Founded by Jacqui MacNeill in 1992, the company started with a small location in North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay, a prime tourist destination. The move proved to be a savvy one, as the brand’s organic growth is attributed to its niche product. Boasting a comprehensive aromatherapy and beauty line including bath bombs, essential oils, soaps and shampoos, Escents is an originator of the plant-based wellness movement that has since been parlayed into a national retailer. MacNeill is the Escents CEO, and remains connected with her customers through her eponymous blog. The brand’s most recent widespread expansion occurred in 2015, which saw Escents double their national presence in a single year.
Escents recently entered into a retail partnership model to cultivate entrepreneurs who wish to run their own business. Locations are hand-picked by the brand, and partners and brokers work closely with the head office to ensure there is market reach without oversaturation. Partners are responsible for building, opening, and running the store on a daily basis. The Midtown Plaza Saskatoon location, for instance, is being opened in partnership with the Regina location’s retail partner, in collaboration with corporate entities to ensure that the location will best serve their market. Of the brand’s 22 domestic locations, four are currently in the partnership model.
Conversely, Escents operates under a franchise model in Taiwan, where they have 30 locations throughout the country, including several in the venerable Mitsukoshi department store. The brand has performed strongly in Asia, with four Japanese locations including Tokyo and Osaka. Escents has been in partnership with Air Canada and Eva Air for several years, as they are the provider of in-flight beauty products for the carrier.
Escents is now focusing on the greater Toronto area, with a location opening at Richmond Hill's Hillcrest Mall in August of 2017. The plan is to expand to as many as ten stores between now and 2020. The Hillcrest location is a natural choice, as the neighbourhood is home to a large portion of the GTA’s Asian population who are already familiar with the brand from its presence in Asia.
In addition to the GTA expansion, Escents will also focus on wholesale merchandising. The brand provides training and product knowledge to build increased brand identity for markets in which they have less penetration or retail presence. The brand has also recently launched a new baby line, focusing on child-friendly 100%-natural infant products such as shampoo, lotion and wash. This signifies a move for the brand from a pure retail model to a blended one.
With 52 locations in Canada, Taiwan and Japan, and an increasing presence in the wholesale market, Escents Aromatherapy will be expanding into the national retail consciousness for years to come.
*Top photo is of Escents at Toronto's Holt Renfrew Centre, by Craig Patterson.