A pioneer in the natural beauty category, Neal’s Yard Remedies has been offering organic skincare, haircare, aromatherapy and other beauty products from its home in London, England’s Covent Garden since 1981, including its award-winning Frankincense Intense Cream. Relatively new to Canadians, the brand opened up shop here in May of 2014, when it launched its Canadian retail operations through a partnership with Lisa Costello, CEO of Neal’s Yard Remedies Canada, opening its first North American location in Calgary’s boutique-filled Mission district.
A second Calgary location is slated to open this October in Southcentre Mall, and Costello already has a five-year plan to expand to 10 doors across the country. We spoke with the entrepreneur for the back story on how she brought Neal’s Yard Remedies to Canadians.
How did you first discover Neal’s Yard Remedies?
“I was living in London with my husband, and I became completely hooked on it. As I moved back [to Calgary], I thought, ‘Well, you know what, this doesn’t exist in Canada.’ I couldn’t imagine using anything else. So it was a personal need but also something I was passionate about.”
How did your partnership with Neal’s Yard Remedies come about?
“It was pretty well a cold call. When you look at it from the business side, it was one of the most daring things I’ve done. I’m lucky they took our request seriously. We had some conversations about what a partnership would be like and, as those conversations progressed, we started looking at different spaces. We ended up settling on one on 4th Street, and then obviously, the build-out takes a while. We opened in May 2014 in Calgary, and we will open [the Southcentre Mall] store in October 2015.”
What is your professional background? How did you transition into this role, as CEO of Neal’s Yard Remedies Canada?
“I’m a chartered accountant, so I was working at one of the big accounting firms and just totally took a leap and changed my path 180 degrees. In the last year and a half or so, I’ve learned a ton about retail. I feel comfortable in it, love the retail environment and love making people feel beautiful every day. I feel lucky I also understand the numbers and where we’re at. And using numbers to strategize business growth is kind of fun.”
Was Neal’s Yard Remedies looking to expand into Canada specifically?
“They were definitely eager. I think they look for the right partnerships the same way you look for a product that respects the people and the planet and the ingredients, and that kind of thing. You have to be able to trust your partners, in terms of their skill set but also their ethics, [when you’re] working together to achieve a common goal. They liked the fact that we are a family business, and liked what we had to offer and our growth plan. I think that’s equally as important if you’re going to take over a territory. You have to be able to stand up and bring it across the country.”
Why have you focused your expansion in Calgary, as opposed to other Canadian cities?
“We saw a gap in the market, and Calgary has a great economy. There weren’t a whole lot of [organic beauty] options [here] that you may otherwise see in places like Vancouver. The other thing is we are Calgarian, so it’s nice to open a store where you’ve got great support.”
What are your future plans for Neal’s Yard Remedies Canada?
“We have plans for Canada-wide expansion, for sure. We’re looking to [open stores in] Vancouver, Toronto and other markets. It’s just a matter of finding the right location at the right time. I would love to see us in Toronto.”