NEW YORK — Last year, Ole Henriksen was on the verge of selling his company to Gurwitch Products, the parent company of Laura Mercier, which is itself partly owned by the Neiman Marcus Group. Although the deal fell apart at the 11th hour, Henriksen hasn’t had any regrets.
In fact, despite not having the deep pockets of a new backer, the Hollywood-based Henriksen has embarked on an aggressive expansion plan. Best known as the skin care specialist to the stars, Henriksen recently opened his second day spa in Santa Monica’s tony Shutters Hotel. Although the spa’s current digs there are temporary, a permanent space, designed by noted interior decorator Michael Smith, is currently under construction and scheduled to open Jan. 15.
Meanwhile, Henriksen has been busily opening new doors for his eponymous skin care range both in the U.S. and abroad. Sales are expected to almost double this year — the company posted a 2002 wholesale volume of $2.5 million, a figure Henriksen expects to hit $4.5 million this year.
“We’re very encouraged by early results,” said Shashi Batra, senior vice president of merchandising at Sephora, which launched the line earlier this year. “The line is simple, not particularly intensive in terms of stockkeeping units, and the ingredients are good, basic botanicals. He’s got a great spa with an incredible following and this is a natural extension of that. His credibility comes from his spa and celebrity following.”
Henriksen first launched his line in 2000 with 15 products, created out of his hands-on experience with the needs of his clients. Initially available only in his spa or by mail order, he dipped his toe into wider distribution during beauty’s Internet boom, launching the line on the now defunct site BeautyJungle.com. Although the online beauty business was short lived, the lesson Henriksen took away from it — that a wider customer base existed for his line — wasn’t.
In 2001, Henriksen experimented with retail distribution by launching in Robin Coe-Hutshing’s Studio at Fred Segal and a handful of indie beauty boutiques. Since then, he has been steadily expanding the product lineup and retail distribution. Today, the range consists of 37 products, ranging in price from $16 for a cleanser to $45 for an antiwrinkle cream.
This month, Henriksen is launching two new products: Black Currant Energizing Complexion Oil, a skin conditioner and brightener designed for cold weather, and Re-Start Anti-Aging Serum, a firming, reparative serum created to be used under a night cream. The brand’s packaging, created by graphic designer David Duarte, is clean, bright and has a modern sensibility — the products, for example, were recently featured on the cover of Wallpaper Magazine.
The line is currently distributed in 78 doors in the U.S., including Henri Bendel, Nordstrom, where Henriksen launched this fall in about 16 doors, and Sephora. Henriksen’s overseas strategy has been equally as targeted, with 159 doors in Europe, including Harvey Nichols, Magasin and Ludwig Beck; 25 doors in Asia, including Joyce Beauty and Lane Crawford, and a recent foray into Australia, where he opened in David Jones and Meyer and Grace Brothers.
“I’ve learned the retail business is not unlike the service business,” said Henriksen. “In retail, it’s imperative that you work with the staff to educate and inspire them, so they can establish a relationship with consumers and hopefully inspire them with the philosophy.”
The growth of the line reflects the drive of the Danish-born Henriksen, who grew up in a village of 2,700. He first became interested in skin care when he developed a severe case of cystic acne while living in Jakarta, Indonesia. An aesthetician there helped him overcome the problem, and when he moved back to Europe, he headed to London to study skin care.
From there, Henriksen went to Los Angeles, where he was one of the few male aestheticians in a field dominated by women. In 1975, he set up his first spa in Beverly Hills, charging $20 for a facial. Today, Henriksen occupies a 4,500-square-foot space on Sunset Boulevard and charges $175 for a facial.
Even with a client roster that includes Charlize Theron and Renée Zellweger, the indefatigable Henriksen largely runs business operations by himself, handling all aspects of his company personally, from public relations to product formulations. “When Gurwitch approached me, I hadn’t been looking to sell my business and it was a fascinating opportunity to explore,” said Henriksen, whose upcoming travel schedule includes stops in northern Europe and Australia — all before Christmas. “But I came to realize I would work just as hard and have a different set of expectations to meet, with different pressures. What’s great about what I do now is that I’m able to do it on my terms.”