L’Oréal Professionnel’s Color Bar at Butterfly Studio.

NEW YORK — L’Oréal Professionnel has made several strategic moves in the past few years, boosting the division into a truly competitive position in the professional salon marketplace. <BR><BR>The business, headed by vice president and...

NEW YORK — L’Oréal Professionnel has made several strategic moves in the past few years, boosting the division into a truly competitive position in the professional salon marketplace.

The business, headed by vice president and general manager Pierre Lampert, will experience double-digit sales growth in salon retail dollars in 2004, propelled by sales of hair care line Série Expert (which by the end of the year will generate $50 million in salon retail dollars), as well as the strong success of the division’s color brands. Textureline and Kiwi styling products, brought to the division with the acquisition of Artec in 2002, also helped L’Oréal Professionnel become a key player in the professional styling category with both brands expanding 15 percent over the past two years.

L’Oréal Professionnel aims to rank as the fifth largest professional brand in the U.S. by the end of 2004, up from 15 in 2002, prior to the Artec acquisition.

One of the most profitable launches to come from the L’Oréal Professionnel business in recent years is Luo Color, a permanent hair color brand that entered more than 5,000 U.S. salons this spring in less than three months due to its point of difference: Luo is designed to keep the natural multidimensional aspect of the hair, playing off undertones, a first for a permanent color. Lampert would not comment on Luo’s sales, but industry sources expect it will generate $7 million in U.S. salon sales by the end of 2004.

Preliminary sampling in select salons revealed Luo would be a success. Lampert said the brand hit a 25 percent buy rate after salons sampled it. Usually, he explained, sampling yields a 3 to 5 percent buy rate.

And, Luo is a hit in Europe. There, Luo is offered in more than 50,000 doors, 20 to 45 percent of which were not prior L’Oréal Professionnel salons.

Luo is just one of the permanent hair color offerings in the L’Oréal Professionnel portfolio. Majirel, the number one professional permanent color brand in the world, is designed for rich, deep results and superior gray coverage. Diacolor Gelee and Richesse are demi-permanent colors which are the ideal offering for first-time color clients.

This story first appeared in the July 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Another part of the booming L’Oréal Professionnel business is its Série Expert Molecular Precision Haircare, which launched last year. The line, which includes shampoo, conditioners and styling products for at-home use, was positioned to be higher end than Matrix, Redken and Biolage, but not as prestige as Kerastase. One of its star products is only offered in the salon, however, called PowerDose, a deep conditioning treatment spray formulated with a high concentrate of ceramide and amino acids to give dry hair back its luster. The PowerDose treatment retails for as little as $15 in many salons and serves as an all-important add-on sale, as well as an introduction to the at-home line.

“If customers like PowerDose, they are more likely to buy one of the other Série products,” Lampert said.

Making a consumer impact in salons is also a part of the division’s strategy to climbing to the top of the professional products industry. There are its Color Bars, of which there are now two, that aim to educate consumers on hair coloring options in an environment that doesn’t pressure them into buying a service.

Manhattan’s Color Bar, which opened at Butterfly Studio in the spring, is the East Coast’s first version. A West Coast Color Bar opened last year at Fred Segal Beauty in Santa Monica, Calif.

The Color Bar, which is funded both by L’Oréal Professionnel and the salon, first provides a consultation to help colorists find out what the consumer is looking for in terms of hair color: gray coverage, highlighting or lowlighting. Swatches at the Color Bar present an array of color options, then the colorist matches a client’s skin tone with a proper shade. It has been found that the Color Bar eases the dialogue between the colorist and the consumer because the consultation can be performed on a separate day from the actual treatment.

According to Lampert, Fred Segal has shown color treatment sales increases of 25 to 30 percent since the Color Bar opened last year. Color Bars are only built in salons which use L’Oréal Professionnel color exclusively.

“It’s a good way to drive sales and elevate service levels, it gives a consistent way to color across each salon,” Lampert said.

L’Oréal Professionnel, which plans to open two to three Color Bars in 2005, is exploring salons in Miami and Washington as possible sites. Smaller versions of the Color Bars are also being considered.