The most exciting retail concept in the sector since The Body Shop!

A buzz of excitement is following the launch of a UK expansion programme by Stenders. Combining the company's own natural beauty product range with an original Latvia-themed store design, the retailer is seeking to establish a national network of high street outlets

Since the launch of The Body Shop in 1976, the demand for ethical cosmetics has increased. Consumer awareness of topics such as animal testing, child labour, fair trade and the environment has resulted in more people questioning the origins of the products in their bathroom cabinets and consequently swapping unethical products for guilt-free ethical versions. This is demonstrated by the results of the Co-operative Bank's Ethical Consumerism Report 2007, which found that consumer expenditure on ethical cosmetics alone has risen by 22 per cent since 2005.

Today, the UK's high street plays host to an array of ethical cosmetic retailers all profiting from the growing consumer demand for natural, ethical products, including Lush, The Body Shop, Aveda, Urban Decay and L'Occtaine. Set to bring a fresh, internationally branded approach to the UK market is Latvian concept Stenders. The company manufactures and sells natural, handmade bath products and accessories and its unique branding and old-fashioned shop environment are what will help to distinguish the brand from its competitors within the ethical cosmetic marketplace. Stenders is seeking franchisee candidates in the UK who have an interest in running a profitable business in the bath and cosmetic industry.

Stenders was founded in Riga, Latvia in 2001. With more than 160 shops in 17 countries worldwide including Russia, China, Japan, Sweden, Luxemburg, Hungary, Poland, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the Baltic States, Stenders has come a long way since the company founders Janis Berzinš, Zane Berzina and Ieva Eglite decided to start franchising the successful business model in 2002. Determined to become a globally recognised brand, Stenders is also looking to recruit Master Franchisees for the USA, Germany, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Greece.

Stenders's success in Latvia is not due to an expensive advertising campaign as co-Founder Janis Berzinš explains: 'Stenders is one of the strongest and most unique brands in the Latvian market because it has become successful without the aid of a conventional advertising campaign. Instead Stenders has relied on one of the oldest and best marketing tools: referrals. By maintaining the quality of the products, well-designed interiors and high level of service Stenders has created brand value with its target audience.'

The company has two different franchise opportunities on offer for prospective UK franchisees. Candidates interested in owning a Stenders shop can operate a single unit franchise with support from head office in Riga, Latvia. However, the company is also seeking a highly capable and well funded individual or corporation to become its UK Master Franchisee and oversee the development and expansion of the Stenders brand within the UK. The company's long-term goal is to have a Master Franchisee driving the development of 100 outlets nationwide.

'While a background in retail is not necessary as Stenders provides full training, franchise partners will need to demonstrate enthusiasm for the products and motivation to build a substantial business,' explains Stenders Sales Project Manager Gundega Ceplevica. 'Prospective franchisees will also need to have excellent customer service and people skills along with the ability to develop and lead a team of employees.'

Single unit franchisees are provided with a comprehensive training programme, support network, licensing rights and an operations manual that explains every aspect of running a Stenders franchise effectively. 'The training package includes a five day operational training course at head office, which is situated in Riga,' explains Gundega. 'This is followed by a further five days of training within the franchisee's own territory where someone from head office will train and prepare the franchise owner in all aspects of running the business, from operating the till and building a loyal customer base to staff recruitment and training.'

Stenders is being assisted in its expansion into the UK by franchise consultancy Franchise Development Services (FDS). The consultancy's Managing Director Roy Seaman CFE reflects: 'Stenders is the most exciting retail concept in the sector since The Body Shop. Specialising in handmade soaps and dried flowers, the stores bring some excitement to the high street because of the strong Latvian branding. Provided the new franchisees who come onboard are able to recreate and maintain the Latvian image they should be able to separate the Stenders outlets from the competition.'

Stenders's focuses the healing properties of plants and herbs, which stems from primitive medicine when it was believed nature had magical healing powers. 'Everything required to make the act of bathing a relaxing, enjoyable, guilt-free experience can be purchased at a Stenders outlet and comes wrapped in natural, eco-friendly packaging,' says Ieva Eglite. 'Rumour has it that one of our product recipes contains the secret of eternal youth!'

The Stenders bath product line includes 200 different varieties derived from vegetable matter, such as cleansing soaps, bath salts, foams, bath balls, body scrubs, body butters, massage butters and oils. 'What makes Stenders unique is not just its old-fashioned, rustic shop interior complete with exposed beams, but its attitude towards its customers,' adds Gundega. 'We treat our customers as friends with a warm welcome and build solid relationships that will generate long term repeat business. In fact Stenders has even set up a monthly loyalty reward scheme where every month different products are offered at a discount price for loyal customers.'

FDS Southern Franchise Consultants Gordon Patterson and Gary Rigby comment: 'The quality of the products, innovative shop design and customer service approach combine to provide the franchisee with a proven formula for success. The products are made to specifically developed recipes and have a very strong emphasis and ethic of quality, naturalness and eco-awareness.'

Reported by Jess Sturman