Daniel Kaner, co-president of Oribe Hair Care, described being in the salon business like no other job in beauty, as it is unique in so many ways. For starters, service and education are taken to a “whole other level” as the relationship between a customer and a stylist is key to making a sale.

This story first appeared in the June 3, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We don’t offer gift-with-purchase or sales promotions to create purchase intent. Loyalty to a product is the result of a stylist recommendation,” he said.

Success, Kaner continued, hinges on getting stylists behind a brand as there is often minimal advertising support to help promote it. He added that his company targets salons based on their clientele’s demographics, ultimately the potential product consumer.

The frequency that customers visit salons — every six to eight weeks — helps build trust and a relationship with salon workers and provides a captive audience. “Can you imagine a customer sitting in a chair for 45 minutes or more ready to listen about your brand?” he asked the crowd.

He reminded the audience that the professional hair care industry was at one time a cottage industry run by “mom and pop” operations carrying only professional products. Today, international beauty powerhouses control many of the salon brands available, essentially “closing the doors on the independent brand.” So, for an indie brand, there is much more focus on direct distribution, a “confusing and expensive” way to go to business. “Relationships need to be cobbled together. There are the primary and secondary brands, with indies fragmenting for coveted shelf space. The better brands out of 275,000 doors fight for 1 to 4 percent of that market. Last year I was in the field for five months duking it out, respectfully, with my peers [for shelf space].”

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Kaner then mentioned the very touchy subject of salon brands entering the mainstream mix.

“These aggressive manufacturers are now bypassing salons and going to consumers with a multichannel strategy, devastating the very group that brought them their brands to national prominence,” Kaner said.

Another competitor salons have to face is the Internet, one that again bypasses salons. But Kaner is optimistic that the hair care category will prevail in that salons “meet the needs of guests in a personal way. This is an advantage.”

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