Rituals CEO Raymond Cloosterman has said that the brand’s cutting edge Mind Oasis, offering a range of experiences including ‘brain massages’ could be “very interesting for travel retail”.
The inspirational business leader delivered a business update and his thoughts on dynamics at play at an invite-only event attended by selected members of the travel retail trade press, including TRBusiness, during the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes.
He also revealed the top three beauty and wellness trends the company is watching in travel retail as follows: Wellbeing as the new beauty proposition, accessible luxury, and moving from ‘sustainability to impact’.
“With Rituals, we have the ambition to become the number one wellbeing brand in the luxury beauty industry,” said Cloosterman. “We are well positioned because, for 22 years already, we have been practising the philosophy of finding happiness in the smallest of things, helping people to slow down and feel good.”
Looking after consumers’ wellbeing goes beyond delivering well-crafted products, says the CEO. The company is championing its distinctive brand of sustainable and personal wellbeing through everything from services to store design.
“It’s more about a lifestyle and a feeling, and one of the things we are now doing to align with this is with the design of our flagship stores,” said Cloosterman.
“Our four-story flagship in Amsterdam, the House of Rituals, has a restaurant, two floors of products, bespoke collections, a beauty spa and a Mind Oasis on the top floor – the first in the world – which takes the concept of wellbeing to the next level.”
There, customers can unwind the mind with a roster of hi-tech treatments including cabins offering ‘brain massages’ (combining breath work, 4D sound and haptic vibration for ‘brainwave entertainment’) – a concept that Cloosterman is “very enthusiastic” about.
“It’s a nice extension of what we do,” he said. “Going back to what could be our role in travel retail is that we could lead the way in terms of wellbeing with initiatives like this.
“It’s something that is very interesting for travel retail but we are still at the early stages of testing as the investment is very high, so we are looking at ways we may be able to implement it.”
The Mind Oasis concept has initially gone into five flagship stores [in the domestic market]: Amsterdam, Paris (a recently opened two-storey beacon on the Champs-Élysées), Barcelona, Frankfurt and Antwerp.
“We will press pause to learn and develop a bit further before we decide to take it to the next level,” said Cloosterman. “For me, it would be amazing for airports. It’s the next big thing. We need a bit more time to work on it. This time next year we may have an update.”
Democratising the travel retail experience
Rituals is also pushing for operators to make the retail environment more accessible to ‘everyday’ travellers.
“We strongly believe that you need to combine prestige and accessible luxury,” said Cloosterman. “Why? Because more and more airports are becoming democratic.
“Prestige brands service three to five customers a day and, at the same time, brands like Rituals have 300-400 people leaving happy that day.
“As an operator, I think it’s important to keep that in the back of the mind when you are designing a retail offering.
“In our stores, everyone gets an experience – a hand massage or a cup of tea. So you make a lot of customers happy whether they buy or not.
“That’s also where Rituals can play an important role, due to our accessible price point, we are offering something that’s not there yet – and that is why we are growing so fast.
“If you look at millennials and zoomers – they are the travellers of the future. They don’t have as much money to part with all the time so what are you going to do to make sure they have a good time, and to seduce them to buy at the airport when they generally demand more?”
Sustainability: a ‘decisive element in the path to purchase’
Cloosterman drew upon m1nd-set research which shows that the ‘new traveller’ (post-Covid) pays greater attention to sustainability, which has become a ‘decisive element in the path to purchase’ for duty free shoppers.
A significant 79% consider sustainability when shopping in duty free – 16% of which consider it the number one factor when making a purchase – while 61% look for sustainable products, 71% are willing to pay more for such products, 85% consider a brand’s sustainable values ‘important’, and 79% expect to find a space dedicated to greener products.
“This is where we think we can help be one of the pieces of the puzzle,” he said.
“For us, the biggest challenge is managing the paradox of luxury and sustainability. We want to surprise our customers, but at the same time they should feel trust that when they buy Rituals we will look after them in a better way than anyone else.”
Since 2011, Rituals has supported Tiny Miracles, a foundation and B Corp certified ‘for-purpose’ company that empowers excluded communities in Mumbai to step out of poverty by becoming makers (for items such as the Rituals canvas bags) for a fixed income that helps open up opportunities for education, healthcare and, ultimately, become self-supporting.
Opening five new stores each week
Founded in Amsterdam in 2000, Rituals describes itself as ‘Europe’s fastest growing beauty brand, with more than 1,000 stores and 3,480 shop-in-shops, and five body spas across 36+ countries. Currently, around five new stores are opening every week.
In the travel space so far in 2023, the brand has unveiled an impressive 700 shop-in-shops, 20 new stand-alone stores, and launched with 10 airline partners.
“Most of it is coming through like-for-like growth, and that’s because of our innovations,” said Cloosterman.
Each year the brand brings about 200 new products to market to ‘stay relevant’ as a brand.
“We have a group of big fans of the brand and they have their own fixed products that they use but they also want to be seduced by limited editions, and more, to keep excitement there.”
He also talked about the company’s reputation as a gift destination as key to driving growth.
“It’s hard work to make sure that all elements and details work well – it’s a bit like Formula One. This year, we need to recruit around 4,000 people. We have to open 250 stores – five a week on average – and that’s a lot. On one hand it’s a machine and on the other we have to stay small, agile and creative.”
Of the new stores, a portion is relocations (for instance, switching to larger stores in certain destinations).
By the end of this year, the brand will have approximately 1,200 standalone stores – most of which will remain in its heartland of Europe, which the company has been focusing on since its inception.
“There’s still a lot of countries where we would like to bring the brand, but we want to do it in a very solid way, without taking too much risk,” he said. “On average, we open two to three new countries per year.”
Rituals’ expansion in Asia begins
Now, the brand is turning its attention to Asia. Its journey began with a presence in Hong Kong and it has since added Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Bangkok to the fold. Next near, there are plans to open in Tokyo.
New head offices opened in Hong Kong and Singapore, and there are plans to approach Greater China and Southeast Asia as separate businesses under the Asia umbrella.
“Our dream is to ensure that people are also discovering our brand in Asia, and we are just at the beginning. We aim to start first in the big cities with the intention to open at least 20 stores, starting with Shanghai [mentioned above]. By the end of this year, I think we will have our first five stores on the continent and we hope to learn from that.”
Earlier this year, China further relaxed its animal testing laws, with post-market animal testing no longer required, meaning brands sold on the mainland also avoiding pre-market animal testing can now look to ascertain cruelty-free status. This has paved the way for Rituals in the country.
“As a B-Corp company we didn’t want anything to do with animal testing so we stayed out of China – just cross-border,” said Cloosterman. “But the law has changed so now we can enter. For us now we feel free to also start operations in China.”
READ MORE: On location: House of Rituals, Amsterdam