L’Oréal USA has already filled 50 newly created jobs as it works through a $12 million-plus expansion of its North Little Rock facility, Plant Manager Eric Fox told Arkansas Business in a recent interview.
He also said the plant, which employs 400 now, could still add another 10-20 people by the first quarter of 2022.
The expansion announced in May is a response to post-pandemic demand for the company’s products and also a way to accommodate growth via acquisitions including Urban Decay Cosmetics, IT Cosmetics and NYX Cosmetics, Fox said.
Overall market performance for the type of products L’Oreal makes — color cosmetics – has surpassed pre-COVID levels, he said, and L’Oreal products are performing even better.
“Post-vaccination and as most of the nation has opened up over the course of the year, people are really anxious to get back outside and resume their life, and we have seen this boom in makeup,” Fox said. He expects sustained growth into the future as well.
In addition, while COVID did hit sales of lip products hard, it boosted other product sales. When governments closed stores and salons to slow the spread of COVID-19 last year, L’Oreal saw sales of the nail polish, boxed hair color and eye makeup it manufactures increase, he said. L'Oréal Telescopic and Maybelline Sky High by Maybelline mascaras did particularly well, fueled by exposure on social media sites, especially TikTok, Fox said.
All this led to the North Little Rock plant expansion.
He described the expansion that is underway now as more of a reconfiguration than an addition to the plant’s physical footprint, although there is now more square footage there for finished goods packaging, equipment and staff.
“It's a capital expansion in our infrastructure, but it's also an investment in our people. But we're pretty far along on it right now already. So it will likely carry into 2022. ... Then, beyond that, who knows. We'll certainly be poised for future growth here,” he said. To that end, there is no hard deadline for the expansion to be completed, Fox said.
The additional jobs have been for forklift drivers, machine operators, processors, mechanics, engineers, planners and supervisors. He declined to disclose a salary range but said it is competitive and that workers still get a pension plus other benefits.
Fox also said he hadn’t had much trouble with filling positions even in a tight labor market because of the plant's reputation as a good employer.
He started his career there in 2004 and said he hasn’t seen anything since that compares to the growth happening there now.
“It’s great for, of course, the community, right? It's great for our workforce. It’s great for the folks of central Arkansas, but it's also great for the company because we're responding to this huge increase in demand,” Fox said. “And at L'Oreal USA all of our brands are doing quite well. This year, we were outpacing a market that is also growing at a pretty rapid rate. So we're adjusting our production plans here in order to keep pace with that consumer demand.”
The L’Oreal plant in North Little Rock is housed in the original Maybelline factory that was built in 1975. L'Oreal acquired Maybelline in 1996.
Today, the facility is one of the largest cosmetics plants in the world, Fox said, and has been named a “Center of Excellence” by the global company.