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Bumble and bumble Primed for Expansion, Starts With Ulta Beauty Launch

Amidst soaring prestige hair sales, industry sources say the $100 million brand could double its business in three years.

With prestige hair sales on the rise, Bumble and bumble is primed to double its business.

The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.-owned hair brand — historically known as a stalwart of the professional salon category — is embarking on an ambitious strategy that includes distribution expansion, a web site redesign, influencer-backed product launches and a refashioning of its flagship Meatpacking District salon. Industry sources say Bumble today is a $100 million brand, and project it could double that number in three years.

The first step is a big distribution move: expansion into Ulta Beauty. Bumble will launch online in August on and in 500 of the retailer’s doors in September.

“Ulta is obviously one of the fastest-growing retailers in beauty and has a particular strength in the [hair] category,” said Zach Rieken, global general manager of Bumble and bumble.

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Bumble, Rieken said, will live in a new section of Ulta stores dedicated to prestige hair brands. The brand’s in-store assortment at the retailer will focus on key cult franchises, with clear signage that calls out popular ranges that consumers may already be aware of, including the Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, Bb. Thickening, Surf and Bb. Curl product ranges.

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Bumble isn’t the first Lauder-owned brand to enter Ulta this year — WWD reported in March that MAC Cosmetics would launch with the retailer this summer. But the impetus for Bumble’s move into Ulta, unlike MAC’s, isn’t necessarily to gain a new audience. According to Lauder executives, the Ulta launch is reflective of a larger shift in prestige beauty — the hair category is booming and the brand is looking to become more widely available. Bumble is already sold in about 2,300 salons — about one-third are Bumble exclusive — and 3,500 wholesale doors, including Sephora, Bluemercury, Space NK and Nordstrom.

“There’s a new energy happening around hair,” said Jane Hertzmark Hudis, group president at The Estee Lauder Cos. “Hair is the new makeup, especially in terms of social media. You can see quick and exciting transformations, [and] it creates that same kind of excitement [as makeup] and people are really rallying around it.”

While Hertzmark Hudis declined to talk specific financials, she did note that Ulta is expected to become “meaningful to the future of Bumble.”

Prestige hair is indeed on the rise. The NPD Group reported that as of May, the category had grown 13 percent year-over year, beating out makeup as the fastest-growing segment within the prestige market.

Bumble is intent on capitalizing on this surge in popularity, and a key strategy for the brand going forward is a focus on weaving together its salon, e-commerce and retail experiences.

“When we first acquired Bumble, it was purely a salon brand, all about the hairdressers and very much the salon,” Hertzmark Hudis said. “Today, there’s such an evolution of marketing to consumers. She’s not just in the salons, she might be online or on YouTube or [on Bumble’s e-commerce site] or in Sephora or Ulta. The idea is to be with the consumer at every facet of her journey.”

“We’re putting consumers at the core of our business,” Rieken said. “It’s a bit of an evolution for the brand because we’ve been focused on salons from a heritage standpoint, but we’re finding ways to connect the consumer with prestige retailers and online and create an ecosystem that drives those consumers back to our hairdressers and to salons.”

That ecosystem is fueled by Bumble’s new e-commerce site, which launched last month. The site contains how-to content, tutorials and hair inspiration catalogued in the brand’s digital look book. It was designed entirely on a mobile phone — the brand says 60 percent of its customers shop and browse content primarily on their phones.

“There’s an incredible demand and hunger for hair-related content,” Rieken said. “One of our biggest evolutions on the brand side is becoming a destination for hair expertise…[the web site] is a way to magnify the expertise of the hairdresser by making it accessible online.”

Customer profiles now include information about hair type, texture and past purchases so online shoppers are targeted with the appropriate products. A geo-locating system to find nearby Bumble and bumble salons is also in place, along with a patented text-sharing functionality that allows customers to share looks from the web site with their stylists. And salon professionals now only have to use one log-in to access both the consumer and professional site, so they can see customer reviews on products without having to log off the professional site.

Bumble is enhancing its in-salon experience as well, starting with a remodeling of its flagship Meatpacking District salon, slated to open this fall. The new retail area will include a smart display that pulls up information about a product once a consumer picks it up — the screen can display information on up to 12 products at a time. The salon will also open a 2,000-square-foot outdoor terrace and will boast an enhanced menu featuring quick services — including braids, ponytails and up-dos. Another new feature is in-person hair tutorials, where salon-goers can learn to use certain tools or products or do particular styles.

Salons still remain core to the brand, said Hertzmark Hudis, who noted that this is especially indicative in product development, which Bumble stylists often have a say in. The next major product launch — Bumble’s biggest of the year — is a damage prevention and repair duo — the Bb. Save the Day protective fluid and Bb. While You Sleep overnight mask. The brand has tapped influencer Cindy Ramirez-Fulton, founder of Manhattan’s Chillhouse nail and massage studio, to promote the launch.