NEW YORK — H2O Plus has tapped a vital resource to ensure that the company moves to the next level: Robert Seidl.

The former president and chief executive officer of Zotos International (the hair care division of Shiseido U.S.) joined the global retailer and manufacturer in the same capacity last fall, charged with implementing and executing a more aggressive growth strategy, and expanding H2O Plus’ brand awareness.

With Seidl on board, Cindy Melk, the company’s founder and creative director, will leave the firm in good hands while she’s on maternity leave, and when she returns, she will focus on developing the company’s sea-derived skin care, spa and color cosmetics products.

Seidl also will use his broad operations background to oversee 89 global stores (13 in the U.S.) and distribution in accounts such as Nordstrom and Marshall Field’s. He expects the firm’s sales to increase 20 percent, to $120 million, by yearend. Similar increases are earmarked for 2007.

“In my mind, it’s all about building business. That’s where you drive a lot of gratification. To get that, you need to create and sustain meaningful growth,” Seidl said, explaining his two-part growth plan: The first step is building brand awareness by trial, the second, building distribution.

H20 Plus is in negotiations with a hotel chain to take the company into the amenities business — and about 35,000 hotel rooms by yearend. Also, this month, a partnership with United Airlines will put Hydrating Body Butter, Face Oasis Hydrating Treatment, Lip Mender and Sea Salt Body Wash into the hands of 3 million to 4 million potential customers internationally each year. Seidl is also pursuing a relationship with a national health club organization, a deal that could bring an overall H2O Plus trial to about 30 million product samples annually.

Sample by trial ties back to expanding distribution.

“If we’re getting all of these people to try it, we need to give them an easy place to buy it,” Seidl said, adding that by the end of 2006, he will have increased H2O Plus product distribution by 500 doors, at traditional high-end retailers and specialty stores.

One-third of the company’s sales are generated internationally, and 80 percent of that number comes from Asia. A business partner in Hong Kong serves China and Japan, where the company has 200 points of distribution (one-third through company-owned stores and the rest through department stores). Products and stores are also in Thailand, Australia, Malaysia and India. Growth opportunities remain in Asia, as well as in Europe and Latin America.

This story first appeared in the June 16, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

New products are also on the horizon — a Face Oasis Energizing Enzyme Mask, Face Oasis Shine Neutralizing Gel, Energized Spa Collection (a trio of shower refreshers) and Sea Results Maximum Moisture Fluid SPF 30. Price points start at $16 for a body wash in the Energized Collection to $34 for the neutralizing gel.

Working for a privately held company “is a bit more relaxing” than his past jobs, Seidl said; at H20 Plus, he does not have to be consumed with short-term business performance. He also likes being in charge of a brand’s fate. “Cindy is terrific. She has given me complete control of the company,” Seidl said, who added he is looking to enhance the sales and marketing team he’s inherited. Headquarters, which consists of a main office, manufacturing and warehousing, takes up a city block in downtown Chicago, about three-quarters of a mile west of the Sears Tower. “We’re in a hot area of the city.”

Seidl, who left Shiseido in March 2005 after seven years for various reasons — ranging from wanting to get back into charity work to spending more time with his family — will relocate to Chicago in August.

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