Industry Talks: Clarins Group Managing Director Olivier Courtin

Clarins Group Managing Director Olivier Courtin


Clarins Group Managing Director Olivier Courtin tells BW Confidential how he sees the state of the beauty market, from Europe to China

How do you see the performance of the market?

It varies depending on the region. Europe is seeing weak growth, and some markets, such as the UK for example are difficult for a number of reasons, including the cost of living, the value of sterling and the many changes in the distribution landscape there. However, other countries such as Spain are performing very well. In Spain, for the past three to four years, Clarins has been the number-one brand in skincare, and we are gaining market share.

In Asia, we are seeing good growth in many markets. In China we are growing, even though at the beginning of the year the market was negative due to the Covid situation. The months of June and July were tough, but we had a good performance in August and September, and we will probably finish the year in China at +10%. We hear a lot about the slowdown in China, but we are still seeing growth. Although there is a trend where there are no longer the very high growth rates of 30% or more. But China is still a country where we can grow strongly and is an important market for us, as are Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in Asia.

Travel retail has suffered enormously, due to the decline in Chinese travelers. And those Chinese who are traveling are buying less, partly because the currency is weaker. We do not know when the Chinese will return to travel, but when they return their behavior will likely be different and they may spend less.


Given the increased regulatory risk and slower-than-expected recovery in China, how are you dealing with the growing complexity of operating in this market?  

Yes, the market is complex, especially in terms of regulation, which takes a lot of time and investment, but it is not insurmountable. If we want to be present in a country where there is growth and where there is very strong consumer interest in cosmetics, we need to invest. We also need to remember that there are many other countries where there are also a lot of regulatory hurdles.


How do you plan to boost your position in the US?

Our strategy today is to boost the US, which continues to see strong growth. Today the US represents around 12% of business, but we would like this to increase. We plan to over-invest in the US, which means a big investment in media, especially digital media. The US market has changed enormously – the department stores no longer dominate, and Sephora and Ulta have taken key positions, along with digital. We think we can have a more profitable business there. We will generate growth of around 5% to 7% in the US.

We also launched on Amazon in the US earlier this year – we are among the first brands to do so. We are very satisfied with this business. The US market is growing, and Amazon is seeing very strong growth, so you cannot not be [in that channel].

We will probably finish the year in China at +10%. We hear a lot about the slowdown in China, but we are still seeing growth

Clarins Group Managing Director Olivier Courtin

The prices of beauty products have increased over the past two years. How far do you see this trend going and is there a risk of alienating consumers?

There is a limit when it comes to price, and it seems that some brands are going beyond this limit. We raised our prices, but not by a lot, especially compared with the rest of the market. For example, we raised our prices by around 5% compared with an increase of around 17% at some other companies.

Today in Europe and in France in particular, volumes are decreasing, but value sales are increasing. In volume [the market] is around -3% and in value it is +5%. And this is even despite the fact that some lower-priced products that have come onto the market.


How has Clarins’ high-end line Precious performed?

Precious is a line that was developed primarily for the Asian market and for China in particular. We invested a lot in specific corners and in in-store spas and it works very well, and now accounts for 12% of our sales offline and 6% online there. We have also launched it in the US, although the results are not at the same level as in Asia.


What are your plans for the myBlend brand, which was relaunched in 2022?

For myBlend we are focusing essentially on Europe, especially France, but also on the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, as well as Canada. In 2025, we may launch in other countries. Today the brand is in 43 points of sale. In terms of distribution, we have our own store, but we will work mainly with quality perfumeries, hotels and medi-spas, as well as digital.


Your family’s private investment firm recently took a stake in skincare brand Pai Skincare and clean make-up brand Ilia Beauty. What are your plans for these brands and are you looking for further acquisitions?

We plan to develop these brands. Internationally, Ilia is a very strong brand in the US – it is in the top three in Sephora in the US. The brand does around €110m and we will continue to push it in the US, and also develop it in Europe with Sephora. Pai is a different brand – it is much smaller, and we will develop it also in the UK and in France. In terms of acquisitions, yes, we would like to add another brand in skincare.