Byline: Brid Costello

PARIS — Dipping a toe into Europe’s frenzied acquisitions climate, Groupe Clarins is taking a minority share in Provence, France-based L’Occitane.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Olivier Courtin-Clarins, managing director of Groupe Clarins, told WWD that Clarins and L’Occitane would likely cooperate on product development and marketing studies.
“We believe in the brand,” said Courtin-Clarins. “We respect its philosophy, its respect for its customers and the fact that its products are natural and plant-based.”
Clarins said that the L’Occitane partnership represents the first step in its strategy to take minority stakes in small- and medium-size businesses. The company disclosed those intentions at its annual analysts conference at the end of March.
Reinold Geiger, L’Occitane’s president, stressed that the Clarins investment would not impinge on the firm’s autonomy, adding that the deal with Clarins is meant to further develop the firm.
“We are fortunate to be a fast-developing company and that requires funding,” he said. “We had the choice between an investment firm and an industrial company, so we choose the industrial company.”
According to Geiger, sales in 2000 for the bath, body and beauty company were up 59 percent over the previous year at $50 million. He added that he expects a good increase in sales again this year, with a promising first-quarter up 50 percent on the same period in 2000. The firm operates some 220 stores around the world — half are owned by L’Occitane while the remainder are run by distributors or are franchised. A further 90 doors are set to open this year.
Meanwhile Courtin-Clarins said the deal opens up a new distribution window for the group.
“We believe in the increase of market interest in well-being stores,” he said. “Financially it’s very interesting and important for the future. [For Groupe Clarins] it means diversification in terms of distribution type.” To date, Groupe Clarins has been solely involved in department store and perfumery distribution.