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In Growing Professional Nail Market, CND Readies Shellac Luxe

The latest iteration of the brand's blockbuster Shellac franchise is said to speed gel-polish removal to 60 seconds.

From Kylie Jenner’s coffin nails to Cardi B’s Swarovski-studded stiletto acrylics, what the professional salon market refers to as “nail enhancements” are having a moment.

Fueled by technology — particularly dipping powder systems and a segment of hybrid gel polishes — the nail-enhancement category is driving growth in the global professional nail-care market. Sales increased 6 percent in 2017, according to Kline & Co., up from a stagnant past few years, though that growth has not caught up to where the market was from 2011 to 2013, when high double digits was the norm.

Coty Inc.’s professional beauty category is up 19 percent, partially due to gains from OPI and its Powder Perfection launch. Revlon’s portfolio segment — which includes Almay, American Crew and CND — posted declines in the first quarter of the year that were offset by higher net sales of CND nail products.

In July, CND is launching a new professional product — Shellac Luxe — that is expected to give both parent company Revlon Inc. and the professional nail-care market a boost. Revlon has called Shellac Luxe a “major innovation” designed to “upgrade the business.” When CND introduced its original Shellac in 2010, it was a blockbuster hit — quadrupling the brand’s business and igniting significant growth in the professional nail market, driving consumers into salons with the promise of manicures that would last at least 14 days without chipping.

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Shellac Luxe is the latest iteration of the Shellac formula. It is infused with a technology meant to speed up removal time to 60 seconds. It will be available in 65 shades — 45 shades within CND’s Shellac and Vinylux ranges and 15 shades exclusive to Shellac Luxe. The cost of a Shellac Luxe application will be more expensive to the consumer than a Shellac manicure, but pricing will differ by salon.

Since the launch of Shellac — which helped fuel double-digit growth in the professional nail-care market — the popularity of gel manicures has waned. Particularly in the past few years, consumer concern over long-term nail damage due to the gel-removal process, which can involve excessive scraping of the nails after several minutes of soaking in acetone, has risen.

Jan Arnold, cofounder and style director of CND, attributed bad removals to hybrid gels that launched as “knockoffs” of CND Shellac.

“Shellac was all about safe, perfect, flawless removal — most gel polishes don’t come off — they are mixes of gel and color polish and they’re not real gel polishes,” said Arnold, who noted that the original Shellac has eight patents to its name.

“We figured with the launch of Shellac that every woman on the planet would want to wear it,” said Arnold. “But because of the knockoffs, there was confusion and bad experiences — we found 31 percent of salon-goers were not choosing gel manicures due to nail damage and removal time.”

Shellac Luxe and its two-step application system and 60-second-removal process were designed to address these concerns. “Time is the new luxury,” said Arnold. “It’s ‘Gotta get it off now and get it off flawless-ly.’”

CND declined to discuss sales projections for CND Shellac Luxe, and distribution is not set yet, as the product will be introduced to the market on June 3 at Premiere Orlando, the industry trade show. Arnold expects “thousands” of nail techs in the U.S. to sign up for Shellac Luxe certification — a training program that teaches proper application of the product.

In the U.S., 6,000 salons are certified to use the Shellac system, which includes the CND Shellac polish and CND’s curing devices, which set the polish application — in the New York area, certified salons include Chillhouse and the Red Door chain. The brand estimates CND products are offered in 12,000 salon doors in the U.S.

Arnold sees opportunity in educating the consumer on the importance of patronizing salons certified in Shellac if they are choosing gel polish. “There’s such a hodgepodge of products and misrepresentation of technology in salons,” said Arnold. “We need to work on communication to the consumer and educating them on the power of systems and how safe and gentle the products really are if they go to a salon that is trained and certified — that is the key.”

One of these opportunities is through CND’s retail business, which is small but growing exponentially. The brand sells at retail in mass-market and drugstore distribution. Nielsen data from the last 20 weeks ending May 19 is up 35 percent. In 2017, U.S. retail sales were $2.7 million. Arnold says that though retail is growing, CND will continue to place emphasis on the professional market. “We see retail as an opportunity to gain trust and brand awareness for CND,” said Arnold. “Any activation or partnership we do is designed to bring more clients into the salon asking for CND by name.”