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Hair Care, Rite Aid Style

NEW YORK — Rite Aid’s first private label hair care collection, 411: Hair Info, is said to be thriving and the retailer plans to launch extensions to the line in the spring.<br><br>Six months after its debut, 411: Hair Info is running 40...

NEW YORK — Rite Aid’s first private label hair care collection, 411: Hair Info, is said to be thriving and the retailer plans to launch extensions to the line in the spring.

Six months after its debut, 411: Hair Info is running 40 percent ahead of original projections, according to industry estimates. When the line bowed in May, sources indicated it could generate first-year retail sales of $15 million.

Rite Aid doesn’t break out 411: Hair Info sales, but spokeswoman Jody Cook acknowledged that the drugstore chain is pleased with the line’s performance. “We’re pleasantly above plan,” she remarked.

Rite Aid has slated the addition of four new stockkeeping units to the line, which is currently comprised of 14 sku’s. Though details aren’t final, the new items will primarily address styling, according to Minneapolis-based Progressive Beauty Brands, the company that produces the line exclusively for the retailer. In the works, said Progressive president Rick Goldberg, are a hair spray, a spray wax, a shampoo and a combination gel-serum — or “germ,” as Goldberg likes to say.

411: Hair Info attempts to translate the “salon-service” experience to mass-market shelves, according to Goldberg. For instance, six of the line’s items come in 2-oz. trial-sized versions for $1.99 — small portions that Goldberg compared to the small amount of product stylists often use on clients — in effect, a chance to try before one buys.

But the cornerstone of 411: Hair Info is its heavy emphasis on information and service, which centers on a hot line allowing customers to connect with licensed cosmetologists for answers to questions and styling tips. Common concerns include dry and frizzy hair, lack of volume and whether 411: Hair Info is color safe, which it is designed to be. The hot line has been up for three months and phones ring between 15 and 20 times a week.

“It’s hard to differentiate from competitors in today’s challenging environment, with drugstores on almost every corner,” noted Cook. “So the differentiation has to be in what we offer.”

Goldberg pointed to an after-hours answering machine that refers hot line callers to a Web site, also noting, “we call back after they leave a message.” 411: Hair Info’s “stylist-in-every-bottle” positioning helps differentiate the line from other hair care brands with customer service hot lines and Web sites, according to Rite Aid.

This story first appeared in the November 22, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.