Clarins listens to its customers

SINGAPORE - The next time you are at a Clarins Skin Spa and are given a feedback form to fill out, take heart that every comment you make counts. The same goes for the feedback cards that come with every Clarins product.

That is because the French skincare company takes what its customers say very seriously.

The feedback has translated into products such as the Shaping Facial Lift ($102) and Body Lift Cellulite Control ($88), which were introduced in 2010 and May this year, respectively.

The plant-based skincare brand is known especially for its cellulite and firming creams.

The company also takes note of customers' feedback to improve its spa offerings just for the Asian market, says the brand's president, Dr Olivier Courtin-Clarins, who oversees the research arm of the company and the development of its spa treatments.

For example, the Lifting Face Shaper treatment ($175) was developed specifically for the Asian market and is not available elsewhere. Launched in 1998, and reformulated in 2011, it helps to drain toxins and reduce puffiness, so that skin becomes firmer.

According to Ms Brenda Loke, marketing manager of Clarins in Singapore, women in Asia pay more attention to firming treatments because the fat pockets in their faces are heavier and tend to sag more than women in the West.

Dr Courtin-Clarins, who was in Singapore last week as part of a tour of the brand's spa facilities in Asia, knows about customer preferences based on the numerous feedback cards received from Clarins Skin Spa customers worldwide.

The cards are a mainstay of the company. The company receives about 150 feedback cards, phone calls and e-mail messages a month in Singapore from its spas and customers who have used its products.

According to Dr Courtin-Clarins, 58, Asian spa customers love whitening treatments, firming treatments and stronger massages.

This is in contrast to women in Europe, who prefer softer massages and rarely request for firming treatments.

Dr Courtin-Clarins, who is a trained orthopaedic surgeon, says: "It is not that the women in Paris do not need firming treatments, but they just do not ask for it."

"I try to understand women, but it is difficult," he says with a laugh.

His father, Mr Jacques Courtin-Clarins, founded the brand in 1954. He started out offering beauty treatments and ventured into selling products a few years later. When he died in 2007, Dr Courtin-Clarins and his brother Christian Courtin-Clarins, 62, took over. The latter is Clarins' chairman and also oversees the company's sustainable development projects.

Their father invented a massage technique which is supposed to improve the body's blood circulation and lymphatic drainage systems. It is still used by therapists today at all Clarins spas and is the reason why the company does not use machines in any of its treatments.

Dr Courtin-Clarins says: "It is very important that the beauty therapist has a connection with the customer. It also allows the therapist to adjust the pressure of the massage more effectively, depending on what the customer wants."

The brand opened its first Skin Spa here at Wheelock Place in 1996. It has two other locations at Robinsons Raffles City and Robinsons Jem, which have one treatment room each.

The Skin Spa at Wheelock Place was renovated in 2011. With 12 treatment rooms, it is the largest Skin Spa in Asia. There are 186 Skin Spas worldwide.

While the global revenue from Clarins Skin Spa has remained low at about 2 per cent, Dr Courtin-Clarins notes that the spa business in Asia is doing better than elsewhere in the world. He was unable to give any figures.

Women's Wear Daily estimated the brand's total revenue to be about US$1.6 billion (S$2 billion) in 2011.

As the Skin Spa at Wheelock Place is constantly fully booked, Clarins is looking to open more Skin Spas here.

It is also interested in offering more treatments for its male customers. Men form about 5 per cent of its customer base worldwide and about 9 per cent in Asia.

Right now, only facial treatments are offered to men here, but Dr Olivier Courtin-Clarins hopes to introduce body treatments for them too.

"The men are important too, no? Men must also be included," he says.

staceyc@sph.com.sg


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