Jo Malone on Global Expansion, Gen Z consumers, and Tapas


March 31, 2022 | By RetailME Bureau

Jo Malone’s story as the mother of two brands – Jo Malone London and Jo Loves – has been widely written and spoken about. While she considers her first brand as the child that has moved on to university and is a fully functioning adult now, Jo Loves is the child that is still living at home with her.

“I created both so I know the genetic makeup of both the businesses,” said Jo Malone, the entrepreneur, storyteller, and, ‘shopkeeper’ as she likes to call herself sometimes.

Malone launched Jo Loves in 2011, 12 years after selling Jo Malone London to Estee Lauder Corporation and five years after completely stepping away from the business. When asked what the key difference between the two brands, she said “Me. I am different. I create with a boldness and rawness now, which I didn’t do before. The new product I’ve just launched – Golden Gardenia – is a fragrance that I have never created. I would have never had the courage to do it before.”

Going Global

Unlike her first venture, which became a global brand unintendedly, Malone knew from the get-go that the vision for Jo Loves was for it become a global business. “And in the last three years Jo Loves has become a global brand again. During the pandemic we opened in China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. We saw phenomenal growth yet again but in a very different atmosphere,” she said.

However, taking a successful homegrown business international isn’t always easy. It could be like taking a big fish from a small pond, to a much bigger ocean, where now you could be just another fish among the sea of plenty. “Again, it depends on how you look at that, as I feel, success breeds success. When you are with other successful people, you can collaborate together to drive the consumer,” she said.

Create your own Cirque De Soleil

“Because of all the options online, shops can’t just sell products any longer. And the ones that are only selling products are failing,” she added.

According to Malone, retailers need to start looking at themselves as a grand circus and find a way to create their own Cirque De Soleil within their stores. For Jo Loves, its Cirque De Soleil is the Frangrance Tapas Brasserie Bar where customers can select their desired fragrances to create a personal plate of scented tapas in the stores. “That’s what has gone around the world and converted China and Korea. We are seeing this phenomenal opportunity in the entertainment side of our business,” she said.

But it’s not just Malone and her that is different today. The customers’ desires, demands, and tastes are also rapidly changing and as difficult as it might be to cater to the varied demographics of customers from around the world, Malone doesn’t think that this is a new phenomenon.

Retail is a journey, not a destination

“The customer has always been demanding and rightly so. The customer has always been changing and that is retail. Retail evolves just like human beings evolve. It is a journey and not a destination because retail will always been moving,” she said rather poetically.

“Our consumer is somebody that still appreciates the story and the creativity. What’s really manifested in the last two years is the power of storytelling,” she added.

The pandemic stripped people’s ability to travel and be with each other together in the same room, but somehow fragrances and the sense of smell reminded people of the pre-lockdown period and Malone capitalised on that. “The last collection we did with Zara was called Vibrant Cities. We did fragrance inspired by Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, Madrid etc. and travelled the world through the sense of smell,” she said.

What was also a result of the pandemic was the rapid online adoption and surge in e-commerce operations. But one might imagine that to be a massive challenge for a fragrance brand as people can see and hear on a computer, but people can’t quite smell right?

“We had our stories. We would sell these discovery kits and would do these sessions online where we smell together. That personal connection was vital. It was a challenge but it was vital,” she answers. “The consumers want integrity and also want to know the journey of your products and the makers. So your personal story is almost as important as your brand’s story today. For me, that has always been easy.”

The 4Cs

Malone started her business from her kitchen sink and decided to grow it after her friend bought 100 boxes because she had heard about it through word-of-mouth, loved the product, and knew the maker of the product and believed in her quality and authenticity. Although Malone operates at a much much larger scale today, the principal is still based on that foundation, which she has now summed up into her philosophy of 4 Cs, which she employs to connect with her younger consumers.

“We have age, wisdom and experience. But they (Gen Z) have an incredible understanding of the world. So how do we come together to create something wonderful?” she asks rhetorically.

“We need to learn to communicate with each other. For example, I don’t understand TikTok but the younger members of my team get it. So they take my words and put them into your world and bring it together to create one world. When you start to do that, you collaborate, and then you create a third identity. And that’s when you enter this realm of creativity, which is what the world needs. The last step is celebration. My generation didn’t celebrate and that was a mistake because within celebration is unity,” she concluded.

Images RetailME caught up with Jo Malone during an event that took place in Mirdif City Centre last month.

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