerns — redness, wrinkles, rough texture, large pores and dullness. The products are meant to be used in conjunction with an in-store skin analysis conducted by what the company calls a KCR, or a Kiehl’s customer representative. The customers are quizzed about their most pressing concerns and, based on the analysis, the top two problems are targeted.
Two skin-specific Targeted Complexes, or boosters, are picked out of the five available in the line and paired with a Skin Strengthening Concentrate, or base.
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The formula of the concentrate includes 35 percent Squalane and 20 percent of Skin Lipid Complex.
Geoffrey Genesky, Kiehl’s head chemist, said the ingredient blend of the concentrate base has been mixed to fortify, moisturize and protect the skin barrier.
The two boosters are meant to be mixed with the base concentrate at home, thus activating the mixture. The company cautions that the boosters are so potent that they cannot be applied to the skin directly without being mixed with the base.
The retail price of the three-item set is $95, and depending on rate of usage, one mixture can last up to six months, according to Vitali.
The line is designed for men and women and Vitali thinks customers will be drawn from Kiehl’s current base. “Part of our current customer base will be interested in this level of service,” she said. “But I think we will also get what I call ‘the involved age fighter.’
“This is very much for Boomers and Millennials who are starting their antiaging fight,” she said. “This is for people who are very engaged and interested in combatting some of these skin-care concerns.” She noted that both groups could be confronting the same problem, like redness.
“We are going to get new consumers to Kiehl’s because of two reasons,” she asserted. “One — this mind-set is pretty broad, pretty global. But also it’s a pretty unique proposition. If people haven’t been sure that Kiehl’s has something for them, this gives them a chance to revisit us.”
Asked what the new line will contribute to a market that already offers products targeted to the same maladies, Vitali said, “First of all, this is more targeted. You can buy products that address many issues, including the ones that we suggested, but not in this focused combination, and not with the level of efficacy and concentration we have. I have to point to the service piece as well,” she said, underscoring the value of the consultation process, during which the customer’s worries can be brought into focus.
“Personalization is a growing trend, whereby customers are seeking products ‘just for me.’ This customer wants to be engaged in the conversation, wants to be part of determining the best solution for themselves,” Vitali continued. “Apothecary Preparations is driven by an assessment between the customer and KCR — not by a device. The customer’s participation is a key dimension of our personalization service.”
The Apothecary line will make its debut in Kiehl’s New York flagship in Greenwich Village in April, then follow up in London at Harrods in May and with a San Francisco exclusive in Neiman Marcus in June. The same month, there will be a European rollout in France, Spain, Italy and Germany. Distribution will expand into Asia in the fall.
Vitali estimates that the Apothecary collection will be available in 150 doors around the world by the time the first phase ends in mid-2017. By the time the second phase ends in mid-2018, the number is expected to grow to 300 doors. Europe, including the Eastern Bloc, has been fertile territory, and so has China.
The distribution is out of a global total of 1,550 doors worldwide, 25 percent of them in the U.S. Vitali stressed that not every door is suitable for the new line. “It will be where we think the customer fit is, and then we have to have the right level of service and in-store presence. Consultation is required,” she said, noting that the store has to be able to accommodate a detailed discussion.
Kiehl’s, a subsidiary of global industry leader L’Oréal, does not break out sales projections, and Vitali declined comment when asked about the new line’s prospects. But industry sources estimate that Apothecary Preparations could generate 15 million euros, or $16.9 million at current exchange, in the first year after the line is fully rolled out in the first phase. As for the total business on a global basis, industry sources estimate Kiehl’s generates sales of about $1 billion a year worldwide. Executives had no comment.
Speaking of the wider significance, Vitali prefaced her answer by saying, “We definitely have been building the perception of Kiehl’s as a skin-care expert and that has been very important to our success. This allows us to take and elevate the personalized skin-care service to really cement our expertise in skin care. The other thing, which is really important, it allows us to extend directly from our apothecary heritage.”
Chris Salgardo, president of Kiehl’s USA, noted, “As a brand that consistently creates unique and efficacious products, we’re looking forward to offering our customers this new, interactive experience.”
Vitali summed up the opportunity: “We are very much expecting it will help bring new customers to Kiehl’s. We don’t advertise; we rely on word of mouth. This will give us a lot of visibility to people who maybe don’t know us but may want to revisit us.”