Three Indie Beauty Brand Founders Open Toronto Refill Concept Eco+Amour To Stem The Tide Of Plastic Waste
Three indie beauty brand founders have joined forces to lead the charge for sustainability in Toronto with new refill retail concept Eco+Amour.
While bulk food is relatively common in the city, Julianne Robicheau, creator of Robi Luxury Skin Care, who has opened the 400-square-foot location with Sarah Marcus and Laura Craig, the duo behind Lines of Elan, says refill options at brick-and-mortar in the beauty segment is a rarity for its residents. The trio is testing whether the practice will have legs with bulk products available from their brands’ selections as well as from four Canadian skincare, haircare, cosmetics, bath and body care, and home cleaning lines: Graydon, Cosmetic Tree Essentials, Bathorium and Sapadilla.
“We are trying to change how Torontonians shop for beauty and self-care,” asserts Robicheau, noting the beauty industry globally is responsible for 120 billion packaging units annually that predominantly aren’t recycled. “There are stores doing refill already, but it’s not a big thing in North America compared to Europe and Japan, and it really should be. Now that I’m immersed in the beauty industry, I realize how much plastic waste it creates. The extent of it is really disturbing.”
Eco+Amour marks an evolution in the relationship between Marcus, Craig and Robicheau. In 2016, pregnant with her second child and overburdened by producing Robi Luxury Skin Care products on her own, she enlisted Marcus and Craig to manufacture them for her. The manufacturing connection led to a friendship and, ultimately, to Eco+Amour, which is situated in front of Marcus’s and Craig’s manufacturing facility.
“There are stores doing refill already, but it’s not a big thing in North America compared to Europe and Japan, and it really should be. Now that I’m immersed in the beauty industry, I realize how much plastic waste it creates. The extent of it is really disturbing.”
“I work from home with my kids, and I don’t have the luxury of being able to go out and network as much as I’d like. They have a young brand like I do, and we connected when talking about how hard it is to start a brand and scale. We would chat about our industry, and what we could do to grow and help each other out,” says Robicheau. “We knew we wanted to collaborate, but we didn’t know how.”
Lines of Elan hosted a pop-up up shop during the holiday season, and its success convinced Marcus, Craig and Robicheau that a permanent retail format could perform at the same spot on Bertrand Avenue in the neighborhood Scarborough. The partners haven’t set a firm expectation for first-year sales because Robicheau explains they’re unsure about the reaction to the refill idea and the plaza the store is in doesn’t have heavy foot traffic. The goal for the first year is to generate enough revenues to move Eco+Amour to a busier location.
“It’s easy to go to Walmart and get everything you need, including your shampoo and skincare. We’re really going to have to sell the point that, by coming to Eco+Amour, you’re doing something great for the environment, you’re using natural products that are good for you, and you’re supporting local companies,” says Robicheau. “It’s going to be interesting to see how Toronto takes to it.”
“It’s easy to go to Walmart and get everything you need, including your shampoo and skincare. We’re really going to have to sell the point that, by coming to Eco+Amour, you’re doing something great for the environment, you’re using natural products that are good for you, and you’re supporting local companies.”
Customers seeking to refill their shampoos, serums or more at Eco+Amour bring empty, dry containers to the shop, and the containers are filled by its staff. Staff control over refilling ensures it’s done in a sanitary manner, and Eco+Amour is careful to regularly sanitize any implements employed for refilling. With the exception of cosmetics priced on a per item basis, refill customers are charged by the gram or ounce.
Robicheau estimates refill customers save $2 to $5 a product by going the refill route versus replenishing the standard way. “Let’s say you buy your shampoo for $20, it could cost the person coming in for a refill $15,” she details. “If people are shopping in the refill section, they are for sure saving money.”
The refill section at Eco+Amour contains 32 half-gallon to gallon jugs, but it’s not the only section of the bright and cheery store. Its merchandise extends to non-refill, eco-conscious products such as reusable towels, cleaning tools and textiles from brands the likes of EcoCoconut, Kliin and Pamuk & Co., and it also provides an outlet for Canadian companies from outside Toronto looking to break into the urban market. Eco+Amour sells Sohma Naturals, a skincare brand centered on Ikaria honey and based in Digby, Nova Scotia, on consignment.
Robicheau conjectures Eco+Amour’s customers will largely be people steeped in green lifestyles, but she hopes it will attract those just learning about techniques to reduce their impacts on the earth as well. “Anyone can make tiny changes to the way they live their lives,” she says. “Our motto is, ‘Every sustainable step matters.’ Whether you are starting out or a seasoned pro, we have things for you.”