NEW YORK — For more than 27 years Vidal Sassoon has reigned as one of the most iconic names in hair care, but beginning in February, shipments of shampoos, conditioners and styling products will cease in North America. As reported on these pages Wednesday, Procter & Gamble said the brand had not been performing to expectations.

A P&G spokeswoman said the company will be "stepping back and re-evaluating the right way to leverage the strong Sassoon heritage." The spokeswoman noted that the brand retains major consumer recognition and international sales success, as it fares well, particularly in Japan, Korea and China.

P&G attempted to keep the brand in line with the times since its acquisition from Richardson-Vicks 17 years ago. In 1990, P&G introduced three versions of Sassoon Ultra Care, an item that combined its revolutionary three-step regimen (cleanse, condition and protect) into one product. In 1995, the brand underwent a major overhaul when containers moved to red from its trademark brown, and the fragrance changed from cherry almond to a fruity-floral scent.

In 2000, P&G again attempted to dust off the brand’s image when it relaunched Vidal Sassoon with a strong fashion positioning. But with prices increasing to $5 from $3 and $12 from $5, along with a new $25 million ad campaign, customers were confused as to what Vidal Sassoon stood for. Sales of Vidal Sassoon hair care dropped nearly 40 percent to $25.4 million in mass stores, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ended Dec. 1 against the prior-year period, according to Information Resources Inc.

P&G, however, remains committed to the trademark, which it continues to own and license out. On Tuesday, the company announced it had extended its existing trademark licensing agreement with Helen of Troy, a hair appliance supplier, to 30 years. Also, in late December, U.K.-based Haircare Ltd. sold its ownership of the 25 existing Vidal Sassoon salons and four training academies to Minneapolis-based Regis Corp. Regis is planning to aggressively increase the number of Vidal Sassoon salons worldwide, especially in the U.S.

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