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With a portfolio that includes Wella Professional, Nioxin and Clairol Professional, Procter & Gamble is a force to be reckoned with in the salon industry.
“Ours is a relatively young division — a little over 10 years old — but it’s a collection of brands with a phenomenal heritage, as Clairol is 60 years old and Wella is more than 130 years old,” said Adil Mehboob-Khan, president of P&G Salon Professional and Global Wella Professional, a P&G veteran who has also overseen skin care in Europe as a marketing manager and a vice president overseeing hair care, skin care, female hair removal, personal cleansing and deodorants.
In addition to Wella, Nioxin and Clairol, P&G Salon Professional’s salon brands include Sebastian Professional, Sassoon Professional, Kadus Professional and Londa Professional. “Salon fits strategically,” said Mehboob-Khan. “When we decided in the late Nineties to be a major player in beauty, we declared we had to be a winner not just in retail, but in other channels.” P&G accelerated its professional hair-care holdings as the salon industry was evolving and distributors were consolidating in the late Nineties. Clairol was and is seen as a more “accessible” brand; Wella is more technically oriented; Sebastian is a styling brand; Nioxin, which treats thinning hair, is problem-solution, and Sassoon Professional “honors an icon,” he explained. “At their core, all of our brands have education as a fundamental component.”
“Salon is a very important category for us — it is a unique place that is in touch with trends, where thousands of professionals work with millions of people every day,” said Mehboob-Khan. “It also informs us as well, and it’s a place where we can make technology first.”
One example of that, he said, is Wella’s Illumina Color, which is set to enter U.S. and Canadian salons in late December and early January; it was launched in Europe earlier this year. It is a translucent permanent hair-color line with 20 shades and intended to complement the existing Wella hair-color portfolio, which includes the Koleston Perfect, Color Touch and Blondor lines.
Illumina is “the first permanent color that is luminous in every kind of light due to Advanced Microlight technology,” said Mehboob-Khan. “It’s a one-use wonder. [With this technology] the outer layer of the hair, the cuticle, is transparent like fingernails, and the condition of the hair cuticle is extremely important in allowing light to pass through and see real color tones from within.” He noted that impurities such as tiny metals are left as a residue from water after shampooing. These can stick to the cuticles, which can form free radicals during the coloring process and in turn cause damage to the cuticle surface. “On a rough cuticle, rays of light become diffused, creating less reflection and luminosity,” he said.
The technology also contains millions of micro-particles, said to encapsulate the tiny metals left on the hair to protect the cuticles and maintain their clarity. “Cuticles are left smooth and clear, which allows light to pass through and illuminates natural highs and lows from within, in any kind of light,” he added.
Mehboob-Khan noted that while the U.S. is the division’s largest market, he sees a significant opportunity for growth in the Far East. “We’ve deliberately acquired brands which have a global footprint or have the potential of one,” he said. “And each brand has a distinct personality. Going forward, our plan is in the places where we have white space, to bring the portfolio there. And in places where we have that portfolio, to drive the awareness and work with more and more salons. We are in quite a good moment. In general, these aren’t easy years, especially for small entrepreneurs — and most of our clients are small entrepreneurs — but we’re growing across the world.”
Nioxin is another bright spot. “Nioxin, for us, has been a revelation,” said Mehboob-Khan. “It’s turned out to be very globally appealing. It’s rewarding for the stylist, because they’re able to provide a solution for their clients. It’s developing in a unisex way, and it’s complementary to our entire portfolio of brands. At the moment, 80 to 90 percent of Nioxin’s sales come on top of our existing portfolio.”
Philanthropy is also an important focus area for Mehboob-Khan, who noted that the London Wella Studio became, as he said, “a pamporium” for the mothers of Olympians as part of P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Another current project is Making Waves, a program designed to help kids in underprivileged areas by teaching them the hairdressing profession. “Our first outpost was with UNICEF in Brazil, where we now have two centers and we’re teaching young adults how to learn a profession,” said Mehboob-Khan. Romania will be the next country to get the program.
A new philanthropic project, Hairdressers at Heart, is a program designed to empower stylists throughout their careers. For beginning hairdressers, that includes scholarships to help students defray some of their tuition costs and grants for licensed hairdressers to help students continue their education. Wella has also launched a $1.5 million fund in honor of the late Vidal Sassoon, who died May 9. The fund is being administered through Beauty Changes Lives, a nonprofit arm of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools. Scholarships will be awarded annually to basic-level students from beauty schools across North America, including the Sassoon Academies, and licensed hairdressers for continuing education exclusively within the Sassoon Academies.