NatureLab Tokyo, the hair-care brand by Japanese beauty conglomerate NatureLab, is expanding its North American brick-and-mortar presence to serve as a guide for its parent company.

In April, NatureLab Tokyo will expand to all 17 Riley Rose doors (it began selling on RileyRose.com on March 15), building upon its existing U.S. wholesale presence. The brand is currently available in 134 Urban Outfitters doors and on Amazon. NatureLab Tokyo launched in 2018 specifically for the North American market and is expected to garner approximately $3 million in retail sales this year, according to Edward Valentine, managing director for NatureLab Tokyo.

“NatureLab intentionally created a brand [in the U.S.] that spoke to the diversity of American tastes and needs, specifically in hair care,” he said, referring to different textures, and ethnically diverse and dyed hair. “We are essentially using this [brand] as a starting point for the rest of the company.”

In order to do this, NatureLab Tokyo is first looking toward trendy consumer segments like Gen Z and younger millennials to drive awareness around the brand before launching products tailored to older millennials and Gen X. For example, in January 2019, the brand began working with celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons (who frequently works with the Kardashians) as a brand ambassador. Additionally, to coincide with the expansion in April to Riley Rose (Forever 21’s beauty store), the brand is launching an influencer campaign for the month of April with over 150 unpaid influencers via product gifting. Four paid influencers will activate around the Riley Rose partnership, but Valentine declined to share their names at this point.

“Creating a strong digital and millennial presence was core to our proposition,” said Valentine. “Retailers need to see that presence before bringing in a brand because these locations are not pushing product. They are expecting us to create the demand, and they expect [the product] to sell itself.”

Because NatureLab Tokyo’s parent company’s suite of brands is only distributed through Asian specialty stores in the U.S., its latest offering provides fodder for the rest of the portfolio. NatureLab is comprised of over 80 beauty and personal-care brands like Moist Diane, which is a hair-care company, and household fragrance and laundry brand Laundrin. Altogether, they have retail distribution in over 50,000 doors in Japan.

According to Tiger Hishiya, president of NatureLab North America, the parent company will start promoting the other brands in its portfolio to U.S. distributors at professional beauty conferences, like Cosmoprof in July. By 2025, Hishiya said he would like the company to have a strong local presence as a Japanese consumer-packaged-goods conglomerate in America — enough so to warrant a campaign worthy of the Super Bowl.

As for NatureLab Tokyo, after establishing a retail presence in the U.S., the next step will be expanding from hair care into other product categories within the next three years. Skin care is a top-of-mind focus, said Hishiya.

“[NatureLab Tokyo] isn’t just an afterthought of a large company trying to follow a trend,” said Valentine. “If [this expansion] works with hair care, it will hopefully work across the board for the company.”

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