Talking to Jean-Francois Mondin

There are big changes in store at Guinot UK over the next 12 months and with vice president Jean-Francois Mondin, the son of Guinot’s owner Jean-Daniel Mondin, now at the helm, its plans have been ramped up a gear.

When I meet Mondin at the London Pelham Hotel in South Kensington, he has just taken the reins from Ros Grace, who retired at the end of May. Mondin fills me in on his ideas for the brand with passion, conviction and characteristic confidence. “We’re going to hit the beauty industry with a sledge hammer over the next few years and revamp the image of the beauty salon,” he says.
 
Having launched a company-owned branded salon in Ascot last year as a flagship and example of the concept, Guinot is now looking for salon owners to become franchisees.
 
“Beauty therapists are good technicians but they need to have more of a business view to drive staff, training, merchandising and customer relations. The franchise scheme will give them the tools to do those things,” says Mondin.
 
reception
The business model will be rolled out across the UK over the next few years following the appointment of franchise manager Nigel Dawson in April.
 
Mondin is also looking to reposition the Guinot brand, taking on quality salons and getting rid of those that do not fit in with its image. While this may sound rather cut-throat, Guinot is not completely rejecting existing accounts. Instead, it has plans to entice them with the launch of a lower-priced salon range called Cosmecology, which has an ecological focus.
 
The team also took back the distribution for aromatherapy line Mary Cohr from The Skincare Sanctuary in April. Mary Cohr is owned by Guinot head office in France but the brand was previously outsourced in the UK. The Guinot UK team is now aiming to build up Mary Cohr’s reputation.
 
Professional pride
Guinot UK, as it is now known, became a subsidiary of Guinot in 2008, following 31 years of distribution under the trading name R Robson, headed up by Ros Grace. At the end of May, Grace retired, which has sparked a number of changes for the brand, including the appointment of Dawson as franchise manager for at least the next 12 months.
 
Mondin says Dawson is going to be his right-hand man, developing franchise sales and overseeing management.
 
Dawson is starting slowly with the franchise model and plans to open 30 to 40 franchise salons in the UK over the next five years, increasing this to 150 over ten years. He will be introducing the Guinot model at the National Franchise Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham in October. “We’re hoping to find new players in the market that are not necessarily from a beauty background but have an entrepreneurial spirit. We will also be approaching beauty therapists wanting to launch their own business,” says Mondin.
 
Mondin is keen to prove Guinot’s dedication to the professional market. “We have seen some of our competitors go down the retail route because they need the money but we are finding other areas of development through our franchise model,” he says.
 
“I don’t want to be arrogant but I think we’re the only brand that can actually offer this type of model as we’re so dedicated to the professional beauty market. Some brands went down the retail route and are coming back to the professional arena now, but are not very well received. You can’t just say, ‘oh we forgot to tell you we are a professional brand too’,” he adds.
 
treatment room
The franchise model has not come without its sacrifices. Guniot has enforced a cleanse of salons that don’t fit with its renewed high-end image. “When the recession arrived we had to close down a number of accounts otherwise we would have hurt the business even more.” Under R Robson, Guinot took on a large number of salons and currently has a total of 1,400 in the UK, but is hoping to streamline the brand to be more focused on quality accounts.
 
Back to basics
As Guinot restructures its salons, it is hoping to target existing accounts that do not meet the Guinot criteria with its new skincare range Cosmecology. It is also using the range to branch out into nail and waxing-focused salons, which Mondin says constitute up to 50% of the industry. The range, which launched in France last year and has gained 30 accounts in the UK since April, will offer salons a basic and cheaper alternative to Guinot. “We couldn’t do a cheaper range with the Guinot name as it belongs to a philosophy, brand and price,” says Mondin.
 
CosmeclologyCosmecology has been created to entice clients to shop for skincare at a beauty salon rather than high street stores.
 
“We don’t want to fight for the 10% of people who already go to salons to buy their beauty products but we want to drag in the 90% of people who buy from department stores,” adds Mondin.
 
Cosmecology is a basic range of 15 products including shampoos, conditioners and facial moisturisers, with an average price point of £15. Nine more products are set to launch over the next year.
 
 
“The range is small and easier to manage and the manufacturing process is green in terms of the way we recycle water and use electricity,” says Mondin. “We have taken away the external packaging and all the products are biodegradable.”
 
Healthy competition
Aromatherapy brand Mary Cohr officially came back under the Guinot UK portfolio on April 30. “It is a natural progression and makes sense for Guinot UK to represent Mary Cohr, as we are a subsidiary of Guinot and Mary Cohr Paris,” says Mondin.
 
He believes the previous distributor relied too heavily on promotions and didn’t give salon’s enough support. “The distribution levels have gone down and we are having to build the brand up from the beginning by reintroducing it to the media and consumer,” says Mondin.
 
Mary Cohr is not going to be repositioned as such but Mondin says he will make it work more efficiently by offering simpler promotions, giving salons more coaching and advice from trainers and gradually introducing a dedicated Mary Cohr sales team. While they are reassessing the market, Mary Cohr is maintaining its existing 120 UK salon accounts with the hope of opening ten more salons over the next year.
 
When I ask Mondin if Mary Cohr is going to be in competition with Guinot, he replies, “It will be healthy competition but we are not going to do war internally. They are both completely different brands as Mary Cohr will target more aromatherapy- based salons while Guinot is more traditional and scientific.”
 
Changing habits
It is not just in the UK that Guinot is looking to change the image of the beauty salon; it eventually wants to change its global distributor habits. At present Guinot is distributed in 80 countries worldwide, with the only two subsidiaries in the UK and Mexico.
 
“Globally we have a strong reputation, which is uneven but overall, positive. For now our main area of focus is to build up the France and UK franchise model, then gradually inspire all other countries to follow this strategy,” says Mondin. “It is about standardising the model of distribution. That is our long-term objective.” PB
 
Key dates
 
May 2012 – Ros Grace retires as managing director. Nigel Dawson is appointed franchise manager.
 
April 2012 – launch of Cosmecology. Guinot UK takes distribution of Mary Cohr from The Skincare Sanctuary.
 
2011 – Guinot launches own-branded salon in Ascot.
 
2008 – Guinot UK becomes a subsidiary of Guinot. Jean-Francois Mondin put in charge of commercial aspects of Guinot UK
 
1977 – R Robson becomes distributor for Guinot in the UK
 
1972 – Guinot bought by pharmacist Dr. Jean- Daniel Mondin, who introduces Les Aromatic, Beauté Neuve and Liftosome facial
 
1963 – Rene Guniot launches the M. Guinot brand and introduces the Cathodermie treatment, now known as Hyradermie