SEARS CUTS INTO HAIR CARE

Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — Sears’ Circle of Beauty is completing its product loop by entering the $8 billion hair care market.
With the introduction of Mane Manager, now on shelves in 450 Circle of Beauty doors, Sears is entering the extremely fragmented hair care market, where fickle consumers typically hop from one brand to another. The lack of loyalty is just what Circle of Beauty executives find so attractive about hair care.
“Seventy-five percent of women are unhappy with their hair and cannot achieve the look they want,” explained Dorothy Sexton, vice president of Circle of Beauty based here.
The firm noted a gap in the market for a line of hair care products to help women tame their tresses. Mane Manager adds hair care to Circle of Beauty’s current assortment of color cosmetics, skin, bath and body products offered via the Colorworks, Living Pleasures, Skin I.Q., Skinplicity and M Balance brands. “This is another example of Sears’ commitment to Circle of Beauty,” said Sexton.
Industry sources estimate Circle of Beauty has grown to be an $80 million business. Sears’ Circle of Beauty is in about half of the $40 billion retailer’s 860 doors.
In order to lure customers from mass-market doors — where most volume is produced in hair care — and from salons, Sears has attempted to create a line that solves hair care problems.
“Due to the customized nature of the products, Mane Manager shampoos and conditioners actually work in conjunction with hair texture and hair type to prepare hair for styling,” said Vicki McClendon, vice president of cosmetics, fine jewelry and accessories for Sears. “Mane Manager styling products then work to help women achieve the style they want — straight or wavy/curly — regardless of their hair type.”
Indeed, with the luxury of space and sales associates, Circle of Beauty has geared Mane Manager toward specific hair textures, with stockkeeping units aimed at hair that is fine, normal and color treated or coarse/dry. And, the products are formulated to work with hair type: straight and wavy/curly. There is also a Flexible Hold Hair Spray suitable for all hair types and textures. In total, there are 19 sku’s priced at $8.50 for 12-oz. sizes.
Research combined with technology helped Circle of Beauty produce formulas to fix hair woes, according to Marianne Darlak, vice president of marketing for Circle of Beauty. “The formulas are also enriched with vitamin B5, vitamin A and amino acids to enhance the hair’s natural strength from inside out, while botanical extracts of rosemary and orange maximize condition and shine,” she added.
Great pains were taken to create a fragrance for the hair care products that would please all users. The result was a “sophisticated floral” with freesia and sandalwood. “Scent was important because people wake up to the fragrance of their hair care and use it as an identification of the brand,” added Lynn Mazzella, vice president of product development.
Each hair texture and type is treated with a specific botanical ingredient to address hair needs. Fine hair, for example, is plumped up with ginger root. Normal hair products have soy protein to nourish and condition. Color-treated or coarse/dry hair products feature avocado oil to replenish moisture and control frizziness.
Sears’ Circle of Beauty is banking on consumers buying more than just the shampoo and conditioners. In fact, those items prep hair for the stylers to achieve desired hair looks. There is a Volumizing Root Spray, Contouring Gel and Hydrating Styling lotion for straight looks. A Texturizing Mousse, a Body Building Mousse and Texturizing Balm are used to create curls.
With about 40 percent of women coloring their hair, Circle of Beauty executives expect the formulas for color-treated hair will be the dominant items. Color-coded signage at the point of sale will help direct customers to what they need for their hair types, and associates are being trained to help sell Mane Manager. For the launch, customers will get a free conditioner with the purchase of a shampoo.
With its entree into hair care, Circle of Beauty hopes to court customers buying hair care in other channels. According to 1999 yearend figures from Information Resources Inc. in Chicago, drug, food and mass-market doors control $5.5 billion of total sales.
The introduction of Mane Manager, with its higher-than-average prices, comes at a time when even mass-merchant hair care customers are being traded up to salon-inspired lines such as Physique and salon items secured through secondary sources, with price tags of $7 and up. Circle of Beauty hopes that will encourage women to jump from mass items to Mane Manager.
Plus, the introduction of hair care into the Circle of Beauty roster is also seen as an avenue for Sears to bring in younger shoppers. “Hair care defies age — the customer is between 15 and 95,” said Lynn Ruvo, director of marketing for Circle of Beauty.

October is a big month for executive hopping in the beauty world. Bob and Beverly VonderHaar have departed Ulta, based in Romeoville, Ill., for warmer climates and consulting positions. Between them, the husband and wife team has more than 45 years of experience in the mass beauty business. Also, Sharon Garment, a veteran of Mana Cosmetics, is departing after holding several executive posts at the Long Island City, N.Y.-based manufacturer. Garment will also serve as a consultant in the industry.

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