IN an economic slowdown, consumers tend to be more cautious in their spending. However, Australian beauty brand Aesop remains optimistic.
“We haven’t been affected. The economic downturn takes different victims every time, but there are those who are untouched. It is reasonable to say that for the majority of the time, we continue to grow,” said Suzanne Santos, who has been the spokesperson for Aesop since Dennis Paphitis founded the brand in 1987.
“On a global level, our prices are reasonable and our quality consistent. Our products’ efficacy speaks volumes. We don’t advertise so our business is built on word of mouth,” added Santos who was in Kuala Lumpur recently.
In February last year, Natura Cosmeticos SA, a Brazilian wellness and beauty company, acquired a 65% stake in Emeis Holdings Pty Ltd which handles the Aesop brand.
This allows the Brazilian company – which has a significant presence mainly in Latin America – to expand internationally and take Aesop into the Brazilian market.
“After working tirelessly for 25 years, Dennis made the decision to sell. The second signing of the deal in which Natura bought a majority stake in Aesop was on Feb 28 last year, so effectively, we’ve been training for a year under the new parent company,” said Santos, whose role is now country manager for Australia.
“There are no strategic changes and Aesop basically has a new owner with a majority share. Dennis is creative adviser to Aesop, and the company continues to be headed by the current CEO Michael O’Keeffe,” she said.
Known for its evocative aromas in its skin, hair and body products, Aesop operates 125 stores in 12 countries.
Local luxury beauty brands distributor, Kens Apothecary, introduced Aesop in Malaysia about 13 years ago.
According to Santos, given its new management structure, Aesop decided to consolidate its retail operations globally as it entered a new phase of growth, so the distributorship in Malaysia was taken back from Kens Apothecary last July.
“Aesop credits Kens Apothecary for its long standing support of the brand and making it one of the most recognisable skincare names in Malaysia,” said Santos.
In Malaysia, Aesop has two signature stores, one located at Pavilion KL and another in Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur, and a counter at 1 Utama shopping centre, Petaling Jaya. A third signature store opens at Bangsar Village, Kuala Lumpur this month, replacing its current counter.
Picking up on the residential feel of Bangsar Village’s vicinity, its key characteristic is louvres, a defining feature in the surrounding residential neighbourhood.
In a fully open position, the louvres form shelves, and it can be angled half open to provide light.
Local specialty of pastel shade layered cakes and faded shopfronts were the inspiration for the pale pink palette used for the louvres, and this is offset by a mid-grey concrete flooring.
Santos explained that the signature stores allowed the brand to assimilate into the particular city where it’s located, and the research work on the design concept is all done in-house.
According to Santos, the business in Malaysia has grown exponentially since the brand arrived 13 years ago, but “the awareness has not grown as deeply as I hoped.”
She pointed out that “Malaysia is one of the few locations where we have a very small male audience – male customers who actually visit our stores seeking our products – compared with Singapore or Tokyo”.
“The brand’s future plan, is to hopefully open more stores in Malaysia and also to return to Penang as we had a presence there earlier,” she concluded.