Laser facial bar Skin Laundry is ramping up its international growth.
On Feb. 7, the California-based company will open its first location in Dubai, followed by approximately four more locations in the Middle East this year, said Gregg Throgmartin, Skin Laundry CEO and chairman. In step with its Dubai expansion, the company will also open four to six more locations in London. Currently, only one of the company’s 23 locations is in London, with the majority of its fleet in the U.S.
“Dubai is an incredibly affluent market, and in the past, all of those clients would go to London for any type of cosmetics treatment, health care or dental work. We have existing brand recognition with clientele in [London] and are using our presence there as a way to get into Dubai,” said Throgmartin, who joined Skin Laundry in 2019 and has been tasked with extending the company’s global footprint.
Because of cultural differences among customers in the U.S. and abroad, using beauty-obsessed and wealthy markets like Hong Kong and London as a gateway to greater expansion is a tool many beauty brands are strategically employing. Kristy Watson, Erno Lazslo CMO, said its move to Hong Kong in the late ’90s fueled the company’s growth in China today. Erno Lazslo’s sales in China are expected to outpace U.S. sales by 2022. Throgmartin said that, in the U.S., Skin Laundry’s customers require much more education around laser facials, whereas Hong Kong and London are often the cities that are dictating consumer trends.
Like in the U.S., Skin Laundry will offer its new Dubai and London clientele their first facial treatment for free (the treatment retails for $200) to support its retention and referral business, and will do paid advertising on social media. London clients were informed of the new Dubai location through the Skin Laundry newsletter and social media channels. Throgmartin said over a third of existing customers find out about the company through word of mouth.
Though the beauty landscape in the U.K. is known to be highly fragmented and Brexit has caused brands to rethink their playbooks, Throgmartin said Skin Laundry has been able to retain “A-plus locations” and favorable rents in London, instead of being forced to open in suburbs. Skin Laundry is expected to see double-digit growth by the end of the year. The company reached $17 million in revenue in 2018.
In the U.S., a slew of fast facial bars like Heyday and Facegym have increased their locations at a breakneck pace. Beyond standalone locations, they have relied on department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom as traffic drivers, but Skin Laundry is taking the opposite approach. After its own run with shop-in-shops in Nordstrom, Ulta and Liberty of London, and also selling its owned product line in Sephora, Skin Laundry has pared back.
“What we found from working with all of our past partnerships with retailers is that all our most successful stores were our own freestanding stores. We have decided that’s where we should focus,” said Throgmartin, who explained that Skin Laundry’s model of 15-minute facials is not necessarily suited to mall environments, where parking and distractions come into play. Moreover, Throgmartin said that more than 99% of Skin Laundry product sales are made via its stores or its e-commerce site.
“We have to be opportunistic and make sure the entire experience, from when a client walks in the door to when they exit, is all about Skin Laundry and what we can do,” he said.