Spa products company signs 4-year Chinese contract

Daniel MacEachern
Published on September 28, 2013
On Wednesday afternoon, Darlene McCarthy (left) and LeeAnn Fleming of I.C. Spa on Airport Road in St. John’s, display some of their wares being shipped to China. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A St. John’s-based cosmetics company has signed a major deal that will see its products distributed through China.

Months of meetings, negotiations and work followed, and the Chinese company is now doing test marketing in advance of beginning to receive shipments, starting in January, to be distributed to the company’s Beijing spas. Fleming called the contract a big breakthrough for I.C. Spa.

“Newfoundland, we usually sail under the radar all the time,” she said. “We’re the first Newfoundland professional skin-care company to actually export their natural skin-care line in the Asian market.”

McCarthy said it’s the iceberg water and natural products — like seaweed, sea cucumber and capelin caviar — that attracted the company’s attention.

“Leeann and I harvest our own caplin, because it’s not an endangered species,” she said. “We don’t use sturgeon because sturgeon’s on the endangered species list. So we use caplin caviar because it’s plentiful, and caviar is caviar is caviar.”

I.C. Spa sends their U.S.-based organic chemist their ingredients, to be turned into extracts to add to their skin-care products. The contract means a big increase in production, said Fleming, and it will continue to increase over the length of the contract.

“As it goes along, of course, production will increase again, because this particular individual in Asia, she’s got 72 spas across Beijing,” she said. Ossetra products will be both used by the spa’s estheticians and for sale to customers.

It’s the boost that McCarthy and Fleming — who have been friends since childhood and both have been esthetics instructors at Academy Canada — have been building towards since forming I.C. Spa. The Ossetra line was launched with financial assistance from the provincial and federal governments, including a repayable loan of $210,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in 2010.

They’re also hoping that the Chinese deal will provide a little more clout with spas in Newfoundland and Labrador.

While they’ve had success getting their products into smaller spas, larger ones have been more difficult to crack.

“They prefer to get something shipped in,” said Fleming. “They’re looking at this local thing, and my reaction to that is that if someone is coming in here from anywhere in the world, they want to experience Newfoundland, obviously, so it would be fabulous from a marketing point of view if you say, ‘OK, you’re going to get a bodywrap or a facial today with seaweed from Newfoundland.’ That, to me, is very exotic.”

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