By  on February 25, 2005

NEW YORK — Straight hair was practically a no-show on the runways at New York Fashion Week for fall 2005, and sales of many straight-hair products are fizzling at mass. But one company says a sleek, neat coif is what many women still crave.

EasyStraight, one of hair care’s newest players, managed to generate $2 million in sales in the home perm-relaxer kit category last year, despite a 3 percent sales dip for the segment, according to data firm Information Resources Inc., for the 52-week period ended Jan. 20, excluding Wal-Mart. EasyStraight first arrived on 12,000 mass retailer shelves in January 2004. The kit includes everything required for a four-step, one-hour, at-home straightening treatment, such as conditioning oil, straightening cream, straightening sealant and a leave-in conditioner. Treatments are designed to last as long as six months.

Maria Dempsey, president of HM Mane Solutions LLC, which makes and distributes EasyStraight, explained that the item’s appeal extended beyond customers to retailers since it is an industry first. Dempsey, a former John Frieda Hair Care marketing executive, however, is looking over her shoulder at competitors.

“We’re the only product like it on the market — so far,” Dempsey said.

Despite EasyStraight’s success, sales of many shampoos, conditioners and styling products formulated to help women straighten hair plummeted last year. Pantene’s Smooth & Sleek fell 11.4 percent, and sales of Umberto Giannini’s Sleek & Chic shampoo fell 14.4 percent, according to IRI. Ogilvie’s At-Home Relaxing Kit, the closest item to EasyStraight on shelves, saw sales dip 13.7 percent to $1.75 million.

Sales of salon brands in mass stores grew, however, such as Straight Sexy Hair shampoo, which increased 33.7 percent in sales, and Matrix’s styling line, Sleek Look, which grew 63 percent.

The continued quest for straight hair, according to Haime Muñoz, founder of EasyStraight and owner of the Haime Muñoz salon in Manhattan, is more than just a certain look.

“It’s not straight hair that is keeping the interest of people; it is more about the manageability of the hair,” Muñoz said, adding that he believes stick-straight hairstyles are out, but straight hair with “body and movement” is in.

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