By  on July 18, 2008

LAS VEGAS— Finding newness in a sea of me-too items was the goal for many retailers and distributors attending the sixth annual Cosmoprof North America show held from Sunday through Tuesday in Las Vegas. And Cosmoprof delivered, retailers said.

Nearly 740 exhibitors filled the Mandalay Bay Convention Center — up from 700 last year — which was attended by approximately 25,000 beauty industry folk, ranging from buyers to distributors, packaging experts to fillers and members of the financial community looking for possible acquisition candidates. New exhibitors helped drive excitement, including Alberto-Culver, LPG, Nioxin and concept.

While there isn't a data firm that tracks the performance of the various categories within the salon distribution channel, many of the smaller companies attending the show (under $100 million in size) said their businesses fared well in 2007 and that international growth would help spur 2008 and 2009 sales growth. Innovative items — namely new hair care items — have been in short supply, said some showgoers. Newness is needed to help boost the salon category, one that is increasingly becoming a victim of critical mass.

Norma Knudsen, executive vice president of merchandising and chief operating officer of PureBeauty, Beauty First and Trade Secret, said that diversion is putting a nail in the professional market coffin by driving down demand in her stores, and is ultimately hampering innovation.

"I think there is innovation happening, it is just not happening in the professional sector," she said, explaining the lack of innovation as the reason for reinventing Trade Secret's professional-rich format to reflect PureBeauty's multicategory mix.

"Several of the top professional product lines are now found in mass outlets such as Target and CVS," she said, explaining that sales of salon products at mass are growing at an alarming rate. "With the increase of distribution in mass outlets the professional salon category has been blurred in the mind of the consumer. They do not understand the difference between mass or professional products."

Knudsen, along with Courtney Baber, general manager of C.O. Bigelow, and Debbie Murtha, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for cosmetics for Macy's Merchandising Group, addressed the challenges of their respective retail environments in a panel sponsored by WWD.

Among the topics discussed were the importance of foreign manufacturers having a U.S.-based support team, as well as a distributor to help them with meeting ship dates. All three retailers on the panel agreed on how important it is for manufacturers, who spent as much as $7,500 to exhibit at the show, to have their booths managed properly as there were times during the show that company employees seemed to spend more time talking among themselves and checking out other exhibitors than attending to potential business opportunities.

On a high note, all three talked about their retail opportunities.

Murtha talked about her search for natural and organic products at Cosmoprof to help fill out a new test initiative that chain plans to roll out shortly. While Murtha usually requires a brand to have at least $10 million in sales to do business with her, she also was on a quest for smaller items that may help build the firm's My Macy's initiative, which will allow her to customize product mix based on certain stores' location and key demographics.

Baber relayed Bigelow's success with the U.K.-based skin care brand Ren, and how she is looking forward to rolling out 10 new C.O. Bigelow stores next year. She said she is looking to fill the apothecary with everything from niche skin care brands to coffee table books. "Our customer easily spends $100 on an Aqua di Parma fragrance," she said, explaining that promotions have all but disappeared from her stores.

Knudsen recalled how eight years ago, she placed a $900 order with a then-small professional player called Tigi. After eight years of helping nurture the brand, this year her order with Tigi is $15 million. Knudsen also discussed her parent company, Regis Corp.'s most recent undertaking: Raze, a new men's only salon concept that's opening its first door in Minneapolis this fall. Plans are to roll out Raze nationwide in the next several years.

Making the search for the next best thing less of a chore for busy showgoers was Discover Beauty, a white-walled nook located on the edge of the convention showroom floor, filled with a cherry-picked group of beauty companies, both domestic and foreign.

Knudsen and her group thought Discover Beauty helped deliver innovation.

"I know that the Regis group loved the Discover Beauty area," she said. "The meetings were set up so that they could meet with each of these vendors individually in a fairly short period of time. The feedback was great. We will definitely return."

Discover Beauty exhibitor VMV Hypoallergenics is a family-owned brand started by its matriarch, a dermatologist, 20 years ago. Based in the Philippines, the company takes skin care and those who are hypersensitive to ingredients very seriously. Hence, VMV has created a system for hypoallergenicity where a product's "VH-Number" grades a product's hypoallergenicity based on how many allergens it does not contain, as referenced by the list of allergens compiled by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group. Beginning this month, two items will be available in Bliss catalogues: Id Anti-Acne/Anti-Aging Lotion and Id Sweat Acne + Overall Antibacterial Monolaurin Gel.

Also in Discover Beauty was Japanese skin care company, LiBote, with a moisturizing line called Sakura. The four-item range uses water from hot Japanese springs in its formulas. Most interesting was its moisture cream, which produces beads of water on applied areas following application.

Another hot skin line at the show was Skin by Monica, a collection that in addition to skin products also offers ingestibles. Most notable is The Cure, a wrinkle reducer that co-founder Monica Olsen said retails for $90. The company's lip plumper was also popular among buyers, as it was passed around at the Discover Beauty cocktail party Sunday evening for all to see.

Within hair care was a line tailored for fashionistas called No. 4. The company, Bureau Number 4 LLC, is owned by Rick Hough, and created by fashion designer Juan Carlos Obando, who was a winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. The line addresses four categories: hydration, volume, styling and essentials, and will include 15 products. Products will sell between $30 and $45, and is expected to launch during New York Fashion Week.

Former Wella executive Steve Goddard was at Cosmoprof talking about a new shampoo and conditioner duo, Keratin Fusion, designed to be used with his in-salon treatment Keratin Fusion Treatment Control. The treatment, which launched to salons in March, is now sold in 30,000 outlets and is free of formaldehyde. The new shampoo and conditioner, which enter salons this month, are sulfate free. Each will sell for $14.

Sudzz FX also unveiled its new, modern-looking packaging. Company founder J. Aris Koroyan is also taking the line's focus from that of a sulfate free line to one that uses a Color Fix 3 Complex, a nano emulsion to keep hair color from fading. The new packaging and formulas are aimed at grabbing an edgy, affluent customer. The line is currently sold in 3,000 salons nationwide. Sudzz, said Koroyan, is still sulfate, paraben and propylene glycol free, and uses botanicals in its formulas.

Hair appliances were everywhere at Cosmoprof and at the Belson booth there were different versions for all types of hair and consumers. The sexiest new items by Belson are under the new Brazilian Heat by Mega Hot brand. Each tool in the line, said Ileana Moya, director of marketing, is bright orange and stark white, and includes a blow-dryer with a dial to control air flow, and two flat irons, which heat up to 450 degrees in as little as 30 seconds.

Hair tool appliance company HAI Elite celebrated its 10th anniversary at Cosmoprof as husband-and-wife team, Connie and Richard Ouellette, showed off their latest line, HAI High Classic Pro. The line uses new technology to make its blow-dryer lighter for better handling. And, ceramic plates in styling irons use nanotechnology. Connie Ouellette said the company's 2007 sales were up in the double digits and that the privately owned firm expects 33 percent sales increases for 2008 based on the Classic Pro line and the firm taking sales international. The company generates approximately $15 million in sales, according to industry sources.

Profound Beauty, owned by Mana Products, has ditched its "personalized salon label" strategy and instead is focusing on its edgy, hip lines, such as Atmosphere, said Stefany Reed, senior vice president of sales. Also from Mana is a new skin line launching in October called Skintuitive, a unisex line targeting various skin needs.

OPI's Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president and creative director, talked excitedly of the company's new concept salon in Los Angeles, ROB|B. The company, which industry sources estimate to generate $100 million in sales, was up in single digits for 2007 but double-digit increase are planned for 2008 due to international growth. "We are now a global company. India, China, Russia, Romania and Poland are huge markets for us," she said. Weiss-Fischmann said the economy will not affect her business as manicures and nail care provides "instant gratification." Its new color collection, France, which includes shades of purple, deep gray and crimson, will be available in August.

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