Raymond Cloosterman strives to make the mundane memorable. Cloosterman is the creator and force behind Rituals, the Amsterdam-based beauty brand whose philosophy of melding mind, body and spirit with everyday actions such as bathing, is driving rapid growth of the 15-year-old company.
This story first appeared in the August 12, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“We are living life on automatic pilot; we forget what it is to enjoy the little things,” said Cloosterman, who sat down to talk with WWD in Paris and New York. “With our approach, we can help people create small moments of happiness for themselves again — hence changing routines into rituals.”
For Cloosterman, a former Unilever executive, that approach has led to significant returns. Rituals, whose first boutique opened in Amsterdam in 2000, is in high-paced expansion mode, with retail sales expected to grow about 30 percent this year (a similar level to 2014’s gains). While Cloosterman would not talk numbers, industry sources estimate the brand will generate 400 million euros, or $441.8 million at current exchange, in retail revenues in 2015.
Part of what’s bolstering business is Cloosterman’s multichannel distribution approach. Rituals is sold in more than 400 freestanding stores in 22 countries, as well as department store shops-in-shops and perfumeries, with more than 1,400 doors; travel retail, including airports, airlines and 75,000 hotel rooms, and e-commerce, which rings up 6 percent of overall company business and could comprise 20 percent of sales in the next five to 10 years.
“We are strong believers that this could be the channel that brings all the others together,” said Cloosterman.
This year, Rituals is slated to open 75 new stores.
Among its most recent is a 666-square-foot shop at 24 Rue Vieille-du-Temple in Paris’ bustling Marais district, its first in France with four more to follow there this year.
Other recent openings include in Brazil and New York. In Manhattan, where it has two locations, Rituals plans to open five stores in the next 12 months, starting with Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, which opened on July 15, and then on the Upper East Side in September. Meanwhile, openings in Dubai and Australia are slated for this summer.
“Today, we open one or two new stores each week somewhere in Europe,” said Cloosterman, adding that 80 percent of them are company-owned.
The company’s largest markets are The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. Germany is showing tremendous growth (and is expected soon to be number one), and Sweden, Norway and Switzerland are registering strong consumer response.
Another vector of growth is product novelty, particularly in the gifting sector. Rituals, whose products tap into ancient Eastern traditions like Hammam steam baths, has approximately 400 stockkeeping units and introduces about The Hammam line. 200 new items each year.
On the product front, each Rituals universe, such as Hammam, Ayurveda and Ancient Samurai, has products for the bath, body and home in the same olfactive register. The latter, for instance, gives a nod to the perfectly groomed Japanese emperors of yesteryear, with formula ingredients including bamboo, ginger and basil.
“We are not a real cosmetics brand,” said Cloosterman. “We are building a luxury-lifestyle brand. We’re here to make you feel special from a lifestyle perspective.”
And that’s with accessible price points. In France, a shower foam is 8 euros, or $8.85; body cream, 15.50 euros, or $17.10, and fragrance sticks, 23.50 euros, or $26.
More recently, the company launched color cosmetics, which Cloosterman said is doing well in Europe and starting to gain traction in the U.S., where it launched in January. “It’s about 10 to 15 percent of our business,” he said. “For the U.S. it’s still pretty new.”
Alongside beauty products, Rituals also sells washing-up liquid, teas, bathrobes and towels. “These are categories which are normally not bought in department stores, and suddenly we are able to help them open up these categories,” he said. “Business-wise, it’s a very interesting niche.”
Despite its success, Rituals faces challenges moving forward, including building a global beauty contender without multimillion-dollar funding.
“I got a lot of inspiration 15 years ago from brands like Starbucks, MAC and Ben & Jerry’s,” said Cloosterman. “They’ve become global brands without the traditional advertising budgets.”
When asked whether the plan is to keep Rituals private, Cloosterman said: “For the moment it is.” “My passion, together with the whole team, is to build the brands as far as we can in the next couple of years,” he said. “If you come to our stores on a busy Saturday, you see both men and women shopping,” Cloosterman continued. “You see them shopping for gifts and also for themselves. You see young people and old people. That was always my intention. I wanted to create products for a specific mind-set who enjoy life, but they’re also open to new things and that group is growing very fast.”