How Nuxe built a natural cosmetics empire in thirty years
Born in a family of pharmacists, Aliza Jabès has, as far as she can remember, always liked to concoct hair potions and facial masks. She has never lost her passion for beauty and botany, even after a political science degree in Paris and an MBA in New York. “I worked as an employee for two years, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial vocation and, above all, I’ve always wanted to create a natural cosmetics brand with an international scope,” said Jabès, the founder and president of Nuxe, which she created in 1989 and whose name is simply the contraction of ‘nature’ and ‘luxe’ (luxury).
Nuxe currently employs 900 people and is distributed via 30,000 retailers in 60 countries. Just over 30 years after being launched, it is one of the leading brands in the cosmetics landscape. A great success, especially since Jabès still holds a stake of just over 50% in the company. She is discreet about Nuxe’s financial performance, though she said that, in 20 years, the revenue, which was estimated at €290 million in 2021, has multiplied twenty-fold.
Yet in the early days, the picture was different. When Jabès laid the foundations of Nuxe, by buying a Parisian cosmetics formulation laboratory in 1988 with the help of her family, formulas derived from petrochemicals were more popular than plant-based ones, and selective perfumery had the upper hand over pharmacy-based retail distribution. But Jabès didn’t waver: “I wanted the expertise and rigour of a pharmacy environment combined with sensorial products.”
After a rather laboured start, success came in 1991 thanks to a single product: the Huile Prodigieuse multi-purpose oil. This dry oil for the face, hair and body, packaged in a glass bottle, has sold 35 million units since its launch. One bottle is said to sell worldwide every nine seconds, making Huile Prodigieuse Nuxe’s bestseller. A success that was to be replicated later by the Rêve de Miel (honey dream) range, especially its lip balm.
Nuxe has developed a string of novelties that are helping boost its performance alongside its core products. The Super Sérum Anti-Age, launched two years ago, is now its second most-sold product (€74.50 for 30 ml). All of Nuxe’s products are manufactured in France. The brand has its own facility in Fougères, Brittany, which produces half of its total units and is also home to the R&D lab.
Recently, Nuxe has also launched into a new segment, haircare, with the Hair Prodigieux line. It is a haircare ritual in three stages suitable for all types of hair, based on a key ingredient, fermented camellia oil, in a patented formula. “We want to premiumize haircare [products] in the pharmacy channel, because hair is now treated in the same way as the skin,” said Jabès.
International sales higher than France’s
In 2019, Belgian private equity firm Sofina bought a 45.13% stake in Nuxe, with the aim of stepping up the pace of the brand's international expansion. In 2021, exports exceeded the French domestic market’s revenue for the first time, accounting for a 53% share.
Italy is Nuxe’s largest market outside France, followed by Spain and Greece. The brand said it is also performing well in the Middle East and Asia. In 2020, a chaotic year for global trade, Nuxe opened a subsidiary in China. “[China] is an emerging market, there is genuine enthusiasm for our brand there,” said Jabès.
In the USA, a major market for the global beauty industry, Nuxe is only present online. While the brand knows how to be innovative and daring, it is nevertheless moving forward with caution. “We never spend more than what we have. Each development stage must be consolidated. I want to make sure that my company will endure, and that my employees are secure,” said Jabès.
In 2002, Nuxe opened its first spa on rue Montorgueil in Paris. The brand now operates 63 spas, located in hotels, department stores such as Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, and in La Maison Nuxe. The next one will open in Italy in Pompei.
In 2022, a spa division was set up within the Nuxe group, in order to bolster the growth of the spa business, which accounts for 10% of total revenue. “It's a profitable business that generates visibility,” said Jabès, who in 2022 ranked 291st among France’s 500 wealthiest individuals according to Challenges magazine.
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