Fine-tuning beauty-care assortments for multicultural consumers is on retailers’ front burner, especially in hair care. In fact, while overall sales in the $8.8 billion hair-care category are flat, according to research from Kline, the textured/multicultural hair segment is posting gains in the 9 percent range.

One obstacle to sales hitting full potential is the fact brands and merchants grapple with in the burgeoning business is getting a handle on what shoppers are buying and where. There are accurate measures for product movement in the mass market from the firms such as IRI and Nielsen, but there is a gap in tracking the professional beauty trade that accounts for a sizable portion of multicultural sales.

Romina Brown 

Romina Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Strategic Solutions International, a category management firm, witnessed the issue first hand. “We would present to sales teams and suggest opportunities. But they would say to us ‘that’s only half of the story,’” she explained. Digging deeper, a brand might perform well at Wal-Mart or Target based on data, but the dollars passed through beauty supply stores were not measured. “Nobody knew what was going on. It was a huge blind spot. I decided there had to be a way to gather some level of quality insight versus what was being reported and analyzing.”

In July, she rolled out (K)NOW! Strategic Data Solutions, a cloud-based portal offering multichannel beauty industry insights for subscribers. Her solution fuses big data management with insights from consumer usage to create a platform consumer-centric platform that she said does not exist from any other source. The subscription portal is powered with historical and current industry data for multiple channels including: mass, beauty supply, food and drugstores.

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Using the platform, Brown said she can uncover crucial industry intelligence. For example, Strategic Solutions International revealed that hair color represents 22 percent of unit scans in beauty supply stores, versus only 6 percent in retail chain stores.

To get a true category profile, Brown segments products in the way consumers use them. This means the category of “stylers” is subdivided into gels and morning after refreshers, as an example.

Distributors have a grip, she said, on what’s shipped in, but not what consumers actually take off the shelf. She’s working in tandem with beauty supply stores to provide scan information.

“It has produced a goldmine of data. In particular, we are surprised at beyond hair care, how much skin care and cosmetics are being driven by the independent beauty supply channel,” she said.  Also eye-opening is the difference in brands that are leaders in professional beauty supply stores versus traditional retail doors. The number-one stockkeeping unit in her reports is a Clairol developer — an item that doesn’t appear in traditional retail chain tracking.

“Looking at top 10 brands for multicultural consumers versus IRI data shows the set of products is completely different. For example, SheaMoisture is number one in retail chains but has not yet achieved that positioning in beauty supply. There is value in understanding what type of products do better to build better programs to address shoppers’ needs.”

Brown said her research can especially benefit all companies that are seeking to optimize their impact in multicultural beauty but particularly mid-sized companies, providing them the same advantages of larger corporations. The suite of features from (K)NOW! allows users to run custom queries and create reports based on their exact and immediate needs.