Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — The mass market treatment category continues to heat up, in the dollar sense.
In Helene Curtis’s case, it’s also heating up in a literal sense.
The company’s ThermaSilk brand, which already does considerable business at mass with heat-activated shampoos, conditioners and styling products, will expand its franchise in April with two new treatment products designed to work with heat.
ThermaSilk Self-Warming Split End Repair Treatment, which will retail for $5.49, is a serum that heats on contact with water.
According to Joanne Cappucci, marketing manager for ThermaSilk, this is more than a marketing gimmick — the heat enables the formula’s wheat proteins and conditioning agents to more efficiently penetrate the hair and restore lost moisture.
“Wheat proteins in the formula adhere to the hair, smoothing the frayed end and making it less brittle,” she said. “And on an emotional level, this product creates an in-home spa feeling.”
Cappucci contends that the self-activated heat treatment concept is the only one at mass, although it has already been proven on the salon side with products like Matrix’s ShineFusion Self-Heating Hair Treatment, which rolled out in fall 1997.
ThermaSilk’s split-end product is unusual in another way. The company is eager to test the limits of what mass customers will pay. The split-end formula is $2 more than the average $3.49 price on other ThermaSilk products, and Cappucci admitted executives would be closely watching sales of the Self-Warming Split End Repair Treatment.
“If we do well with the $5.49 price point, I could definitely foresee adding other items that retail at that price level or above,” she said.
The second addition to the lineup, ThermaSilk Daily Clarifying Conditioner, will retail for $3.49 and is designed to be used with a Daily Clarifying Shampoo that ThermaSilk introduced in May.
Cappucci admitted, however, that the conditioner doesn’t technically clarify the hair. Instead, it uses a “dual-phase” system to lightly condition the hair, leaving it feeling clean, she said.
“First, slipping agents lubricate the hair for easy wet combing and detangling, but dissipate during heat styling,” Cappucci said. “Then, secondary conditioners are activated during heat styling and remain on the hair for soft, manageable hair. We use the word ‘clarify’ to signify that this is a product that won’t leave buildup on the hair, which customers have identified as a major concern.”
Both products will roll out in April to about 115,000 mass merchandise, drugstore and food doors nationwide.
Cappucci declined to comment on expected sales figures for the two new items, but industry sources estimated they could add at least $10 million to the ThermaSilk brand’s bottom line in their first year of release.
Cappucci declined to break out specific advertising figures for the new products, but she said the entire ThermaSilk brand would be supported in 2000 with a $100 million promotional campaign that will include print and TV advertising and in-store promotions. Also, the company will distribute more than 25 million ThermaSilk samples — from the entire product range — in 2000, said Cappucci.
Since its inception, ThermaSilk has aimed to create products that — using a proprietary formula — help to improve the condition of hair when used with heat-styling tools.
The brand was launched in January 1998 with 13 products: four shampoos, including moisturizing, volumizing, revitalizing and regular formulas; four conditioners, and five hair sprays and other styling aids.
According to Cappucci, the complete range has done $300 million at retail since January 1998, with an estimated $120 million done with retail during its first year of release.
Cappucci feels that ThermaSilk’s success has been due as much to fulfilling emotional needs as functional needs.
“Emotionally, we know that women who are heat stylers — and that’s about 75 percent of women — see doing their hair as a transformation process,” she said. “They’re going from having wet hair to getting ready to present themselves to the world. But more than 50 percent of them worry that they’re damaging their hair with heat. This line taps into an emotional need that, up until this line’s release, was ignored. It allows them to feel that not only are they not damaging their hair with the heat, but that they are actually improving its condition.”
Cappucci said she believed the mass market treatment category would continue to expand in 2000.
“While, in the past, these types of treatment products were the domain of salons, they have been underrepresented at mass,” said Cappucci. “Mass companies are starting to realize that while most women have a need for these types of products, many of them won’t go pay $20 for them at a salon — especially if they can get them at a more reasonable price point at the mass level.”
Cappucci added that the “home spa” concept was another engine driving growth in the category. “Many women love the idea of pampering themselves at a spa, but don’t have time to go to one,” she said. “If we can give them a product that helps them to capture this feeling, we’ve fulfilled yet another emotional need.”

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