By  on April 20, 2007

Shampoo, conditioner and styling products delivered the goods in 2006, tallying a 7 percent increase in sales, according to Information Resources Inc., excluding Wal-Mart. But unit sales remained flat, revealing that increases were actually a result of consumers trading up to more premium-priced brands.

Beauty overall is a fast-moving industry, creating new offerings on a regular basis. Hair care, it seems, caught up with the innovation trend in 2006 and in turn enticed consumers to trade up. Industry experts said shoppers who once bought $1 to $2 brands moved up to buying $3 to $5 brands, and the traditional $3 to $5 consumer moved to $5-plus.

There were many opportunities for consumers to buy higher-ticket items.

A version of Alberto-Culver's Nexxus salon brand was introduced to the mass market in January 2006, which Gina Lazaro, senior director of marketing for Nexxus Salon hair care, said helped "grow the category pretty significantly.

"It was set apart from other launches since we went after the salon user who is in mass retail outlets on a frequent basis. They'd rather buy it [in the drugstore] than during their quarterly salon trip."

To keep from losing sales momentum, Lazaro said, Nexxus this year is doing increased Internet efforts, a sponsorship with reality TV show "Shear Genius" [see Snippets page 11], a new ad campaign and pop-up salons.

Another brand that showed a new face in the hair care aisle last year was Herbal Essences, which virtually changed everything about itself save for its name.

Chris Keith, brand manager for Herbal Essences, said the 4 percent gain the brand saw in shampoo sales in 2006 was phenomenal, since the first six months of the year Herbal was gearing up to relaunch the brand.

"There were industry pundits who doubted whether we could pull off the relaunch, but we spent a lot of time with the consumer. We spent hundreds of hours sharing packaging, advertising and formula information and at every turn we were positively received or we learned something," said Keith.

Craig Bahner, general manager and vice president of North American Haircare for P&G, said higher-priced introductions also contributed to sales gains."Over the past year we have seen growth driven by super-premium brands, such as Pantene Color Expressions and Pantene Restoratives. New brands and major restages, such as [with] Herbal Essences, has driven market growth, as has price increases," he said.

Karen Fondu, president of Maybelline-Garnier, said the hair care category has certainly seen a shift.

"When Fructis launched in 2003 the hair care category was barely flat," she said. "I think we brought a lot of energy to the category and were the first to shake things up."

Last year Fructis captured the increased demand for conditioner. Sales of conditioner, IRI data showed, grew $100 million in 2006.

Maintaining that level of interest is a challenge the industry will be discussing this weekend in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the NACDS annual meeting, Fondu said, adding that Garnier will soon announce significant hair care news planned for the last half of the year.

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