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Export Commendation For Fragrant Linden Leaves

24 AUGUST 2001

Media Release

Export Commendation For Fragrant Linden Leaves

Linden Leaves Ltd, a small Christchurch company that produces and markets natural bath and body care products, has been awarded a Trade New Zealand Export Commendation for strong export growth.

(Media are invited to attend the Linden Leaves Export Commendation presentation, by Trade New Zealand Sector Manager Leone Evans, on Friday 24 August 2001, at 5pm, at
6 Woodside Common, West Morland, Christchurch).

In the past three years Linden Leaves has increased exports from $350,000 to just under $1 million, selling to Korea, Japan and more recently Hong Kong and Australia. That figure could double in the coming year, says Managing Director Brigit Blair, with the company preparing to expand into the important European market and possibly Taiwan.

Mrs Blair says to manage the recent and projected growth, the company has undertaken a major planning, research and development programme. This included Mrs Blair travelling to Europe to research the market, and commissioning Trade New Zealand to identify potential distributors and retailers for its products. Linden Leaves is usually sold through distributors whose clients include upmarket department stores, boutiques or designer lifestyle stores.

Mrs Blair says the research revealed very high potential for Linden Leaves in Europe, but also highlighted several areas to address to ensure successful entry into the market.

As a result the company has spent six months repositioning, redesigning, repackaging and refining the Linden Leaves concept. A bilingual (English and French) web site has been developed to showcase products and identify major stockists, and product literature has been created in five languages for buyers and sales representatives.

“We are repositioning our brand as modern, innovative, upmarket bodycare products to compete with internationally renowned brands such as Crabtree & Evelyn, which is where the research shows Linden Leaves sits in the market.”

The company’s target audience is women who buy their products repeatedly for themselves, not just as gifts. Mrs Blair says this picks up on a trend in recent years for women to purchase such products for themselves because ‘they deserve them’.

To succeed in an extremely trend driven industry the company makes a major investment in product development to meet the continual consumer demand for something new. Linden Leaves currently carries seven major ranges, which consist of over 200 bath and body products and is releasing a haircare and men’s range in September.

“Our brand’s competitive advantages include ‘fresh, clean’ ingredients,” says Mrs Blair. “The products are as natural as possible, allowing for the fact that oils and creams have to have some shelf life. The New Zealand origin of our products is also an advantage, given the perception internationally that
New Zealand is clean and green.”

Brigit Blair founded Linden Leaves in a joint venture with a Korean partner in the mid-1990s. She had been travelling to Korea regularly as an importer but decided that exporting made more sense.

“I identified a gap in the Korean market for bathing and body care products positioned between the world brands such as Yves St Laurent and Elizabeth Arden and the locally manufactured brands.”

Linden Leave was set up as a concept store within a major Seoul Department store. Business was growing strongly when the building the store was located in collapsed. That, and the withdrawal of the Korean partner for personal reasons, prompted Mrs Blair to register Linden Leaves New Zealand in 1997 and expand the business beyond Korea.

“I expanded into Japan thinking it would be similar to Korea but found it to be completely different in terms of business culture and consumer trends, for example Korean women use a lot of bath oil and Japanese women don’t.”

Mrs Blair also started to exporting to Australia – now its fastest growing market – and Hong Kong, following approaches from distributors in those markets. She says those experiences highlighted the need for a more strategic approach to market expansion.

Trade New Zealand Account Manager Maria Woods says Brigit Blair’s entrepreneurial skill and passion have helped create a successful export business, adding the recent investment in planning and research will help manage future growth. She also commended Linden Leaves for recognising the value of the internet as a business tool.

“Trade New Zealand has seen significant growth in the number of small and medium sized exporting clients using the internet to grow their exports. In support of this trend we are launching an extensive e-business project to help other exporters take their first steps to become e-savvy.”

Brigit Blair says Linden Leaves is now poised for major growth, with research and sales figures showing there is a strong and increasing international and domestic demand for the brand. She says the immediate challenge is securing finance to support the company’s expansion plans, which include increasing staff numbers from the current nine, larger premises and ongoing product development.

For further information:

Brigit Blair, Linden Leaves Managing Director, ph 03 339 8314

Maria Woods, Trade New Zealand Account Manager, ph 03 364 5003

Released by Tracey Palmer, Trade New Zealand Communications, ph 09 915 4223 or 021 498 155

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