Philip Clough, Kiehl's president since July 2003, says of the L'Oreal-owned brand that-unlike a lot of cosmetics that talk to a limited population-Kiehl's "is a brand for all seasons and all people."
Mr. Clough, 44, has supported that belief recently with a raft of new products and initiatives that span genders and generations, and not in a one-size-fits-all way. His long tenure in L'Oreal's professional products division working with hairstylists taught him a thing or two about customer service. And it's paid off.
Double-digit gains this year have come from a number of different sources. For the relaunch of Kiehl's 10-year-old baby line, events featuring baby book author Dr. Harvey Karp were held for expectant or new mothers in Kiehl's stores and specialty retailers. Those events, together with the sampling program that is the cornerstone of Kiehl's philosophy, have helped double the size of the baby business. The company eschews traditional advertising for its public relations and sampling programs.
Similar success surrounded the launch last October of the Abysinne anti-aging cream intended to boost Kiehl's skincare offerings to a demographic looking for recourse to dermatological procedures. Now expanded into eye cream and lotion, the Abysinne line represents roughly 10% of Kiehl's overall business. Kiehl's many fans among magazine and newspaper editors spread the word of the creams, drawing multiple sellouts and lines out the doors.
Kiehl's has also capitalized more than most of its competitors on the growth in the men's cosmetics market, as its gender-neutral packaging and brand heritage of motorcycles and adventure sports have helped build its men's business into a rare 40% of overall sales.
To build relationships with another key group, Kiehl's also accelerated its activities with gay pride marches, expanding from participation with three last year to a total of six this year.
Sales have prompted expansion of four new stores since December, adding more sales and new customers to reach out to one by one.