Your Business: Pioneer sold on skin care range right from start

By Gill South

Jane Bourke launched Dermalogica in 1993 and her daughter Natasha Gee stepped up in 2007.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Jane Bourke launched Dermalogica in 1993 and her daughter Natasha Gee stepped up in 2007. Photo / Dean Purcell

They say travel broadens the mind. Jane Bourke, a former beauty salon owner, and an early pioneer of the professional beauty industry in New Zealand, was at a trade show in America in 1992 when she was introduced to the Dermalogica skin care brand.

"It was the first skin care product that I had ever seen where they had taken away the lanolin, the [SD] alcohol, the mineral oil, the fragrances," she says.

Dermalogica, which was created in 1986 by Jane and Ray Wurwand, claims to have revolutionised the skin care industry when it emerged in the market with formulations which excluded a lot of common irritants.

Bourke was impressed that the LA company put a high priority on the education of customers, selling through professional skincare therapists. Dermalogica is the world's most-requested professional skin care brand, she says.

"I've watched Dermalogica grow from a seedling company to a massive organisation worldwide." When the businesswoman launched Dermalogica NZ in 1993, she was one of a handful of the brand's international distributors in the world.

The skin care range is now distributed in 90 countries worldwide, sells in 25,000 skin care centres and is used by 75,000 therapists. Its best selling products include Dermalogica Daily Micro Foliant and the Age smart product range.

The Dermalogica range has a cult following, says Bourke.

International devotees include Courtney Cox and Victoria Beckham. In New Zealand, Shortland Street actresses Fleur Saville and Angela Bloomfield are fans. It is a favourite for removing make-up.

In 2007, Bourke took a step back from the business and at the same time her daughter, Natasha Gee, was given a leadership role in the company. Gee, who has beauty therapy training and a marketing communications degree, worked for Dermalogica in the UK on a graduate/management fast track programme. She opened a flagship store for Dermalogica in London in 2006 and then did the same for her mother's business in Auckland at the Albany Westfield centre in 2007.

Today Dermalogica is stocked in more than 135 skin care centres in NZ, and stockists include Louise Gray in Auckland and Essence Beauty Therapy in Wellington. Its pricing is similar to other prestige retail skin care brands such as Clinique and Elizabeth Arden.

"We treat specific skins, hyper-pigmentation, ageing, acne, sensitivity, teens, men, it's a very big range," says Gee.

The company's turnover in New Zealand is in the millions.

"With Dermalogica, we only have one brand, we don't have a Plan B, we don't have another brand to fall back on," she says.

"Business has been a challenge the last couple of years," adds Gee.

Most skin care companies are marketing their products for their natural properties these days. In response, Dermalogica NZ, based in Albany, has branched out to nine retail locations. It now has counters in four department stores: Smith & Caughey City, Kirkcaldie & Stains, Ballantynes in Christchurch and H & J Smith in Invercargill. The brand is also sold in five Life Pharmacy outlets.

The Albany flagship store closed in February and Dermalogica is now sold at the Life Pharmacy store at Albany.

Dermalogica NZ has also been selling online since 2009, in partnership with the company's stockists.

"We always try to refer the customer back to the stockist for treatment and advice," says Gee. Bourke's role these days is mentoring her daughter and giving strategic advice on the business. She and her husband Brendan own the company 50/50 and a performance-based succession plan is in place to transfer shares to Gee over the next 10 years.

- NZ Herald

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