LONDON — After blissfully shaking up the spa industry with her irreverent sense of humor, Marcia Kilgore is about to unveil the funny — and less pricy — side of the bath-and-body category with a new venture, Soap & Glory.
The founder of the pioneering Bliss spa business will introduce the accessibly priced 12-unit line this month with a quirky retailing strategy. The collection entered high-end department store Harvey Nichols on Saturday, and it will then be rolled out to High Street pharmacy chain Boots the Chemists starting in August. Plans for an international launch have yet to be confirmed.
“[Harvey Nichols] is doing it to be groovy; I’m doing it for the prestige,” said Kilgore.
The brand is a take on a category that is typically represented either by low-priced lines bought by supermarket shoppers or by high-end prestige brands that have niche appeal.
“There are a lot of people like me who will not spend 20 pounds [$37] on a shower gel,” she said. “I don’t think many people do, since you’re just washing it down the drain.”
So, Kilgore decided to tackle the lower-to-middle end of the market with products she believes bring an element of fun and add value to what can often be a purely functional purchase.
“People choose mass or class, and there’s not that much in the middle. We all know body-care products above a certain price point don’t sell,” she said. “I went about putting together a designer niche with a fun element at a price point that people will [be willing to pay] for that type of product.”
Soap & Glory items are priced in the U.K. from 4.5 pounds, or $8.30 at current exchange, to 9 pounds, or $16.60.
Kilgore tapped Britain’s infamous tabloids for inspiration when creating the line, after seeing a headline reading “Celebrity Disaster,” referring merely to a sweat stain on a well-known personality’s outfit. “Tabloids can help people escape from their own bad day and give them a laugh,” she said. “It’s the same for a spa experience. I was looking to create a product that could carry people away and give them a laugh.”
Soap & Glory’s packaging, created with designer Kim Biggs, is splashed with product names and information written like sensational headlines. For example, the label for a deodorant dubbed Sweat Banned reads: “Stunning Development! Heroic deodorant holds on up to 24 hours to keep Sweat Banned.” A foaming body cleanser, called Foam Call, has the grabby tag line: “Your key to personal power could be in your shower. Get what you want with one simple Foam Call.”
Kilgore said the line’s entertainment value is what she deems its “so what factor,” or what sets it apart from other brands.
“There are a million shower gels and soaps out there,” she said. “The question was how to make it entertaining. The entertainment on the packaging is the free prize — it’s gift-with-purchase from a mass perspective.”
While Kilgore has used comedy as a selling point before, her Soap & Glory brand of wit pushes the envelope a little further, with names such as Sexy Mother Pucker for a plumping lip gloss and One Night Tanned for a self-tanning spray.
And it is that sense of fun that’s winning plaudits from retailers here. “Soap & Glory adds the fun element back into beauty,” said Daniela Rinaldi, perfumery and concessions controller at Harvey Nichols. “Harvey Nichols are delighted to launch the range exclusively in [our] Beyond Beauty [department], as the fit is perfect — mirroring our love of the tongue-in-cheek and our desire to bring the newest, most innovative products to our stores.
“We feel the range will really speak to customers, as it has ‘personality,’ the price points are great and, most importantly, all the products work,” she continued. “With product names such as One Night Tanned and The Scrub of Your Life, what’s not to love?”
Soap & Glory also offers a range of gift sets, and up to a dozen additional stockkeeping units will be introduced in April. Kilgore declined comment on sales projections. However, industry sources estimate Soap & Glory will generate sales of 3 million to 4 million pounds, or $5.5 million to $7.4 million, at retail in its first year.
Kilgore created Bliss in 1996 when she opened a spa in New York’s SoHo neighborhood that quickly became a pampering hot spot. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton took a majority stake in the business in 1999 and later sold its holding to Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2004.
Kilgore has continued to consult on product creation for Bliss since the LVMH acquisition and has created a London-based consultancy called Brand Handling. Soap & Glory is one of a number of projects she’s working on.
“The worst thing in the world would be to find out I’m a one-hit wonder,” she said, in reference to following on from her Bliss success. “That, and being bored, are the two big fears of my life.”