PARIS — French beauty giant L’Oréal reported consolidated sales for 2003 of $17.69 billion at current exchange rates, or 14 billion euros, down 1.8 percent year on year.

This story first appeared in the January 22, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

At constant group structure and exchange rates, L’Oréal’s sales rose 7.1 percent.

Currency fluctuations for the year amounted to minus 9 percent, and the net impact of changes in the scope of consolidation was flat.

Analysts say the results were in line with expectations.

Lindsay Owen-Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of the firm, said in a statement: “In 2003, thanks to further market share gains, L’Oréal was able to maintain a growth rate very close to the average achieved over the past 10 years, despite an exceptionally unfavorable economic climate. These figures mean that we can confirm our targets for the annual results.”

By division, L’Oréal’s professional products sales rose 8.6 percent; its consumer products business increased 7.7 percent; its luxury products sales climbed 4.2 percent, and its active cosmetics business grew 11.9 percent in the period.

By region, L’Oréal clocked a 4.9 percent sales gain in Western Europe, with “strong increases” in some markets such as Great Britain, whose business was up 12.5 percent, and Spain, with an uptick of 11.6 percent. In North America, growth hit 6 percent, “higher than the rates achieved in the previous two years, in a market that remains highly competitive,” the company said.

L’Oréal registered growth of 69.3 percent in China, primarily due to Maybelline. In Central and Eastern Europe, a bustling business resulted in a 26.2 percent sales gain. Russia posted a sales rise of 38.8 percent, and India, 33.4 percent.

For the fourth quarter of last year, L’Oréal registered sales of $4.4 billion, or 3.48 billion euros, up 0.9 percent year on year.

L’Oréal will publish its profits on Feb. 20.

— Jennifer Weil

Marionnaud Sales Rise

PARIS — Marionnaud Parfumeries announced fourth-quarter 2003 pretax consolidated sales of $456.6 million, or 369.5 million euros, up 5.6 percent over the same period in 2002. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange rates. For full year 2003, the French perfumery chain topped the billion-euro mark, ringing up sales of $1.29 billion, or 1.05 billion euros, up 8.6 percent year-on-year.

The 1,225-door chain generated sales of $423.6 million, or 342.8 million euros, outside France — an increase of 25.6 percent over 2002, the firm said in a statement.

In other news, the firm said it’s working on a franchise deal with Russian perfumery chain Arbat Prestige. Under terms of the agreement, Arbat Prestige’s 14 doors, ranging in size from 37,674 to 53,820 square feet, will be renamed Marionnaud Parfumeries. However, the French perfumery chain has made no investments in Russia as part of the arrangement, the firm said in a statement. In 2003, Arbat Prestige rang up sales of about $220 million.

Marionnaud also has acquired a new boutique, in Belluno, Italy. It said it is also in negotiations in Spain but didn’t provide further details.

— Brid Costello

Ojon Launching Hair Care

NEW YORK — Hair care startup Ojon Corp. is hoping a palm nut oil from deep in the Central American rain forest will be a key to success for its first product — Ojon Restorative Hair Treatment.

Ojon, which is also the name of the tree bearing the nut that yields the treatment’s core ingredient, will introduce the deep restorative treatment in late February. After an initial launch in 12 to 15 Nordstrom doors, Ojon executives are targeting 1,150 salons, spas and retail stores for a rollout during the next 18 months. Industry sources estimate the item could generate $5 million to $7 million in retail sales once it reaches full distribution.

“We wanted to tell a story that’s been hidden for 500 years,” said Denis Simioni, president of Ojon Corp. He was referring to the Miskito Indians — the indigenous inhabitants of Central America’s Mosquitia region — who are said to have been using Ojon palm nut extract as a hair treatment for the last half-millennium. The population is also called Tawira, or “tribe of beautiful hair,” Simioni noted.

Ojon Restorative Hair Treatment, priced at $55 for 5 oz., is designed to hydrate and replenish oils in damaged, color-treated or processed hair. It can be applied to either towel-dried tresses or wet hair as a leave-in conditioner.

Simioni, who also owns an advertising firm that has hair and skin care clients, learned of the palm nut extract five years ago when his mother-in-law, who is Honduran, gave Simioni and his wife a jar of the dark brown paste. Though it sat in a drawer at length, Simioni’s wife — and now Ojon model — Silvana, eventually applied the extract and was pleased with the results.

After spending three years developing the treatment, Simioni is now teamed with a Honduran nonprofit organization called Mopawi, which acts as a liaison to the Miskito. He e-mails Mopawi, which, in turn, radios the Miskito in order to source the oil. A portion of Ojon profits will be donated back to the Miskito, Simioni said, a philosophy reinforced on the packaging, which states: “To help preserve their traditional lifestyle as well as the rain forests of the region.”

Simioni’s plans include the launch of an ultrahydrating shampoo and conditioner — both using Ojon palm nut oil as the key ingredient — in April.

— Matthew W. Evans