Monday, April 25, 2011

AÉSOP: Australia's First Luxury Brand

Update: 23 Feb 2012 - An article in the Sydney Morning Herald provides a facinatining insight into Aésop and the methodical thinking of the founder Dennis Paphitis. Additionally there are a couple of figures quoted including:

  1. Aésop's like-for-like growth in Australia was up 30 per cent
  2. This financial year will be the first in which total sales outside of Australia will be greater than sales in Australia

If you don't know Aésop ( and you have an interest in Brand Management, Consumer Goods or Retail then I strongly suggest you take note of the truly amazing experience that is Aésop.

Founded in 1987 by Dennis Paphitis in Melbourne Australia, Aésop is establishing itself as Australia's first true luxury brand. (Here is a good article from Mark Ritson on the complexity involved in establishing a luxury brand). The business has grown steadily over the last 20+ years and now has signature stores in capital cities throughout Europe, Asia and Australia. In early 2010 Harbert Australia Private Equity acquired a "significant minority" stake in Aésop that enables Aésop to continue its growth strategy. The company has recently announced that by the end of 2011, it will open 4 new stores in Manhattan. Like many private companies Aésop's financials are not readily available however I would be surprised if the company's growth was not the envy of most businesses out there. However as with most great privately owned brands, I don't think it is their numbers that drives them (caveat: the PE injection may inevitably change that)

Whether it is the incredible designs of their stores, the familiarity of the hand wash basins in all stores (even in concession stores), its signature pharmaceutical bottles wrapped in very simple black and white cream labels with philosophical quotes, or the founders' ethos of “Simplicity, integrity and authenticity”, Aésop is a brand whose attributes appear unwavering.

If you have not, or do not think you will, have the opportunity to visit a store in London, Tokyo or Paris I strongly urge you Google the images and see for yourself the statement this brand makes in its focus on design.

The reason I am mentioning Aésop is that in today's world where retail execution is so boring and uninspiring, and consumers scour the net for their retail experience (simply a price driven activity), Aésop remains a benchmark for all brands. As an aside if you would like a research driven piece of what makes for great retailing here is a paper you may find interesting. My own personal view is that Aésop absolutely nails the 5 senses element (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) in both their product and retail environment and it is the fact that Aésop is able to arouse these senses that helps deliver such a great retail experience.

Here are a couple of articles on Aesop. Some are very old but they point to the origins and heritage of the brand values and hence make for interesting reading:,776

Favourite quote:
"Of course we have celebrity customers and I'm sure many of them would have no issue with being nominated, but it's not our way," declares Paphitis. "Let's just say in terms of fabulous Aesop moments we haven't surpassed the day that (actor) Catherine Deneuve took Yves Saint Laurent shopping for Aesop in New York."


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