By  on January 18, 2008

Getting a second chance in the hair care aisle is de rigueur among the mass set.

The latest brand to get another go in beauty is Salon Selectives, once a best-selling hair care brand in the Eighties and Nineties that lost distribution in 2005 when parent Unilever decided to pull it from shelves due to poor performance.

But now, thanks to the executives who first launched it in 1987 under its original owner, Helene Curtis, the brand has another chance to gain traction.

Anne West, a member of the executive team of Selective Beauty Brands, the company that bought Salon Selectives last year from Unilever, and one of the people behind its former success at Helene Curtis, said the brand still has legs.

"The original premise of Salon Selectives was that it was the first salon-inspired hair care line to come to mass retail. [With the brand] you got a salon quality product without going there or paying the price. There is still a market for that," West said from the firm's Chicago's office.

The brand is the first purchase for Selective Beauty, and meets its portfolio criteria of one that still has a platform but is no longer a strategic fit for its huge, multinational owner. Other companies, such as Lornamead Brands Inc. and Beautology, have sought out similar opportunities. Unilever sold Finesse and Aqua Net to Lornamead for an estimated $130 million in 2006. The Charles Worthington London North American hair care business was also purchased that year from U.K.-based PZ Cussons by Beautology LLC, a holding company, for an undisclosed amount, led by beauty veteran Stuart Straus. All three have been relaunched to the mass market with new packaging and formulas.

Salon Selectives' history is typical of a brand gone bad. It lost shelf space in mass retailers several years after Unilever relaunched it in 2001 with a new positioning, a new look and new formulas, said West. Unilever bought Helene Curtis in 1996.

"They completely walked away from what it stood for," West said. "They were trying to be hip and appeal to teens. It started to decline [in sales] and by 2005 it was off the market."Research conducted by West showed that personalization in hair care is as important as ever. Subsequently, Salon Selective's new packaging has been designed to leverage its brand equity, complete with brightly colored containers and modern hair technology. Containers have letters on them to tell which range they fall under: Hs for Hold & Shine; Vb for Volume Booster; Ce for Curl Energizer, and so on.

There are now 18 items in the line, with three shampoos, five conditioners and 10 styling and treatment products.

Star items include Fresh Hair, a product West likens to "Febreze for the hair."

Variants include Moisture Rich for dry, damaged and color-treated hair, Healthy Clean for normal hair and Healthy Volume for oily or fine hair. Salon Selectives is receiving a gradual national rollout, and is expected to arrive in Rite Aid stores in several weeks, as well as in many of SuperValu's banners and in Target stores in June. The line will be midpriced between $3 and $4, depending on the retailer.

First-year sales expectations are between $30 million and $40 million, said West, adding she expects the brand "to get up to $100 million in two to three years" from increased distribution, loyal customers and "a really big set of people who love the brand and would like to use it again."

Marketing plans include TV and print ads with a first-year ad budget of $15 million to $20 million, West said. Ads are slated to break in April.

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