Judging from all the tricolored locks and geometric layering on display at the International Spa and Salon Expo, salon owners and stylists are not afraid to experiment.
Some 500 professional hair care and spa supply exhibitors at the Long Beach Convention Center in California from Feb. 3 to 5 offered 31,000 attendees plenty to try out. Companies attempted to distinguish their shampoos, conditioners, gels, mists, creams, waxes, mousses and sprays from mass merchandise with a barrage of multisyllabic ingredients and test runs on the latest cutting-edge 'dos.
Suited up to the nines, Michael Shaun Corby, creative director of Alterna Professional Haircare, took the mike to bring the brand's "science of skin care for hair" slogan to a crowd that gathered at the foot of a stage. Alterna's four-item Ten line, priced from $35 to $60 retail, marks the Beverly Hills company's 10th anniversary and constituted 80 percent of its ISSE sales. Products contain photozyme and caviar age-control complexes, hyaluronic acid, white truffle oil, Arabian frankincense, Arnica flower and African cacao extract, among other compounds.
"The female consumer has become so much more intelligent, and the stylists as well," Corby said. "The stylists can't say just that this makes your hair shiny; the consumer is going to say, how and why?"
Mark Webber, national sales director for Schwarzkopf Professional, based in Culver City, Calif., said his company answered consumers' "hows" with a regimen of BC Bonacure products — repackaged last year in sleek blue and white bottles — based on amino and Aphinity technologies. Shampoos, conditioners and treatments run from $14.50 to $22.50 retail.
"Aphinity is a system of positively charged ions," Webber clarified. "Portions of the hair that are damaged are negatively charged. It causes the ingredients to only go to those areas that require help."
PureOlogy, a color specialist based in Irvine, Calif., credits the high-tech hair care wave for a 70 percent revenue growth in 2006 over the year before, according to Jim Markham, the founder and chief executive officer. Nano technology is the theme of the brand's NanoWorks product line, a top seller at ISSE despite the relatively pricy $50 shampoo and $28 NanoGlaze styling cream."Consumers are not concerned with price, they are concerned with performance," said Markham. "It is really important for salons to recommend a product they feel good about."
Feeling good, however, isn't enough — salons have to generate repeat business. ISSE was the right place for salon owners seeking tips on how to do just that.
Sexy Hair founder Michael O'Rourke instructed visitors to the Institute of Courage's packed space about leading hairstyles and how to productively manage their salon chairs. "Where is the revenue if it is going to take an hour and a half to do a haircut?" he asked. "I used to cut 50 people a day and I was charging $200 dollars. When I was slow, they thought I was sick."
At the Institute, O'Rourke's training academy for stylists that opened about a year ago in Topanga, Calif., a member forks over around $20 per month for time management lessons, among many others; 300 people signed up at ISSE. O'Rourke swears he can teach anyone to cut hair in one hour, and that a hairdresser that went through his program would increase his cash flow by $1,000 per day.
Hair extensions vendors, who hosting some of the more popular booths, promised to keep cash registers humming by bringing women back into the salon time and time again. The pitch worked for Hair U Wear distributor Glamour Beauty Center. President Mike Melamed reported that at the Jessica Simpson-promoted clip-in extension brand's first ISSE show the inventory of light brown and medium brown extensions was cleaned out; synthetic hair extensions go for around $41 and human hair up to $139.
"A lot of people are using this product for weddings, parties and proms," said Melamed. "With this extension, if you are tired of it, you can take it off."
Hairstylists demonstrated the latest looks to eager ISSE audiences. Corby crafted a loose updo that he said was similar to stunners on red carpets this year. Christopher and Sonya Dove, part of Procter & Gamble Professional Care's stylist roster, favored natural tresses. "Hair is being put up, but in a very unstructured way," said Christopher.
The Doves' presence at ISSE, where they staged an elaborate production, signaled the return to the show of P&G Professional, which includes Wella, Sebastian and Trucco in its stable of brands. After years of sitting out, John Moroney, who handles P&G's events and trade shows, said P&G felt comfortable coming back because the Professional Beauty Association, the operator of ISSE, was serious about keeping the show geared to professionals."The reason a lot of manufacturers stopped going to it was they were very lax in letting the public in. Diversion is a real plague in our industry," he said. "It used to be that anyone could by a ticket. Now, you have to bring your licenses to the show."
Not all large brands decided to participate. Redken and John Paul Mitchell Systems were obvious ISSE absentees. A spokesman for the latter explained, "We at JPMS are investing in our own educational programs and events where we have a more intimate forum to connect with our stylists."
Even many exhibitors that were present at ISSE commented that there was room for improvement. Les Haverty, artistic director of FHI Heat, a styling iron and blow dryer resource based in Cleveland, said that show check-in — which was slow; lines wrapped around the building — needed to be addressed.
Overall, though, Haverty wasn't complaining because ISSE provides good exposure for the young company, which launched a $150 cordless hot razor at the event. "We look at every show as a way to maximize our marketing strategy," he said, adding that shows have contributed to FHI's 300 percent growth since its 2004 founding.
"The bottom line" for exhibiting companies, according to Steve Sleeper, executive director of PBA: "They are looking for bodies." He said the record attendance at February's ISSE helped convince manufacturers that the show couldn't be missed. Still, Sleeper continued, "We are looking for ways to bring more people in, but only professionals."
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