Byline: Cara Kagan

NEW YORK — John Frieda is hoping to move from the hair care fringes into the mainstream market.
In the process, the hair care company, based in Winton, Conn., hopes to nearly double its sales and distribution.
For the last five years, Frieda has established its reputation by selling the Frizz-Ease line of hair smoothing products. Frieda is now targeting women of all hair types through an aggressive rollout, which began in February, of its John Frieda Signature collection. Like Frizz-Ease, the Signature products were created by British hair stylist and salon owner John Frieda, and were originally intended for use by professional hair stylists for photo shoots. Signature, however, is expected to reach a broader group of consumers than Frizz-Ease, since the latter is geared only toward women with coarse, frizzy hair.
Signature made its U.S. debut last year at CVS, Walgreen’s PayLess and Eckerd’s for a total of 4,000 mass doors.
The collection is now in 8,000 locations and is expected to roll out to over 15,000 by yearend with the addition of other accounts, including Perry, Revco, Thrifty, Arbor and Target.
The added distribution is expected to have a dramatic impact on sales. Gail Federici, company president, projected that the Signature line’s wholesale volume would reach $5 million to $6 million this year, up from just under $3 million in 1994.
In England, Signature products are distributed in over 1,000 Boots locations and 80 department store doors. Company executives project the line’s U.K. sales will reach $7 million for the year ending April 1995.
For its U.S. rollout, Frieda is backing the brand with $1 million in regional TV advertising in eight markets now and in 20 markets during the second half of the year. Markets will include Dallas, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Boston and Seattle. The six-item line is composed of shampoos, conditioners and styling products. Prices for the collection range from $4.99 for a can of mousse to $7.50 for a bottle of Thickening Lotion.
Frizz-Ease — which the company bills as its prescription for dry, frizzy hair — was launched in the U.S. in 1990 with one product, Frizz-Ease Serum, just after Frieda opened his first U.S. salon in New York.
The line has since grown to encompass 13 products, including shampoos, conditioners and other styling products, which generated a wholesale volume of $17 million last year. That figure represented a 40 percent increase over 1993, Federici said. Within those five years, distribution has increased from an initial 4,000 doors to around 25,000.
Federici projected that this year the frizz-taming products will yield a volume of $24 million, largely due to the company’s more than doubling Frizz-Ease’s advertising budget to $2 million, with regional TV spots.
Federici noted that the U.S. game plan is opposite to the company’s U.K. strategy, which introduced English consumers to the Signature assortment first. The line bowed there in the mid-Eighties, followed by the Frizz-Ease grouping a few years later. “We had originally planned to launch Signature here first, once John had established himself in the New York salon community,” Federici said. “But Frizz-Ease was doing so well in England, and we realized this was a completely unique product to the American mass market so that it would probably catch on fast. We knew that since Signature was less specialized it would probably be a slower build.”
All of the John Frieda products occupy an unusual niche on the drugstore shelves, which are filled with salon-inspired lines from mass market companies, such as Salon Selectives by Helene Curtis, and diverted products from salon brands, such as Sebastian and Nexxus.
Frieda thought the wisest strategy in the U.S. would be to sell to drugstore chains, rather than salons.
“Typically hair stylists target the trade first,” Federici said, referring to the salon route. “But we thought it would be more complicated to sell the line that way, since we would have had to go through a distributor, which would then sell the line to a salon, which would then sell it to the consumer.”