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GHD Eyes U.S. Growth With New CEO

With a new president and CEO at the helm of its North American operations, British hair appliance brand GHD is ironing out plans to boost its U.S. presence.

The Thermodynamics line.

With a new president and chief executive officer at the helm of its North American operations, British hair appliance brand GHD is ironing out plans to boost its U.S. presence by focusing on salon retailing and strengthening marketing efforts.

This story first appeared in the October 24, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“My goal is to someday surpass what they did in the U.K. [and] be the number-one representative of GHD globally,” said ceo and president Scott Cox, who replaced former GHD Professional North America president Dana Story. “We are moving toward becoming a $100 million-plus model for North America. I am very ambitious. I would like to think that we could get there [in] between three and five years.”

U.S. sales for GHD, which established headquarters in Westlake Village, Calif., about four years ago, amounted to about 10 percent of the firm’s $230 million in total revenues last year. GHD entered the fray backstage at New York Fashion Week three years ago and began selling its products nationwide in earnest about a year ago. Since then, it has expanded to 2,400 salons and professional outlets, and all of Sephora’s U.S. doors.

“We have really created a strong movement from the grassroots, having the stylists believe that GHD is the best available tool that they could have on the market,” said Cox. “Our challenge now is bringing that message to a wider base and then making the connection with the consumer so they feel the same way that the stylist does.”

Cox posits that future growth will be fueled by substantially increasing GHD’s salon distribution — he estimates that 5 to 10 percent of the 180,000 salons in the U.S. could be a fit for GHD because they are higher-end — and by enhancing retail performance within salons. GHD is launching a test program early next year that will train salon employees on how to effectively present GHD products to customers and place demonstration units in retail areas at key accounts.

“What department store would load up a complete section, make it look beautiful, have everything for display and put no person there?” asked Cox. “Unless we go in and create space and create the experience, then we are never really going to move to that next level.”

Marketing also will play a pivotal role in getting potential customers to try out the brand. GHD is doubling its U.S. marketing budget next year and increased funding will go toward in-store events and viral campaigns at places such as sororities or clubs, where GHD Professional North America director of marketing Mia Jenner noted “very influential, buzz-worthy women” gather.

“Those that have heard of the brand know us as a fashion-oriented brand,” she said. “We have only scratched the surface in getting people to know about our brand, so the slate is completely clean for us to really start promoting the actual brand and what we stand for.”

GHD has some 26 stockkeeping units available in the U.S., with the $240 IV Styler a bestseller. Hairstyling tools account for 80 percent of revenues here. Cox is keen on building sales of GHD’s non-tools offerings, including the Thermodynamics line, of which the $25 Thermal Protectors for defending against heat damage are the top products.

Product collaborations will be central to GHD’s launches early next year. The brand is partnering with Benefit Cosmetics on a color palette and matching styling tool for spring, and with designer Matthew Williamson on a travel bag that contains a styler and Thermodynamics items for summer. Prices are yet to be determined.