Byline: Alev Aktar

NEW YORK — Despite the efforts of several major manufacturers, the department store hair care category remains as bare as a bald pate. Upscale products have never taken root with consumers, and sales for the segment amounted to less than $9 million retail last year, according to the market research firm NPD BeautyTrends.
But with the introduction of Clinique’s Simple Hair Care System, an 11-product collection replacing the existing line in July, that may change. The company sees the opportunity to more than double its hair care sales and set the stage for further launches.
“Our goal has been to expand Clinique’s involvement in a woman’s beauty routine,” said William Lauder, president of Clinique Laboratories. “With the introduction of our body line earlier this year and now with the launch of Clinique’s new hair line, we will be offering women customized products from head to toe.”
“This is a way of expanding the brand, servicing the customer and bringing in new ones,” added Jane Lauder, marketing director for new concepts at Clinique and the person who spearheaded the introduction. “Women are trading up to higher-end brands, and we felt it was time to revamp the line.”
Clinique executives declined to discuss a sales target for the collection, but sources estimate that it could generate $25 million at retail in the first 12 months. The shampoos and conditioners are priced at $10 apiece, while styling products go for $13.50 each.
Clinique is already the leader in the department store hair care category with its 1978 introduction, along with rivals Origins and Tommy Hilfiger. But the segment remains minuscule compared with the mass market.
According to Information Resources, Inc., food, drug and mass market shampoo sales hit $1.74 billion at retail for the 52-week period ending Jan. 30. Conditioners totaled $973 million for the same period, while styling gels and mousses pulled in $523 million and hair sprays turned over $588 million. That adds up to a whopping $3.82 billion — and that figure doesn’t even include hair- growth products, relaxers, home hair coloring and permanent kits.
As for salon distribution, the category is not tracked by market research firms. However, the Kline Group, a market research firm, estimated that the business accounted for 14 percent of the hair care pie in 1998, while department stores represented a mere 1 percent.
Clinique, meanwhile, aims to give consumers the best of mass and class. “There’s a disparity in the market,” observed Jane Lauder. “There are low-end mass and high-end salon products, but no one is giving you the price and value of mass and the advice from salons. We’re giving you both.
“We’re really focusing on education, helping consumers choose the appropriate products and giving them tips on how to hold a brush and angle a hair dryer,” she continued. “And our ads capture the performance of the products and the service we provide.”
The collection consists of three shampoos: a cleansing formula for everyday use; a moisturizing version for dry or damaged hair, and a clarifying “detoxer” to remove buildup from styling products, pollution or chlorine. The shampoos can be used on color-treated hair and contain ingredients that calm and soothe the scalp, according to Debbie d’Aquino, vice president of global product development for treatment.
The second step is conditioning: The detangling light formula rinses clean and doesn’t weigh hair down; the super condition restoring formula is said to replace moisture lost to chemical processes, blow drying or the environment, and the moisture-intensive version is targeted to hair that’s coarse and damaged and can double as a weekly mask.
The third step is styling, and Clinique has five products for that purpose. Defined Curls Curl Enhancer is a gel lotion designed to eliminate frizz, condition tresses and sculpt smooth curls. Extra Body Volumizing Spray conditions hair and creates fullness. Natural Hold Soft-Finish Hairspray is a nearly weightless formula that doesn’t flake, and its aerosol spray will not hold harm the ozone layer. Finally, Perfectly Straight Straightening Balm, for fine, thin-to-medium hair, and Perfectly Straight Straightening Cream, for coarser, medium-to-thick locks, help users achieve the ironed look.
The products will be merchandised on open-service kiosks and counter testers.
They will be backed with a print campaign bearing the tag line “Who does your hair?”
“The answer is Clinique,” said Jane Mauksch, creative director at the company. “You’re getting guidance and tips from us.”
The visuals, which were shot by Michael Thompson, show women with different types of hair, including curly and coarse.
Sources say the company will invest as much as $1.5 million on media for the launch period.
Promotional efforts will include five million mailers and more than two million bounce-back cards in magazines. Beauty advisers will distribute more than two million packette and deluxe samples of every product in the line, according to Nance Dickinson, vice president of marketing. Furthermore, a video showing hair stylist Jimmy Paul working on models’ hair backstage at the ready-to-wear shows will loop on counter. Paul has been retained by the company to help educate consultants.
“This is an affordable and approachable line,” said Jane Lauder. “And it’s as simple as our 3-Step Skin Care System — from the selection of the products to the packaging to the names.”