NEW YORK — Burt’s Bees is on course to increase sales by 25 percent this year due to new retail accounts, a bevy of interesting products and a new chief executive officer who’s keeping true to the company’s natural positioning — and convincing retailers it’s in their best interest to take the category seriously, too.

John Replogle, who left Unilever’s skin care division earlier this year to lead Burt’s Bees, is homing in on retailers who are “committed to natural care” and willing to “dedicate their resources and carve out space within their existing personal care set” for a brand that can anchor the category.

He is making headway. Burt’s Bees is set to enter approximately 200 Ulta stores and 1,200 GNC stores in July and August.

The importance of health and wellness, and how these two factors are increasingly playing a prominent role in consumers’ lives, is what Replogle said will drive interest in the brand.

“More consumers are getting into this and I think natural is really going to blossom — across all categories of personal care,” he said.

Mike Indursky, Burt’s Bees chief marketing and strategic officer, said retailers call the company all the time asking to buy their products, but the brand is cautious about only partnering with those who are committed to the category. For now, Burt’s Bees is mostly found in prominent end caps, or “stand-alone hives” as Replogle said, in retailers such as Walgreens and CVS, as well as gift stores, boutiques and health food stores such as Whole Foods.

Including the new distribution set for this year, Burt’s Bees will be carried in about 22,000 doors nationwide. But Replogle and Indursky are working to get retailers interested in bringing the category in-line, along with other naturally positioned brands, such as Nature’s Gate and Jason, and even Aveeno in the mass world.

While consumers are definitely more receptive to trying brands such as Burt’s Bees these days — which avoid using synthetic foaming agents — getting the product in their hands is the best way to drive trial, even better than traditional advertising efforts, said Replogle.

“This is how they built the business,” he said, referring to Burt’s Bees founders Roxanne and Renee Quimby. “It’s all about trying them because once they smell the products and feel them they want to use them.”

This story first appeared in the June 9, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Following this logic, a nationwide tour is under way that brings the company’s 16 newest items — as well as its classics — into the hands of consumers in 30 markets across the country. Some of the items on the tour, which ship to stores in July and August, include Raspberry & Brazil Nut Shampoo and Conditioner ($7.99), Peach and Willow Bark Deep Pore Scrub ($7.99), Honey & Shea Butter Body Butter ($12.99) and a new face line incorporating royal jelly into formulas, called Radiance. The new line offers a Day Creme, a Night Creme and an Eye Cream, each of which will retail for $14.99.

Industry sources said the items could generate as much as $20 million in sales in their first year in stores, bringing overall company sales to $125 million for the year.

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