L'Occitane joins Alibaba's big cosmetic brand offering

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

L'Occitane joins Alibaba's big cosmetic brand offering

Related tags Initial public offering Brand Retailing

French skin care brand, L’Occitane en Provence has confirmed a deal with China's largest ecommerce retailer Alibaba, launching a digital retail platform on the popular Tmall site. 

The French manufacturer of high-end skin care products joins cosmetic giants like Estée Lauder on the platform it hopes will strengthen its position in the country.

According to Andre Hoffmann, president of the Asia-Pacific region for L’Occitane, the brand's products were being sold on the platform without its permission, so this move; "is the only way we can assure that expired and damaged goods are not sold."

Alibaba, whose $25 billion initial public offering of stock in September was the world’s largest, has promised high-profile brands that once they open an online store, it will purge goods sold on its platforms by retailers not authorized by the brands or do more to fight fakes.

Despite the pledge, YipitData reports about 1,400 listings of L’Occitane items can still be found on Tmall.

Tmall concerns

Higher-end brands have been cautious about opening up on the Tmall platform because of the site’s emphasis on discounting and its lack of exclusivity: indeed, Benefit Cosmetics lasted only a few months on the site in 2012.

The strong sales performance of Tmall, though, has brought about a shift in attitudes from prestige brands: over the last three years, the site enjoyed a tenfold sales growth to 273.7 billion yuan (US$43.9 billion).

Burberry was the first high-end brand to take the plunge, opening its web store on Tmall in April, where it retails its entire range, including its beauty products.

With L’Occitane now following suit, it appears cosmetics companies are realising the potential of third-party marketplaces.

Global focus on brand identity

Although L’Occitane’s brand identity rests on the idea of local production within the Provence region of France (where it is concerned with preserving traditional personal care production techniques), the brand is becoming increasingly dominant internationally.

The brand boasts stores in 90 countries, including North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and has a particularly strong foothold across the States, where it has 170 stores.

In 2013 the company employed 6,600 people around the world, and created a new brand, L’Occitane au Brésil, which focused on products from the booming emerging market that is Brazil. 

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