NEW YORK — Scünci is aiming to make its latest introduction as popular as the 1987 fabric-meets-elastic hairband.
Hitting stores mid-November is the Ü Style hairstyling kit by Scünci (pronounced scoon-see), which allows users to create dozens of hairstyles anywhere there’s a mirror. The kit includes seven hairstyling tools, including no-damage elastics, a style-and-lift parting comb and Topsytail, the As-Seen-On-TV favorite launched a decade ago that enables users to create intricate ponytail hairstyles in seconds. The kit also includes a style guide, a zip-close travel bag and an instructional video. It will retail for $29.99 in food, drug and mass stores and is expected to generate approximately $14 million in sales its first year in stores.
The kit is yet another move by a mass marketer to offer consumers an alternative to visiting high-priced salons. Neal Menaged, chairman of L&N, the Hatboro, Pa.-based parent of Scünci, said the kit can style as many as 25 different do’s for roughly $1.25 per do. Prices for a style in salons — without cut or color — can start at $50.
Whether the kits will appeal to fashion-savvy consumers and rouse the sleepy category remains to be seen.
After a 10-year battle to gain market share leadership from hair accessories rival Goody, L&N succeeded and today accounts for 48.4 percent of hair accessories sales, followed by Goody with 27 percent market share. But like other vendors in the category, it is now suffering decreases. Retail sales in the hair accessories segment are down 6.6 percent to $545.6 million for the year ended July 13, according to Information Resources Inc., excluding Wal-Mart. For the same period, L&N’s overall company sales fell almost 10 percent to $264.3 million.
To show how closely fashion is tied to hair trends, Scünci, or rather its prized product that spawned a thousand imitators commonly referred to as a ‘scrunchy,’ was recently the butt of a joke on an episode of HBO’s “Sex and the City,” in which the show’s lead character challenged her boyfriend to find a Manhattan woman sporting one of the Eighties iconic elastics.
The launch of Ü Style marks the first time L&N has ever actively drawn attention to itself. The company recently hosted its first press event at the Oscar Blandi salon at The Plaza. L&N’s Menaged said the company has purposely kept a low profile to keep company secrets secret. Its mission since 1989, when L&N acquired the licensing and marketing rights for Scünci from founders Rommy Revson and Lathem Stern, has been to keep Goody in the dark on their growth strategy. At trade shows, for example, such as the new product-driven National Association of Chain Drug Stores Marketplace meeting, L&N, rather than proudly displaying their new wares, builds a fortress-like booth with stairs leading to a windowless office. It seems, though, their warfare-like approach to rubber bands has paid off.Prior to 1989, L&N sold fad items, such as the Wall Walker (plastic critters designed to walk down walls without falling off) and the popular black rubber Madonna bracelets. But in 1993, L&N exited the general-merchandise world to focus full-time on Scünci and stealing Goody’s dollar share. That year, L&N expanded Scünci from six stockkeeping units to more than 200 and also took the department store brand to the mass market.
From 1993 to 1998, Scünci became a leader in fashion hair accessories, according to Menaged. In 1999, L&N branched out of ponytail holders and into other beauty items such as brushes, combs and mirrors, but it wasn’t until a deal with Kmart in 1999 that L&N began its ascent to the top of sales charts. That year, L&N introduced Slimline, a program that narrowed the length and width of the header cards hair elastics are fastened to, allowing for 33 percent more merchandise to hang in the same amount of space.
“That was a revelation,” said Menaged, adding that Kmart soon replaced Goody with L&N as its exclusive hair accessories supplier. L&N remains Kmart’s exclusive hair accessories brand.
Today, Scünci is sold in 50,000 retail stores in the U.S. To build customer traffic in those stores, L&N has planned a national TV advertising campaign promoting the Ü Style kit, which is scheduled to air Thanksgiving Day through the first week of January. To get the word out to style-savvy teens, L&N recently sponsored the Miss Teen USA pageant. That market, at least, probably wouldn’t know that “Sex and the City” stars couldn’t find one Manhattan woman wearing a scrunchy during its 30-minute episode.
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