French cosmetics retailer L’Occitane has hired former Blacks Leisure retail director Joseph Ulloa to head up its UK business.

Ulloa, who has also held senior operational roles at Gap, Marks & Spencer and Safeway, has been brought in to accelerate growth plans for the UK.

He will report to David Boynton, regional managing director, who had been leading the UK business since 2006 and is also responsible for the operations in the US, Canada and Australia.

All the heads of the UK departments including marketing, sales, training, stock, finance and stores will now report into Ulloa, who took up the post this month.

L’Occitane, which has about 45 shops in the UK, raised more than $700m (£434m) in May in the first Hong Kong initial public offering of a French company.

L’Occitane, whose natural skincare products are made in Provence, floated at the top of its intended price range, valuing the company at $2.8bn (£1.74bn).

Retail Week Knowledge Bank director Robert Clark said there is opportunity in the premium cosmetics market in the UK despite there being strong competition.

“There is an opportunity for international brands if they get it right, and strike a chord with an audience,” he said. “The premium end is more sustainable than the mid-market, as if you enter that market you come up against more mainstream competition such as Boots, Superdrug and the department stores.”

Clark said L’Occitane would likely go up against luxury cosmetics retailers such as Molton Brown and Space NK. However, he warned that not all international premium retailers have made the UK work, pointing to Sephora, which exited the UK.

L’Occitane was set up in 1976 by Olivier Baussan. It is famed for products such as Shea Hand Cream and its anti-ageing miracle cream, Immortelle Divine Cream.