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In 1976, 23-year old Olivier Baussan used steam distillation to produce
essential oil from wild rosemary2 and lavender which he sold at open-air markets
in his native Provence. L¡¯Occitane was named for the women of Occitania. This
area existed during the Middle Ages, spanning southern France, north-eastern
Spain and northern Italy. Occitan was the native language and is still spoken as
a second language in some areas of this region today.
The first L¡¯Occitane boutique opened in 1978 in Volx, a village in Provence.3 Baussan found a disused soap factory in Manosque, another Provençal village, which he took over to manufacture vegetable-based soaps using traditional methods. In the 1990s, Baussan sold a majority stake in the business to venture capitalists to finance expansion. As their approaches were incompatible, Baussan found himself excluded from daily management and strategic decision-making.4
In 1994, Austrian businessman Reinold Geiger bought a 33% stake in the group.3 Through a series of capital increases, Geiger became majority shareholder in 1996.3 Geiger, as the new Chairman, asked Baussan to return as creative director and lead product development. The company's new focus on marketing strategy paved the way for international expansion.4 In the late 1990s the company changed its name to 'L'Occitane en Provence', to strengthen the connection with the company's roots and because the term 'Provence' had more meaning to an international audience.5 On 20 April 2001, Clarins became a financial investor in the company through subscription to approximately 5.18% of the company's shares and €11,433,750 convertible debenture loan. On 22 February 2005, Clarins further invested €16,525,580 in convertible debentures. When the debentures were converted, Clarins held 23.33% of the shares. The management executed a leveraged buyout in May 2007 following which Reinold Geiger's stake rose from 31.9% to 48.7%, and Clarins' stake was diluted to 10.0%.3
L¡¯Occitane has shops in 90 countries,6 in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia; with 170 shops in the United States.47 At the launch of its IPO in 2010, the company announced that its products were sold in over 80 countries through over 1,500 retail locations; it had 753 L¡¯Occitane Stores. In the year ended 31 March 2009, it generated sales of €537.3 million;.3 It planned over 650 store openings with the capital raised.
L'Occitane bought Groupe M&A D¨¦veloppement and its subsidiary, M&A Sant¨¦ Beaut¨¦, which includes the organic cosmetic brand Melvita, in 2008.15 The company, which was founded in the Ard¨¨che in 1983 by French biologist Bernard Chevilliat, commercialises ecological and organic cosmetics principally in France. In 1990, Melvita launched its first organic cosmetics range and its manufacturing obtained ECOCERT certification.3 They now have stores in thirteen countries.
La Fondation d¡¯Entreprise L¡¯Occitane is a private organization founded in 2006 by the company, with a budget of 4 million Euros for 6 years, to support visually impaired people and help the economic emancipation of women. It supports associations for the visually impaired particularly in Burkina Faso with NGOs that are specialized in training professionals to reduce blindness. The L'Occitane Foundation has formed a partnership with Orbis, an organization that fights against avoidable blindness in developing countries. To support economic emancipation of women, the L¡¯Occitane Foundation partnered with the association Faa-I-tuora to improve the way of living of people in Dissin, in the South West region of Burkina Faso.
In 2013, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has decided to recognise L¡¯Occitane en Provence as an exemplary company Download