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Critical Mass: Looking for an Edge at Cosmoprof North America

Protecting their turf. That was the imperative for the beauty industry last week at the country's most influential trade show.

LAS VEGAS — Protecting their turf.

That was the imperative for the beauty industry last week at Cosmoprof North America, the most influential show in the U.S., as salon distributors, specialty retailers and mass marketers combed through the offerings at 992 booths at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Distributors for the chicest salons hunted products to halt the siphoning of their business to specialty retailers, while also adding makeup items to enrich sales. Beauty specialty stores such as Sephora, Ulta Beauty and Beauty Peninsula made a case for adding brands to satisfy the swelling demands of their consumers. Mass marketers — including club power Costco and drugstore chains Walgreens’ Look Boutique and Rite Aid — showed off improvements in their stores to lure indie brands to help differentiate their assortments from the competitor across the street.

Hanging over the entire beauty industry is the threat of encroachment from direct marketers, online shopping and even the new breed of single-service salons such as blowout bars.

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“Everyone is looking for a way to stop diversion to [discount drugstore] chains while building business lost to lines like WEN [a direct marketer of hair care],” observed a marketer of premium hair care, speaking not for attribution. “And then we have to offset the fact that more women are going to blowout bars and shampooing less to preserve the style. Even the beauty press is advising fewer shampoos per week.”

Perhaps it is the survival of the fittest luring attendees in droves to the show. “Attendance and exhibitors were the highest they have ever been in the history of the show. Space on the show floor is in demand,” said Eric Z. Horn, associate executive director, business development of the Professional Beauty Association, one of the show’s organizers. Spanning more than 220,000 square feet of floor space, the exhibition drew more than 27,000 attendees, a 4 percent boost over last year.

Marketers turned the throttle up on innovation. Shawn Tavakoli, chairman of the Beauty Collection specialty store, said he saw some of “the most innovation in years.”

The biggest market share battles are being waged in hair care, nail color, tools and oils.

Those attending expect a bulging pipeline of hair innovation, especially from Henkel following its acquisition earlier this year of SexyHair, Alterna and Kenra, as well as many new corporate positions in major firms. In particular, there’s great interest to see what the influx of Unilever talent will deliver at Tigi, while former Tigi executives have filled top roles at Macadamia Natural Oil. With fresh faces in many c-suites, the industry is geared up for innovation, fresh packaging and avenues to halt the erosion of the professional hair-care business.

Launches shown at Cosmoprof include SexyHair’s Smooth Sexy Hair, a frizz fighter for chemically straightened hair, as well as Get Layered, a thickening hair spray. Alterna, riding high from its Caviar portfolio, has a new Daily Densifying Foam that saves up to 1,300 strands of hair per month plus a unique Caviar Anti-Aging Replenishing Moisture Milk. Catching a great deal of attention was Athena’s cleansing conditioner called Unwash. The It Factor, which offers products to speed up the blow-dry process, touted new conditioning dry shampoos that leave hair feeling less brittle. In the ethnic category, there are already product developments coming out of Dr. Miracle’s, following its purchase by DRM-JPC Brands last year. One new addition is Miracle Renewal No Lye Relaxer System, which helps address breakage caused by the relaxing process.

Tavakoli singled out the relaunch of Obliphica and the swelling interest in hair fibers to add mass to hair, such as Toppik, Xfusion, Viviscal and Bosley as items that caught his interest as he walked the aisles. Ian Ginsberg, president of C.O. Bigelow, singled out premium hair care as the biggest opportunity right now for his store.

Kids emerged as a promising subsegment of hair. Cozy Friedman, known her kids’ Cozy Cuts salons in New York, responded to consumer requests for her products with a line called SoCozy, featuring Cinch shampoos, conditioners and combination products, Behave stylers and an unusual lice prevention range, called Boo. At press time, her line was just added to New York’s Pierre Michel salon.

Another youth brand, Hot Tot, fills what creator Megan Gage felt was a gap in the market for safer products for youngsters. “We don’t take away from sales of existing products. We are going for that white space in salons,” said Gage of the naturally positioned line formulated to smell like Cabbage Patch Kids. Gage said the show was great for international expansion. “We found so many opportunities in places like Latin America and Europe,” she said.

Hair tools remain a category on the rise with Tavakoli giving the thumbs up to the Enzo Milano S2 dryer, which turns on by touch and turns off when the user lets go; the Salon Tech Spin Style Iron, and the Simple Human Sensor Mirror, which lights up as the user approaches the mirror.

Nail enamel sales may have slowed at retail, but salon operators see no downturn in services. The past opportunities of nails lured several new companies to the show including Faby from Italy, which featured a wide assortment of colors and the launch of a men’s line, as well as Brazil’s Mundial, which displayed nail colors and implements.

Orly’s booth was brimming with activity driven partially by its launch of a BB Crème for nails along with a new Orly Color Blast and color-care line. At Bernadette Thompson Nail Lacquer’s exhibit, Thompson premiered her 50 Shades of Greatness line.

“I felt there was an opening in the marketplace for a high-quality treatment kit comprised of all the basics and two special on-trend colors, one of which was named by Claire Danes,” said Thompson. She also said the meeting was a great opportunity to talk to bloggers. As always, said Beauty Collection’s Tavakoli, OPI sells well and should benefit from a new Infinite Shine, which provides a gel-like finish.

Oils were seemingly everywhere with a few new twists, including a Rosarco Oil from Briogeo and a travel-size roller bottle from Marula Oil. It seems consumers can’t get enough of oils, according to Lori Silverstein, chief beauty officer of Beauty Peninsula. In fact, she’s pulled all of her oils together into one oil department at the company’s 13 beauty stores.

Color cosmetics are gaining exposure in salons and specialty stores. As a way to snare more sales, more salons are putting more beauty lines under their roofs.

Under the new leadership of Tom Winarick, Palladio showed Dreamy Mattes Herbal Matte Lip Color and Herbal Glam Intense Gel Liner. NYX demonstrated why L’Oréal paid an estimated $500 million to buy the company with Amy Hackbart, vice president of marketing, showing off an extensive array of breakthrough products, such as Honey Dew Me Up primer with reflective gold flecks.

Daniela Ciocan, director of marketing for CPNA, said one of the biggest draws for retailers is the curated area — Discover Beauty and Spotlights — where up-and-coming items get a chance to be seen by major retailers. Attending meetings with indie brands and emerging labels were retailers like Amazon, Beauty Bar, Beauty Habit, C.O. Bigelow, DermStore, HauteLook, HSN, Nordstrom Rack, the Beauty Box, Walgreens’ Look Boutique, Urban Outfitters and Rite Aid.

Brands that the retailers eyed included Drunk Elephant, Skin Nutrition Live, Karora (which won this year’s Discover Beauty Award), Ayres and Bernadette Thompson Nail Lacquer. Simple Sugars skin-care scrub, along with Hot Tot and KissTixx, got an additional traffic boost from an appearance by investor Mark Cuban, who previously had picked those beauty firms on “Shark Tank.”

Cuban, who had delivered a keynote speech at the show, called the beauty industry a “grind-it-out business.” He added, “The one thing in life you can control is your effort. Are there any shortcuts in the beauty business? No. That was the first lesson I learned. You can’t just rocket to the top.”