There’s no such thing as a bad hair day at L’Oréal’s Professional Products division, which includes brands such as Redken, Matrix and Kérastase.
This story first appeared in the November 19, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In the first nine months of this year, its business posted sales up 4.5 percent on a like-for-like basis to 2.05 billion euros, or $2.7 billion at average exchange, in a worldwide market whose estimated growth is between zero and 2 percent.
Among the key drivers in the economic crisis was the launch of L’Oréal Professionnel’s Inoa, which Nicolas Hieronimus, the outgoing president of the Professional Products division (who will take the reins of L’Oréal’s Luxury Products division on Jan. 1), called a “game changer.” L’Oréal even advertised the professional, ammonia-free hair color to consumers.
“When everybody was cutting and disinvesting, we did what hadn’t been done for 20 years, which was put advertising on TV, in newspapers, magazines, on the Internet and blogs to tell women that there’s a new hair [color] revolution — it’s called Inoa — and go ask your salons [about it].”
Inoa is now in more than 76,000 salons worldwide, of which 20 percent had never worked with L’Oréal before. Sales of the Professional Products division’s permanent hair color applications are growing by double digits.
“[Inoa has] really been working on a quantitative basis and a qualitative basis,” said Hieronimus, adding the product’s rollout is ongoing, most recently to China and Brazil.
His division also focused on in-salon promotional animations, among other strategic moves.
“I made the decision to really stretch our brands from one another, in terms of positioning and in terms of pricing,” said Hieronimus, noting, for instance, that at the same time as the introduction of Inoa — a relatively expensive item — Matrix, a value-added product, was relaunched with new positioning.
“We made [Matrix] the most affordable, accessible in terms of education of all the big international brands,” said Hieronimus. “That allowed us to satisfy the needs and the economic equation of many smaller salons, community salons as we call them in the U.S., or salons in the new world that need maybe less sophisticated, less technical and more affordable products.”
Emerging markets are “already the growth relays of our division,” according to Hieronimus, who added their sales are gaining by double digits.
Another focal point for the Professional Products division has been to bring added value beyond products to its existing or new customers. To wit, for the first time at the Mondial Coiffure Beauté trade show, it displayed new salon concepts in about one-third of its 33,333-square-foot exhibition space.
“We’re trying to help stylists reinvent the salons because at the end of the day, in the mature countries, what will make this market grow is new ideas, new places,” said Hieronimus. “I think that salons have not evolved enough, and we thought that it could be interesting for us to brainstorm and to work with trend scouts to study what women loved and did not like so much about their salons.”
The idea was for entrepreneurs to run with the concepts, which included three green salons with differing price points. Their design took into account such elements as energy and water savings, air purifying and noise reduction. On display, too, was a men’s Sports Grooming Bar, which can be easily tailored designwise to be in sync with a particular sporting event’s theme.
“There’s a really great growth potential for the men’s hair business,” said Hieronimus, highlighting Kérastase Capital Force’s success.
Another concept was a Style Minute Lab for time-strapped women. Also at the trade show, L’Oréal presented a new Internet platform, called salonworld.com, due for an early 2011 launch.
“The objective of this site is to provide any salon — of course, with a few advantages for our customers — with every solution to any need it might have,” said Hieronimus, adding it will include information, such as trends and real estate contacts.
Among upcoming product launches, he noted, was a cleansing balm in Kérastase’s Chroma Sensitive line.
Looking ahead, Hieronimus wouldn’t comment on whether the Professional Products division will make further acquisitions. He did express optimism for 2010.
“Matrix is very dynamic. L’Oréal Professionnel is having one of its best years,” said Hieronimus, ticking off some of the growth drivers.
Yet before yearend, on Dec. 1, which is World AIDS Day, L’Oréal Professionnel’s Hairdressers Against AIDS program will be rolled out to the U.S. It’s to be backed by numerous initiatives, including four short films and 500 hairdressers hitting New York streets to try to prompt 1 million conversations about HIV and AIDS.