LONDON’S LINK TO HAIR CARE

Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — Nicky Clarke, a well-known hairstylist in the U.K., will become the latest exporter of London style when he introduces his eponymous line of hair care to U.S. drugstores in December.
Clarke, who has tended to the tresses of such celebrities as Elizabeth Hurley and Isabella Rossellini, is the definition of London hair chic, according to the local media. He has a regular spot on the U.K.’s top-rated morning show, “This Morning,” and has appeared on “Absolutely Fabulous,” MTV, VH1 and other British TV programming.
Now Clarke hopes to capitalize on London’s hip new image by bringing a line of hair care to the U.S. mass market.
The Nicky Clarke salon is located in London’s tony Barclay Square and has a reputation for being very exclusive. But when Clarke introduced a hair care line in 1993, Nicky Clarke Hairomatherapy, he wanted it to be available in a wide range of outlets from the upscale Harrods to the low-brow Tesco, a supermarket chain.
“A lot of people can’t understand why we are so exclusive with the salon and not with the product,” said Clarke. “I believe you don’t have to drop the standard of a salon in order to be attainable to people.”
Clarke’s plans for introducing the line to the U.S. marketplace include a similar approach. In addition to distributing the line in mass market outlets, Clarke will initiate a campaign to generate news coverage and guest appearances on local TV talk shows in order to make American consumers familiar with the man behind the line.
“In the beginning, it is best for us to go the route of being editorial-accessible, to educate and build the mystique about Nicky,” said Gary Rosenthal, Clarke’s partner. Rosenthal’s previous experience has included launching salon brands such as Tresemme and Aussie into the mass market.
Nicky Clarke Hairomatherapy will probably have a slow build, said Rosenthal, who predicts the line will be in between 16,000 and 20,000 chain drugstore doors in its first year. He wouldn’t provide first-year sales predictions, but said that last year, the line generated $25 million in wholesale sales in the U.K.
Advertising for the line will be limited at first. “We want to go for the more creative angle,” said Clarke. “We can’t compete with Pantene in terms of advertising, so we want to get to the people I’m selling to.” Retailers are excited about the grass roots angle, he added.
The rule of thumb for the mass market is that big-budget advertising campaigns are essential for any launch. Still, Clarke’s strategy is not unprecedented.
A similar focus was employed by another British hairstylist, John Frieda, when he introduced Frizz-Ease several years ago. Frieda did the talk show circuit in lieu of a more expensive advertising campaign to familiarize consumers with himself and his line, which at the time was the first mass market hair care line designed for frizzy hair. Today, Frizz-Ease is estimated to bring in an annual wholesale volume of $23 million.
Each of the eight items in the Nicky Clarke Hairomatherapy line come under one of three categories. For daily use, there is Deep Shine Shampoo, Light Anti-Static Shine Conditioner and Lift, Thicken & Shine Styling Spray. For permed or colored hair, there is Perm & Color Therapy Shampoo, Color Enhancing Gloss Conditioner and Deep Nourishing Hair Masque. For thick and shiny hair, there is Thick & Shiny Hair Styling & Texturizing Spray and Thick & Shiny Hair Shampoo.
The formulas contain aromatic essential oils designed to combat the destructive effects of stress and awaken the senses. Each will be priced at $5.99.
The company offers another hair care line in the U.K. called Sport, which comes in packaging that resembles a water bottle. There are no plans to bring that line to the U.S. anytime soon.

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