DARMSTADT, Germany -- The Wella Group, a powerhouse in professional hair care products, is now striving to become a major global player in retail products.
Bolstered by recent strategic acquisitions, the company is attempting to build on its image of salon expertise to expand abroad.
"From our figures, we believe we are in the number one position worldwide in the salon business, but the professional market is limited and doesn't show real growth," said Andreas Riecke, vice president in charge of Wella's retail hair care and color brands.
"We have the clear target of improving our position in retail," he continued during an interview at Wella's headquarters here.
Riecke noted that even in the salon business, Wella is in a horse race with the Paris-based L'Oreal. There are also formidable rivals in the retail business -- Procter & Gamble and Helene Curtis in the U.S., the Anglo-Dutch Unilever and L'Oreal. But Wella has some advantages too, Riecke asserted.
"Wella is widely recognized as a hair specialist," he said. "No other brand worldwide has the same potential in hair care or is as focused on hair care."
Riecke noted that Wella pursues a "mega-brand strategy" by marketing all its products under the Wella name. Other companies, such as L'Oreal, use a variety of brand names, some of which are applied to disparate categories of products.
Although year-end results will not be announced until May, Wella has indicated it will show sales growth of between 5 and 6 percent.
The company has reported that 1993 group sales through the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, were up 3.2 percent, to $1.19 billion (2.03 billion marks) at current exchange rates over the same period in 1992.
Pretax profits were up 5.3 percent, to $57.8 million (99 million marks).
As Wella plots its expansion in the nearly $22 billion worldwide hair care market, these are the key components of its strategy:
Innovative products. In 1990, for example, Wella recruited newer, younger customers to color with the introduction of Wella Color Intensive Coloring Mousse. The foam, whose color vanishes after six to nine washes, allows consumers to change hues with their mood.
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