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Superbrands case studies: Crabtree & Evelyn

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume VI', July 2004. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

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The UK personal-care market is worth around £3.28 billion at retail and is growing at a rate of 2.5% per year. According to National Statistics, consumers spent around £10 billion on toiletries including cosmetics and perfume in 2001.Value growth continues to outstrip volume growth as manufacturers invest in new product development - and as consumers prove willing to pay premium prices for products that offer added benefits.  Industry analysts anticipate continued growth in the value of the toiletries market, not least because the consumer base is continually extending to both younger and older customers. 

Skin care is the sector expected to show the best rate of growth as technological advances promise the youthful appearance craved by all.  Indeed, the three market sectors in which Crabtree & Evelyn competes are buoyant as consumers increasingly seek products to indulge and restore themselves. It operates in health and beauty, including soaps, bath and shower gels, spa, body lotions and creams as well as its most recent introduction of hand and foot treatments; home fragrance, including candles, room sprays and drawer liners; and fine foods, including marmalade, preserves, teas and biscuits.

Crabtree & Evelyn's goal has been to establish its name as one of the most familiar and respected personal-care brands in the world.  Today the company has a presence in the US, Canada, Mexico, most of Western Europe, the Middle East, Far East, Australia and New Zealand. Crabtree & Evelyn products are sold in 350 stores worldwide, including 40 in the UK.  Selected products are also available through department stores, chemists and gift shops. 

Traditionally a strong gift business, the company is also positioning itself to capture a greater share of the self-purchase, indulgence and pampering market. Fundamental to and symbolic of this evolution was the launch in June 2002 of Crabtree & Evelyn's first patent-pending product, La Source Hand Recovery, which the company claims has brought more customers back through the doors than any other product in recent years.

The product carried off prizes at the Pure Beauty Awards 2002 and the New Woman Beauty Awards 2003, serving to reinforce Crabtree & Evelyn's credentials as a serious beauty brand. This heralded a raft of award wins for the brand's product range, including La Source Revitalising Foot Smoother, which won 'Fastest Footsie Tune-Up' at the Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards 2003 and Best New Launch for Legs & Feet at the 2003 Pure Beauty Awards. Not forgetting the fine foods section of the business, Crabtree & Evelyn's organic raspberry preserve was commended at the UK Soil Association Food Awards 2003.

When Crabtree & Evelyn was founded in 1972, by an entrepreneur named Cyrus Harvey, the concept of natural essences as a means of countering the tempo of modern-day life was not widely recognised. To bring this philosophy to the marketplace, Crabtree & Evelyn created a range of naturally based toiletries and fine foods using formulations and recipes from the four corners of the world.

What stands today as a multinational retailer originates from a single, family-run store in Boston, Massachusetts, specialising in soaps. The company prides itself on the fact that long before the natural and holistic movements became popular in the cosmetics and toiletries industry, it was producing ranges featuring fruit, flower and plant essences. The company takes inspiration from the early home apothecary, or 'still room', which was used to distil fresh flowers, herbs and fruits from gardens or orchards to make fragrant bath waters and essences for the skin, as well as fruit preserves and sauces.

This explains why the relationship between garden and nature is at the heart of the company's philosophy. Many people are curious about our name. We are inspired by the Englishman, John Evelyn, who lived in the 17th century. Evelyn is most famous for writing Sylva, the first important work on conservation, at a time when England's forests were being stripped of timber to build ships for the expanding British Navy.

His great estate, Sayes Court, was planted with large expanses of elm trees and the magnificent gardens Evelyn created were a wonder of the age. The Diary of John Evelyn is a remarkable picture of 17th century life, both in England and on the continent. He is also known for his writings on food including a book on salads, in which he introduced the first salad dressing made with olive oil.

Our symbol, the Crabtree or Wild Apple, is native to Britain and the ancestor of all cultivated apple trees. It was highly prized for its beauty as well as its usefulness in home apothecary.  Bartholomeus Anglicus whose encyclopaedia was one of the earliest printed books containing botanical information says, "Malus the Appyll tree is a grete tree in itself... gracious in syght and in taste and vertuous in medecyne." (c.1470) Despite such strong ties to tradition and an obvious pride in its English-inspired heritage, Crabtree & Evelyn was originally US based, although its current owner, KLK, which acquired Crabtree & Evelyn in 1996, is a Malaysian company. Scotsman Mike Torrance, managing director of Crabtree & Evelyn, defines the English connection: "It got us to where we are today," he says, "and it's a very strong platform to move us into tomorrow. Englishness is one of the core values of the brand, as is a commitment to quality and style."

Crabtree & Evelyn's product ranges have an overall air of luxury and decadence. Natural ingredients such as lavender, aloe vera and goat's milk are used throughout the range which spans fragrances, face, hair, hand, body, bath and foot care as well as gourmet food and home décor ranges.  With presentation being paramount, products are available in gift boxes, with ranges such as 'Gardeners' making ideal gifts.

Recent Developments
Crabtree & Evelyn's most recent innovation was the opening of a Crabtree & Evelyn Tearoom in Stratford-upon-Avon, which serves English teas with a modern twist. Inspired by the style and values of the English way of life and led by trendsetters flocking to The Wolseley and Claridges to take tea, The Tearoom was opened in December 2003 and uses the Crabtree & Evelyn Fine Foods range. Located in the house of Shakespeare's daughter,The Tearoom is fitted with an eclectic mix of antique furniture to create a traditional yet comfortable feel.  While toiletries are the highest performing category for the brand, home fragrance is second, followed by food and then accessories.  Bed linen and sleepwear are the most recent additions to the product line-up with a firm in South Africa producing bed linen exclusively for Crabtree & Evelyn.

The expansion of its product range is important to the brand's future development, so it is always looking for opportunities to extend, whilst ensuring that it evolves to attract a wider audience without alienating its strong customer base. Increasing the number of stores, investing in new product development and extending the product range are all priorities for the company.  Further to this, its Men's Collection is due to relaunch in the second half of 2004.

In 1994 Crabtree & Evelyn designed a range of toiletries for British Airways Concorde and First Class passengers. Since then, sampling on airlines and in hotels has proven a successful way of introducing customers to the brand. Over the past five years, Crabtree & Evelyn products have appeared on around 20 different airlines and carefully selected hotels across the world. These prestigious hotels mirror the brand's image and seek to provide a unique offer, in keeping with the needs of their discerning clientele.

Key to Crabtree & Evelyn's reinvigoration has been its public relations team; this small, young and enthusiastic team has spent recent years championing the transformation of the brand.

Challenged by the business need to spread the word, the PR team devised a number of innovative events and presentations, which yielded a significant increase in coverage.

Throughout 2003, activities and locations were designed to complement each product and its particular brand message. The introduction of the award-winning Foot Smoother was set in Harrods Urban Retreat, where 50 journalists were invited to sample the product and sip champagne. The Christmas range was previewed with lunch at Hakkasan - a setting that allowed the 120 attendees to acquaint themselves with the full offer - dim sum and exotic cocktails combined with a quick manicure or pedicure. 

The establishment of "Pamper Palace" located at The Berkeley Hotel as a respite for worn-out journalists during London Fashion Week was innovative, novel and very well attended.  The Crabtree & Evelyn PR team co-ordinated a joint effort with Michaeljohn, Prescriptives and The Berkeley to provide a pit-stop to revive more than 60 journalists during two days.  The PR team was also at work when the brand chose to regenerate its Goatmilk range.

A caged fluffy goat with the tagline, 'Feel Like a Kid Again', started the 2003 campaign. Mohair throws reinforced the message of the luxury and pampering that these new improved products would provide and the resultant press coverage and endorsements helped Crabtree & Evelyn increase sales of the range by more than 40%. Also central to promotion and marketing opportunities has been the development of the Crabtree & Evelyn Preferred Customer Programme. Introduced in 2003, the programme is designed to maintain a relationship with regular customers via regular direct communications.

Brand Values
The Crabtree & Evelyn name is synonymous with quality, everyday luxury and classic style. Over the years consumers throughout the world have come to know and trust the brand as a source of fine soaps, toiletries and comestibles.  All products are distinguished by outstanding craftsmanship and design. Crabtree & Evelyn's core values are its commitment to quality, its use of nature and its English perspective.

Things you didn't know
One La Source Hand Recovery product is sold somewhere in the world every minute.
Evelyn was the first perfume to be based on a single, specially created rose. Using headspace technology, it took eight years, 30,000 seedlings and hundreds of cuttings to identify the perfect specimen.
Crabtree & Evelyn holds the Royal Warrant from HRH the Prince of Wales in recognition of its services as a supplier of fine toiletries.
Crabtree & Evelyn's signature bedroom at the exclusive Stapleford Park Country House Hotel, Spa, Golf & Sporting Estate, Leicestershire, is one of the most requested rooms, and offers guests the full Crabtree & Evelyn experience.

(c) 2004 Superbrands Ltd

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