Plans by the curly hair brand and JH Partners, the San Francisco-based private equity firm that acquired it in 2007, to build a multichannel distribution model are bearing fruit. Ouidad’s products entered Sephora’s new Times Square store last week and will roll out to 55 Sephora units nationwide, and the brand is introducing an infomercial to showcase its approach to curly hair.
“I want to be able to reach everyone with curly hair,” said Ouidad, who now only goes by her Lebanese first name she said means “love” in Arabic. She estimates that 70 percent or more of Americans have curly or textured hair, and the previously limited distribution of Ouidad — until now, it was only available on the brand’s Web site, its two namesake salons and select other Web, salon and boutique outlets — restricted their exposure to Ouidad.
Before the Sephora launch, the products underwent a packaging transformation. Ouidad chief executive officer Hillary Solomon explained the old look conceived at the creation of the brand around 25 years ago didn’t communicate Ouidad’s energetic personality or reinforce her curly hair focus. Stylized graphic curls by German artist Gisela Goppel in various colors on the packaging go a long way toward remedying those problems.
Ouidad’s product assortment contains 21 stockkeeping units, including bestseller Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel and the recently released Double Detangler Comb to work through curls without tugging, priced from $15 to $50. Ouidad mentioned she is developing products for textured hair, which she described as “any hair with movement,” and she could eventually delve into color items. In 2010, she projected the products would generate $3 million in retail sales.
Coinciding with Ouidad’s enlarged retail presence is an infomercial currently in its test phase that’s expected to be widely dispersed in the fourth quarter of this year. The infomercial marks the on-air launch for JHDR, an infomercial specialty firm owned by JH Partners LLC formed last year under the leadership of former Guthy-Renker executives Jeff Engler and Johann Verheem.
In an infomercial, Michael John, a partner in JH Partners, said, “Your goal is to appear authentic because it is all about believability. What we have with Ouidad and what Jeff and Johann saw right away is an incredibly high level of authenticity. She is truly the authority in this [curl] category.” The infomercial cost around $1.2 million to produce, and Ouidad anticipated it would generate $10 million in sales in its first year.
Ouidad stressed she wanted to stay away from celebrities in the infomercial and stick to her own story dealing with curly hair and the stories of clients whose hair is improved by Ouidad products. “I was hesitant to do an infomercial. I never looked at infomercials as quality, but it was done professionally,” she said. “It was me talking to my clients about their hair. It is exciting and emotional.”
In addition to the infomercial and retail news, Ouidad is expanding her reach through her network of certified salons with stylists trained in her carving and slicing haircutting technique.
There are roughly 25 certified salons, and Ouidad’s goal is to have 100 next year. By joining the network, she said, salons regularly increase their business by 15 to 20 percent; one salon had sales jump by more than 60 percent.
This year, Solomon said Ouidad’s revenue growth will be in the high double digits and, in the future, she said the brand could move outside the U.S. to experience more. “We have planted the seeds for what I am hoping is explosive growth.”
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