Moroccanoil's Sebastien Levi fills us in on new initiatives
Morroccanoil has been focused on expanding both its line and its reach, putting the company in a stronger position than most during the past year. During the time leading up to the pandemic, the brand had introduced several omni-channel product launches plus a range of styling tools, in addition to the opening of the brand-new Moroccanoil Academy, a state-of-the-art 8,500-square-foot facility in New York City, designed to provide hands-on, customized education to stylists.
As part of this focus on expansion, Moroccanoil had already been working with Amazon on opening its brand store when the pandemic hit, according to Sebastien Levi, Vice President, Global Travel Retail – Direct Premium Retail Europe for the brand; as we all know, travel was soon to come to a virtual standstill, and a large portion of in-store shopping moved online. Amazon’s Moroccanoil store had already been open for a few months when the world as we all had known stopped turning. “The expansion plan with Amazon came right on time,” says Levi.
Global expansion in Sephora
In addition to its business on Amazon, the well-known hair-care company has seen much success with Sephora. The brand has been available with this massive beauty retailer since 2016 in the US, and then expanded worldwide into Sephora Europe, LATAM and Asia. “We finally opened Sephora Europe at the end of 2020,” says Levi. “The major shift is that instead of doing an omnichannel launch, we first launched digital and decided that we would postpone brick and mortar launch by a few months. This decision ended up being a blessing, in retrospect. It gave us the opportunity to learn from the first launch, which was digital, and then fine tune the launch for brick-and-mortar stores, which is happening right now. Additionally, it helped us have a voice during the pandemic through social channels beyond pure mere sales.” He adds that this also engendered the creation of a new mature e-commerce audience that had previously been uncomfortable with purchasing online
Travel retail expansion
Levi says that before COVID hit, Moroccanoil had major expansion plans in travel retail, with partners such as Dufry in Latin Americas and Europe. “We had plans in Asia with different partners and all of that was stopped. We had additional rollout plans in North America. Now we are starting those conversations again, but it will take time. For retailers, the first step is to rebuild and restock using partnerships with their existing brands.”
This being said, the company is seeing successes in travel retail in the past couple of months. “We just opened Milano Linate with Dufry, which is a major achievement for us. We rolled out with 3Sixty Americas in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Dallas; we’re very excited about that, with a newly designed gondola. We have just opened Macau airport with Shilla in Asia.”
In Asia, he says something akin to a recovery is taking place. “They were hit hard early in 2020. They’re not at the old levels yet but we like seeing the continuity of business there. And that is exciting. North America also looks promising. I mentioned 3Sixty, and also we see signs of recovery with DFA. This is a signal to me that things are improving.”
Europe has been really up and down for the company. “We will get a good order, then no orders. My feeling after the discussion with our European partners is that we might have a normal summer. We are seeing this in the orders that we received recently. If things keep improving in Europe, we might see a recovery in Europe starting July/August,” says Levi.
While recovery is occurring or imminent in much of the world, the same cannot be said for Latin America. “As we know travel retail business in driven by the Brazilians. The horrible COVID situation in Brazil is a big hit for the country and for Latin American business,” says Levi. “There is no travel retail happening in Latin America, and we don’t see any real recovery until end of the year.”
For countries with a strong digital presence, as is the case in North America, business has been quite good for Moroccanoil during the pandemic. “People who couldn’t buy our products from hairdressers would decide to buy online,” says Levi. “This is not going to be permanent. There is something special about going to the hairdressers and getting a treatment and advice and then buying the item.”
The company benefitted from people wanting to take care of themselves at home. “We were less affected in comparison to other categories such as make-up,” he says. “We did have a downturn in sales but then we found new consumers and new behaviours. We believe the loyalty to the brand has increased. It proves that we are resilient and have strong positioning. This notion of self-care was very valuable for the brand during the pandemic. Products like pure Argan oil or dry body oil were very successful during this period. We offer a bar soap, and that worked extremely well.”
Sebastien Levi’s new role
Sebastien Levi is now in charge of Sephora Europe in addition to global travel retail. “I’m super excited, this is a blessing,” he says. “In my new role, I am now Vice President Global Travel Retail — Direct Premium Retail Europe.”
Levi will be handling the launch and development of the brand at Sephora Europe, which will be approximately 300 stores in 12 countries. “This is a very exciting project, as it comes after a strong success with Sephora North America,” he says, adding that it will be especially interesting for him given the complementarity between the retail and travel retail channels, and also the strong digital expertise at Sephora. “My career in Cosmetics has been dominated by travel retail, but also with some episodes in Premium Retail, so I am very happy with my new position,” he says.