Helena Rubinstein ‘is back’ in travel retail channel

Uber-premium cosmetics brand Helena Rubinstein “is back” in travel retail, launching this week the first of a series of initiatives tapping into the Chinese market in particular.

The L’Oreal-owned brand, founded by Rubinstein herself in 1902, launched a three-day experiential pop-up at The Shilla Hotel in Seoul, a stone’s-throw from the giant Shilla Duty Free department store which draws thousands of predominantly Chinese shoppers every day. More than 30 KoLs from China and South Korea were there, on hand to watch one of the brand’s ambassadors, retired Hong Kong actress Cherie Chung open the event.

It marked the first travel retail Asia pop-up for the brand, which would not have been possible without the support of The Shilla, said Petrina Kho, GM of Helena Rubinstein at L’Oreal Travel Retail Asia Pacific. 

Kho admits Helen Rubinstein has been “pretty quiet” in the marketplace for the past few years,  “but I think that L’Oreal was waiting for us to have all the right products in place first”.

Kho says Chinese consumers are a big part of the global cosmetics market now and driving strong growth in the premium cosmetics market in travel retail across Asia. 

A spokesman from The Shilla said Helena Rubinstein sales this year are double those of last year, largely driven by the flagship product the Powercell Skinmunity serum which Chinese have embraced despite its premium price point. 

Kho says the premiumisation trend is leading the skincare market growth. “Helena Rubinstein is at the forefront of that because it is the most luxurious skincare brand and obviously the premium-skincare wave is benefiting us.

“We felt this was the right place to get Helena Rubinstein out, and to partner with The Shilla this year. We want people to know that Helena Rubinstein is back and we want to start engaging with new consumers and our existing consumers.”

Next year, the brand will be ramping up its activities in travel retail, she says.

“I can tell you I am extremely excited for 2020. We are just getting started.” 

This week’s pop-up execution included a series of QR code-driven installations describing the history of the brand and sharing the philosophies of its founder, who died in 1965. It also gave visitors an experiential skin test and treatment experience. 

Kho says Chung, and another brand ambassador, fellow famous Chinese actress Faye Wong, are cutting through for Helena Rubinstein because they are well known among more mature consumers. And that demographic is now passing the baton to younger ones.  


“I’ll tell you an experience I had in a home where we were in a store and I saw a mom and daughter shopping. Mom was introducing her daughter to the brand and I thought that was such an amazing moment, because, you know that the brand has crossed the generation and when your mom is introducing something to your daughter, it’s almost like your personal KoL because she’s talking about the efficacy of the brand.”

Kho describes Faye and Cherie as superstars. “They continue to be extremely healthy. Today the MC asked [Cherie] ‘What are your secrets for beauty?’ She said ‘It’s all about prevention. It’s all about protection, but also make sure that you exercise’. 

“I love that it is such down-to-earth advice. These are strong women and they are extremely empowering. And I think they have that credibility, to tell about their experience about beauty and about empowering themselves.”

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