Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Amy Quek, CEO of BMF Bella Marie France and Svenson Hair Center about beauty and personal care industry.
With more than 35 years of experience in the beauty and bodycare industry, Amy Quek has been passionate about beauty since she was young. Her experience at Global Beauty International (GBI) made her the first female CEO in GBI’s history.
Amy kickstarted her career in Marie France Bodyline Singapore in 1989 as a Consultant and was promoted within a span of two years to General Manager of both Singapore and Malaysia markets. She also played a pivotal role in the expansion of Marie France Bodyline in Hong Kong, Indonesia and Brunei in
the early 90s.
In 2001, she was promoted to become the Regional Operations Director and soon climbed the corporate ladder and was given the responsibility of Chief Operation Officer (COO) in 2005. In June 2012, she became the first woman to helm Marie France Bodyline as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
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RiA: Can you walk us through the development of your company in Asia?
Amy: Headquartered in Singapore, Global Beauty International Pte Ltd (GBIL) owns and operates a network of beauty treatment centers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia with our long-established brands, namely BMF Bella Marie France that offers skincare and body sculpting treatments, and Svenson Hair Center that offers hair loss treatments and hair weaving services.
The business started in 1974, with growth and expansion over the last 46 years. We started in Hong Kong followed by Singapore and Malaysia. A great milestone for the brand was the unification of Marie France Bodyline and Bella Skin Care to form BMF Bella Marie France in 2017 in Singapore, and in Hong Kong and Malaysia the following year. We are currently in discussion and working towards entering the Indonesia market in 2021 with a new local partner for our brands, BMF Bella Marie France and Svenson Hair Center.
RiA: What is the customer profile for BMF and Svenson? Have you seen any shift throughout the years?
Amy: At BMF Bella Marie France, we cater to modern, busy women by offering the latest technology-forward treatments in a one-stop beauty spot. Our state-of-the-art beauty gyms promise a plethora of cutting-edge face and body treatments that give you the freedom to pursue a curated and precise rejuvenation regime rooted in science.
At Svenson Hair Center, we cater to both men and women who are experiencing concerns with their hair and scalp. Our team of experienced Trichologists are able to diagnose and recommend the appropriate treatment for hair and scalp care. We use a holistic approach, combining botanical formulations and cutting-edge techniques to keep your hair and scalp condition healthy and strong.
Our core customers for both brands are in their 30s to late 40s, and are mostly Professionals, Managers, Executives and Business Owners. In the last 4 years, we have been growing our online and social media presence and this has helped us to widen our reach to include a segment of younger audiences in their mid to late 20s.
RiA: How do you see the future of the beauty industry transforming in this ‘new normal’? What have you observed as the key trends or changes from both business and consumers’ perspective?
Amy: We are looking at more streamlined processes and definitely the development of our online e-commerce presence. By building our e-commerce presence, we are able to provide a 24/7 marketplace for current clients and prospective clients, and also introduce our products and offerings to a wider group of audiences.
There is also a need to adopt innovative technology to drive visible and effective results through our treatments. Hence, we plan to reinforce this competitive edge that GBIL has and is known for, by investing USD2 million to procure 40 units of the latest treatment equipment for the group.
RiA: What are some of the key challenges that BMF has faced during this pandemic and how will BMF reposition itself to take on the challenges in the ‘new normal’?
Amy: With the government-mandated closure of our treatment centers, we relied on our e-commerce platform Shope Beauty during the Circuit Breaker in April till 18 June 2020 to ensure that our clients and other new customers continue to have access to our products round the clock.
Growing our online presence both on social media and e-commerce had helped us pivot our business into a more digitalised and efficient operation model which helped to ensure business continuity for BMF Bella Marie France and Svenson Hair Center, and this was matched with great success. We’ve also made improvements to enhance price transparency and adopted a standardised approach in product development and supply, thus allowing us to stay competitive and pass on savings to our customers.
RiA: With reduction of in-salon/centre time for treatments, how do you ensure the safety of your clients while maintaining personalised service levels and keeping the process efficient and effective? How does BMF bridge the gap with customers, now that face-to-face interactions are reduced?
Amy: Now that the beauty industry has been allowed to resume operations in Phase 2, our priority has been the safety and well-being of our staff and customers. We have stepped up on social distancing measures and safe management practices across all treatment centers under BMF Bella Marie France and Svenson Hair Center. This includes regular bio-fogging with hospital-grade disinfectant, installation of safety shields, stringent deployment of staff protective gear and protocols, introducing staggered working hours to avoid overcrowding, and equipping our workplaces with a Safe Management Measure Protocol Handbook.
Frequent cleaning and sanitisation of rooms and equipment are also carried out. Virtual meetings are encouraged for our HQ-based employees and during the earlier stages of reopening, we implemented measures to reduce contact time between therapists and clients at our centres while still being able to deliver results with our technology-driven treatment processes.
We also make an effort to stay in touch with our clients through phone calls and messages to check in on their wellbeing, and our team also sent them self-care packages during the Circuit Breaker period in Singapore to tide them through.
RiA: Are there any sharing of good practices or protocols that have been adopted and further built-on? How has BMF forged on to be the first mover in the beauty service industry and share its experience and expertise to peers?
Amy: BMF Bella Marie France is a pioneer in the beauty service industry in Southeast Asia, and as the times changed and our consumer base evolved, we have to ensure that we stay relevant through modernisation of the brand and reinforcing our competitive edge on delivering technology-driven treatments that deliver visible results. We also make sure to invest in our employees through training hours, providing them with opportunities to grow and improve as individuals and for the group as a whole. My commitment towards this has resulted in Svenson Hair Center being awarded with the Singapore Quality Class, a certification by Enterprise Singapore.
Besides developing good practices or protocols which benefit the business, we also look towards creating a positive impact on the society through volunteering and donation efforts. BMF Bella Marie France and Svenson Hair Center donated $40,873.74, which is from a percentage of our sales from July to August 2020, to Food From The Heart, a charity that reaches out to the less fortunate by alleviating hunger through a food distribution programme.
Our operation and management teams also volunteered their time at Food From The Heart’s warehouse to help pack food to be distributed to school children of low income families. And most recently, on 19th October, we started offering complimentary beauty treatments at our centers to our healthcare workers as a way to express our appreciation for their unwavering heroism. Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the cores of our business because we believe that blessings should be shared.
Ria: How has the company helped or empowered its employees, including its therapists, during this challenging time to continue to provide their expertise in this new norm with retraining and upgrading of skills?
Amy: We provided training for all our therapists to help them become more digital savvy, so that they can participate in online training sessions to improve treatment delivery skills and customer service skills. Our consultants underwent training to refresh their knowledge on treatment technology and product formulations. To adapt to the new normal, we also ensured that they are well-equipped with skills to conduct phone calls with exceptional customer service.
On top of all, forging a strong bond between staff has always been one of our very important initiatives and this will be no different even in this new norm. During Mid Autumn Festival, we celebrated the occasion by gifting mooncakes to all our staff and for the upcoming Christmas festivities, we will also be gifting custom-designed MRT Ez-link cards with value to every employee along with Christmas cupcakes and bubble tea.
I do believe that our employees are the heart of our company, and we should invest the same time and effort that they have invested for us.
RiA: What is next for BMF and Svenson?
Amy: In terms of business growth and expansion, for now, we are focusing our efforts on a successful entering of BMF Bella Marie France into the Indonesia market, which was delayed due to the pandemic. And in 2021, we want to do our part for the environment by moving towards eco-friendly product packaging. It’s been estimated that about 120 billion units of non-recyclable packaging are produced by the global cosmetic industry yearly. With the rising awareness of this global issue, consumers are starting to look to businesses and brands that can lead the change and contribute responsibly.
Another interesting upcoming project would be the introduction of a collaboration between BMF Bella Marie France and Svenson Hair Center, where technology-driven hair care treatments will be offered in our BMF Bella Marie France centers as well. This range of treatments will be curated just for BMF Bella Marie France with the trichological expertise from the team at Svenson Hair Center.
But more than these, we also hope to tide over this pandemic safely, while also providing our clients with not only solutions to stress-induced skin, body and hair issues, but also a place to rest and unwind from the effects of this difficult time.