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How Maeva Heim Brought Bread to Market During COVID-19

Heim shares how consumer behavior is impacting the hair care category and why new brand founders should embrace retail partnerships right now.

Beauty lovers want their daily Bread, even during COVID-19.

Despite the havoc wrought on the beauty industry in 2020, U.S. prestige hair care began to bloom. The category grew 8 percent in a year that saw overall prestige beauty sales fall 19 percent, according to The NPD Group.

Maeva Heim could not have predicted this growth when she first conceived of Bread Beauty Supply, a hair care brand made for Black women with textured hair. After running into pandemic-related freight issues in the months leading up to launch, Heim brought Bread to market in July via its own web site and a partnership with Sephora.

Bread Beauty
Bread Beauty launched its products in July via a partnership with Sephora. Courtesy of Bread Beauty Supply

Hair care, Heim said, is typically “10 to 20 years behind every other category” in beauty, but COVID-19 has accelerated consumer education, which she identified as driving growth in the category.

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“People [are] learning for themselves,” Heim said. “People are discovering more about why they do certain things with their hair, why do certain ingredients exist in certain products, what is the growth cycle of hair.”

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Bread launched with three products — a hair wash, mask and oil — that are sold individually and in a kit, priced at $58. The kit has been Bread’s best-selling product, according to Heim.

“I would have expected it to be one of the top-sellers, but not necessarily number one because it’s our most expensive sku,” she said. “That has been a nice surprise. It shows that this idea of routine is resonating with people. COVID-19 has probably had a massive impact on that. [People want] one thing that they can buy and not have to pick and discover from lots of different places.”

Partnering with Sephora has been “impactful,” said Heim, who completed the retailer’s Accelerate program.

“Especially as a new brand, when you have a partnership like Sephora, you should rely on them a lot more,” she said. “It makes sense to not necessarily look at your split of sales between d-to-c and Sephora and how you want that weighted in a binary way. I think you leverage Sephora for what they are, which is the ultimate beauty retailer. That can be a huge channel for you. If Sephora does well, we do well.”

For context, Sephora’s chief executive officer Jean André-Rougeot recently revealed in an online conversation with Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass that Sephora’s online sales are quickly approaching $3 billion.

New launches are in store for Bread, though Heim noted she intends on keeping the overall product assortment “edited and simple.” She is listening to consumer requests, which she said have “somewhat surprised” her.

“The number-one thing people still want is styling products,” Heim said. “I think it’s probably a function of what people ask for us is what they buy. Treatments are still the number-one performing sub segment of the category in COVID-19 times. I think it’s just accelerated now.”

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