Freeman Beauty Labs, battered by previous owners, is on the rebound.
The nearly 45-year-old hair and skin care company was left a shell of its former self with below $20 million in sales when Freeman family members salvaged it out of bankruptcy court in 2003. It had arguably lost luster under the control of Dial Corp. and private equity firm The Hathi Group. But Freeman Beauty Labs has been reinvigorated lately with executive hires, rising distribution and fresh brands, including four bought last year from Woodridge Labs, bringing recognition and revenues that recall the Nineties, when the company was in the Freemans’ hands and soared to more than $70 million in sales.
“In the first quarter, with having new brands and our existing brands, we were up 37 percent in a down market. We are projecting over a 40 percent increase in sales in 2010 and over 100 percent from 2009 to 2011,” said Freeman Beauty Labs chairman Larry Freeman. “Our dramatic years of growth were from 1988 to 1997, and 2010 will be as good as any of those years.”
The foundation for Freeman Beauty Labs’ renaissance began to be laid five years ago when Freeman Beauty received an investment of $8.5 million from private equity firm Champlain Capital Partners, currently a minority owner. Following the investment, the company brought on board Steven Dickstein as president in 2007 and, last year, added Ted Paul as controller and Douglas Hosking, a veteran of the consumer packaged goods industry and Freeman Beauty Labs board member, as chief executive officer.
Along with Freeman; his son, Mark Freeman, a consultant to the company, and daughter, Jill Freeman Bucksbaum, vice president of marketing, the new management has been working to reestablish Freeman Beauty Labs as a go-to resource for infusing the mass market with value-priced products tapping into the latest crazes. “What is happening now that we need to capitalize on?” Freeman said the company asks when developing products. “We want to see trends [and] buzzwords that translate into either skin or hair products.”
Freeman Beauty Labs has seized upon the clamoring for nutrient- and antioxidant-rich ingredients with the recent introduction of Superfruits, a skin care line with five initial products retailing for $3.99 that contain a complex of goji, açaí, mango, pomegranate, mangosteen, cranberry, noni and blueberry with nourishing and antiaging benefits. The company also is updating the packaging of Feeling Beautiful, a line of masks, scrubs, lotions, moisturizers and body washes, and launched Feeling Beautiful single-use mask sachets for $1.99.
Freeman Beauty Labs has high expectations for immediate results from two brands purchased from Woodridge Labs: dry shampoo specialist Psssssst and skin care brand Vita K Solution. Psssssst has come into Freeman Beauty Lab’s portfolio, as interest in dry shampoo is mounting, evidenced by Wal-Mart’s decision to carry the brand starting next month. Freeman Beauty Labs is creating large sizes of Psssssst for the salon segment, as well. To put a charge in Vita K Solution, Freeman Beauty Labs will augment the formula with wrinkle-reducer Matrixyl in products hitting the shelves for summer.
Driven by Psssssst and Vita K Solution, Freeman projected that distribution of the brands purchased from Woodridge Labs’ will double this year from 2009. The other two brands picked up by Freeman Beauty Labs from the acquisition are Ellin LaVar Textures, a five-stockkeeping-unit celebrity hairstylist-inspired line with a tightly controlled distribution, and Perfect C, a skin care brand available at drugstores that Freeman touted as having “a great future.”
At the moment, three brands — foot care brand Bare Foot, hair care brand Papaya and Feeling Beautiful — are duking it out to be the number-one brand in Freeman Beauty Lab’s arsenal. However, Freeman anticipates Superfruits will overtake those brands this year, and that Psssssst will be Freeman Beauty Labs’ leading brand in 2011, unless upcoming brands don’t outshine them. The company is unveiling a new skin care brand and a new hair care brand at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ marketplace conference in June, and is scouring brands with revenues ranging from $5 million to $50 million for possible acquisitions.
“Our acquisitions probably won’t go too far afield from what our existing product lines are,” said Hosking. “We are looking for brands that bring something to the party, [that are] potentially underperforming for whatever reason in their current shape, and bringing those brands in and taking advantage of what Freeman has to offer from our strong relationships with the trade.”
With Freeman Beauty Labs changing from a company hurt by acquirers to being an acquirer, its turnaround is well under way. “We have still not regained the credibility that we had in 1997, and it may be another year or two before we have it totally back,” said Freeman. “But we now have successful launches and relaunches of products, which [other owners] never had. The management level [at retailers] is looking at us and saying the Freemans are doing it right again. We get rid of that word ‘again,’ and we will have our credibility back.”
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye