Marion Bruimaud: “When I began it was not easy as we are not a traditional retail brand, but that became my challenge.”

Independently-owned natural cosmetics brand Laboratoire Nuxe is one of the great growth stories of the French skincare market over the past 25 years. It is only five years since it entered travel retail, but today it has its sights set firmly on international expansion, after laying an initial platform in Europe.

The brand was developed in the early 1990s by Aliza Jabès, after she took over a Parisian formulation laboratory, adding her own ethos of combining natural ingredients with the science of skincare. Today, Nuxe is the third biggest selling cosmetics group in French pharmacies (it is number one ranked in anti-ageing care in that channel) and is present across 20,000 outlets in 59 countries.

Importantly, all products are formulated and produced in France, from the company’s own R&D laboratory in the heart of Paris to a production facility in Brittany. Having its own chemistry and microbiology laboratory give it integrated control of all processes, says the company.

Central to the Nuxe story is Huile Prodigieuse, one of the first multi-purpose, multi-use oils to be created, one that can be applied to face, body and hair. With a following worldwide, a “love brand” in the company’s words, Huile Prodigieuse is the number one brand in its segment in five European countries: France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Poland.

In 2013, as Nuxe accelerated its expansion, the company identified travel retail as a strategic market, a good fit with what the company claims are its key advantages, “a luxury positioning at an accessible price point”. Trading in the channel began with Lagardère Travel Retail in France in 2013, and a year later with Gebr Heinemann in Germany, Denmark and Norway, as well as Dufry in Switzerland. Today a nine-strong sales and marketing team is led by Global Travel Retail Director Marion Bruimaud.

Laboratoire Nuxe fact file

Major launches 2018: The key addition is the new Crème Prodigieuse Boost (5 SKUs); also important was the avant-première of Aquabella (3 SKUs) in April.

Core travel retail distribution: Around 200 airport doors, 60 airline accounts (which sold 178,500 units in 2017).

Travel retail sales growth: Around +30% year-on-year in 2018 (YTD)

New travel retail locations 2018 (YTD)

  • France: Orly West
  • Spain: Madrid (x2), Malaga, Alicante, Barcelona
  • Portugal: Lisbon (second location)
  • Greece: Heraklion, Rhodes, Chania, Zakynthos
  • Turkey: Dalaman
  • Germany: Munich and Düsseldorf (4 locations)
  • Sweden: Stockholm Bromma
  • Malta
  • Bulgaria: Varna, Burgas
  • Morocco: Casablanca

She tells The Moodie Davitt Report: “When I began it was not easy as we are not a traditional retail brand, but that became my challenge. We began building up the business in Europe from that base with Lagardère Travel Retail, Heinemann and Dufry. They have opened the door to more natural, niche and affordable categories and to brands like Nuxe within them. Now we are present in almost all major airports in the region, and are targeting more.

“We have 200 doors currently in travel retail in Europe, and 230 if you also count ferries and cruise ships, which is also an attractive sector. We are also active onboard airlines, with more than 60 accounts, especially in Europe. The airline business brings strong brand awareness as well as sales.”

Huile Prodigieuse leads the company’s inflight business drive, which has been bolstered by international expansion through Qatar Airways in 2016 and last year with Air China and Hainan Airlines. More Chinese accounts are expected to follow in 2019.

Now the priorities include extending the footprint to the Middle East, Africa and Asia, notes Bruimaud. “We have opened with Dufry in Cairo and Morocco and are discussing further expansion in the Middle East.

“After Europe my firm target is Middle East and Africa, even if this takes more time. The Middle East is more fragrance-oriented and highly premium, but the market is open to new categories and we believe our offer will work.

“We are present in local markets through pharmacies, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Qatar and others, so the next step is travel retail. That base gives us strong local support to help with training and follow-up, so we have the ability and infrastructure to grow.”

She adds: “In the next couple of years I’d like to focus more heavily on Asia. We are just launching now on the Chinese local market with Sephora, we have new business in other local markets, so it represents an opportunity. Not only in ground shops but in the air too. In fact, if we can establish that inflight presence first, it can accelerate brand awareness.”

Expansion in the Americas will come later, perhaps led by Canada, through airlines and airport shops. Nuxe is a partner of Aer Rianta International in Ireland and hopes to make the step to the retailer’s North American business.

Nuxe Crème Prodigieuse: The major new line for travel retail in 2018.

Critical to the travel retail drive is the creation of channel-specific products. Nuxe has already created travel retail-exclusive pouches for duty free shops and airlines and exclusive sets with a skincare routine for ground shops.

Travel Retail Marketing Manager Cécile Gicquel says: “Exclusives are a big topic and we continue their development. Last year we launched a new franchise called Travel with Nuxe – three collections with different positioning and prices. The first was a ‘best of’ collection comprising shower oil, body lotion, crème, all the essentials really, priced at under €30. We have two others and want to focus more on inflight sets. We believe we could offer something exclusive for a single airline, and beyond that see potential in anti-ageing exclusives for duty free.

Nuxe is placing a big emphasis on tailored, channel-exclusive packaging for its core ranges.

“On top of this we are also a spa brand and well known for this in Europe. We could bring that expertise to this channel in the future.”

Bruimaud also says that the brand’s pricing options offer diversity to retailers. “We are keen to stretch the categories because the clients are very different in many places and travellers come from all markets. We have exclusives that range from €25 up to €80 for the anti-ageing line.”

In a crowded market, what’s the message to retailers about how Nuxe sets itself apart?

Cécile Gicquel: The development of travel retail exclusives will accelerate.

Bruimaud says: “Basically we are a bridge brand, halfway between pharmacy and natural premium, which is a good niche for travel retail. In the product range you have the balance between glamour, efficiency, science and nature. We are reactive, motivated for all requests, can develop bespoke lines for partners, trial things for a period of partnership and find solutions.

“If I was to note three key dynamics from our conversations at the Cannes show, it would be Chinese, Millennials and the importance of experiences. We can deliver on each of these to retailers and consumers.

“One other strength is that we are flexible on assortment or location. We can start in smaller spaces, in new outlets, to generate visibility, then move to a larger gondola once we prove ourselves. We are small but ready to invest with brand ambassadors, with promoters and we have great follow-up in terms of sell-out. We have 200+ doors in Europe so our approach works. That commitment is how challenge turns into opportunity.”

In sales and distribution terms, the brand has come a long way in the channel in five years, and continues to grow at strong double-digit rates, led by new openings. The next step is to consolidate recent growth and expand to new territories.

Bruimaud says: “We have grown at around +30% year-on-year in 2018, aided by many openings. It’s challenging to keep that pace up of course but we are ambitious, especially for new markets such as the Middle East.

“We will develop more relevant products and packaging, and tap into consumer desires for ready-to-use products such as single-sheet masks. We have many opportunities and have set ourselves big targets.”