Success supercharging the wellbeing market puts NEOM in the mood for US, China expansion

The digital first, omnichannel business has become a bellwether for consumers’ priorities in post pandemic times and saw sales almost double in 2020 to £29 million. With hubs in Selfridges and John Lewis, along with digital partners such as FeelUnique, growth reached almost 50 percent last year for its natural home fragrance, body and skincare ranges. 

Some 95 percent of these are made in the UK using sustainable packaging and the company is now in the final stages of its B Corps application, certification awarded to businesses that balance profit with people and the planet.

Ahead of the game when it was founded by financial services expert Oliver Mennell and former Glamour magazine journalist Nicola Elliott in 2005, Harrogate-based NEOM has been supercharging customers and their busy lives ever since.

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With products helping them to stress less, feel better, have more energy and sleep peacefully, “NEOM sits at the intersection of well-being, beauty and lifestyle,” explains chief executive Mennell. That’s where we see a gap in the market and we were well placed when the structural shift to online happened.

“We incorporate science-based aromatherapeutic ingredients and where possible ones that are natural and organic too. Our fragrances are 100 percent natural. Developing our formulations has become easier, other non-wellbeing brands find it hard to switch to natural when fragrances are 100 percent synthetic. They cannot get close to the smells and textures our customers are accustomed to.

“We want to help people improve their wellbeing over the longer term, building small manageable steps into their everyday routines. Our wellbeing edit every January demonstrates that, promoting products of all kinds, not just our own. Now we’re at the fore of building the wellbeing product category that we call the fifth pillar of beauty.”

That’s a global market worth more than a £1 trillion, and Brits are forecast to spend around £500 per head on wellbeing this year. Good value and function, realised through product innovation and flexible development, form a core part of NEOM’s high street ranges.

“We pay close attention to our customers so everything is a perfect fit,” explains Mennell. “Our candles are very popular, under £50, long-lasting and are twice the size of most. We realised that was the combination that worked after launching a £200 plus candle in a designer collaboration that did not sell well.

“From that we also learned that NEOM is an accessible brand. Our product prices have a broad spread from £10 to our Wellbeing Pod range and the Pod Luxe which enables scent to be diffused quickly across a larger space, such as bigger rooms and offices. We also offer free tools from yoga classes to advice that has created the NEOM community. Customers who order once usually buy again within 90 days, that’s our golden metric.”

The biggest formulation challenge so far has resulted in NEOM bestseller its Magnesium Body Butter (£36), where magnesium, a vital mineral that aids good sleep, is absorbed easily as a skin cream. The hair care range, due for February will offer shampoos and conditioners.

As the product range expands so NEOM’s customer profile is changing from predominantly women in their 30s and 40s to 18-to-80-year-olds, with 15 percent of them male. The business, which employs 100, launched in the US last year where it works with upmarket store chain Nordstrom, Amazon Prestige Beauty and clothing retailer Anthropologie.

The latest pop ups will guide the shape of further roll outs, “to where footfall is strongest,” adds Mennell who is also laying plans for China where its natural remedies culture means “they get our principles,” he explains.

As the minority stake taken by investor Piper in 2017 approaches exit time, the company is now weighing up new growth financing options. These include another private equity investment round or even a float.

“Wellbeing does not fit into a neat box and we have had to educate the market,” says Mennell. “We believe now we have achieved a perfect fit and our aim is to grow our sales in the hundreds of millions in the next five years or so.”