NEW YORK — Although the Charles Worthington hair care business in the U.S. looms in the shadows of the brand’s success in the U.K. — its home turf — the new owners of the celebrity hairstylist brand still view America as the land of opportunity.
PZ Cussons, a $900 million international consumer products corporation and marketer of the Imperial Leather personal care brand and the Carex antibacterial and moisturizing brand, acquired the hair care brand in July for 24 million pounds, or $43 million at current exchange rates, from Charles Worthington LLC, which still owns and manages a salon business in the U.K. and the U.S. Charles Worthington will continue to market the brand.
“We had increasingly wanted to get in the premium hair care market, and Charles Worthington was a good fit with our business portfolio. I suppose the bonus is that Charles Worthington has an American subsidiary,” said Bob Jones, the managing director of PZ Cussons Europe.
Jones noted the U.S. accounts for 20 percent of Charles Worthington’s global sales, which totaled approximately $41.8 million in 2003.
The acquisition of the premium hair products gives PZ Cussons more cachet in Europe and an entry into the U.S. market, paving the way for the London-based company to introduce its own brands here. Charles Worthington products are sold in several drugstore chains, including Walgreens. While he would not comment on what [beauty] brands would make the journey to the U.S., Jones noted, “We are reasonably confident that if we get the [distribution] infrastructure right, we can deliver some of our brand positions to the U.S. consumer.”
But right now the focus is getting Charles Worthington into more retail doors. “It definitely needs to be in wider distribution. Once we’ve done a good job of managing the retail outlets it’s in now, there are other parts of the universe it will work in,” said Jones.
Charles Worthington has a longstanding, exclusive distribution relationship with Boots The Chemist in the U.K., where it generates annual sales of $30 million, said Jones. Here, Charles Worthington distributes two collections — Big Hair and Results — to specialty stores and drugstores. The products, which are also sold in the Charles Worthington salon, sell for a suggested retail price of $6 in the mass retail channel.
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PZ Cussons aims to rev up sales with a new look. New packaging for “the new generation” Results collection will debut in the U.K. this month and in the U.S. in January. Results, which will be housed in smaller, sleeker packaging, will be organized into four color-coded regimens: blue for Stay Smooth, orange for Moisture-Seal, yellow for Shine-On and pink for Balancing Act. What’s more, all products will be reformulated to include Keraflex Complex, a new hair-strengthening ingredient. The revamped bottles also feature the new brand logo, Charles Worthington London, which was introduced in 2003.
Prior to divesting its products division, Charles Worthington spent six years building its distribution in the States. The brand got off to a roaring start in 1998, landing in Bloomingdale’s, and later in Macy’s West, Ulta and Sephora. In 2000, the company inked a two-year exclusive deal with Walgreens, and more recently rolled out to Brooks Pharmacy, Duane Reade and Alberstons’ stand-alone drugstores Sav-on and Osco Drug.
“Charles Worthington fills a niche in the premium-level of hair care products for the drugstore customer. It’s doing very well,” commented Karen Ramos, spokeswoman for Alberstons.
However, securing shelf space has come with a hefty price tag. Industry sources estimate Charles Worthington has spent $10 million making inroads into the U.S. market.
Despite that investment, sales of Charles Worthington products have begun to slide in the mass retail channel over the recent period, diving more than 16 percent to $1.63 million in the shampoo segment and nearly 17 percent to $1.86 million in the conditioner segment, according to Information Resources Inc.
One retailer commented that while early on Charles Worthington aggressively promoted its brand, the company may have lost focus and sales steam while in acquisition talks. But newer ownership, particularly by a large consumer products company, means more stability.
“For Charles Worthington to become a true global brand in the years to come it requires a step-up and the resources of a big player to realize full potential. PZ Cussons is equipped to do just that,” said Allan Peters, former managing director and co-owner of Charles Worthington London hair products division. Peters still co-owns the salon and electrical appliances division with Charles Worthington.