MILAN — Italian hair firm Framesi, recognized for its Italian-made hair color, is quickly approaching its 70th anniversary on Nov. 15.
The company was established in 1945 by Roberto Franchina and his friends Antonio Messa and Emilio Sironi, but Franchina took over the whole ownership in 1950 and launched the firm’s first professional hair products line, along with perfume and cologne. In occasion of the celebration, the company has relaunched one of its first products, a hair pomade, in a limited edition. The Cristal Brillantina, available at hair salons worldwide, is bottled in an aluminum case, which is decked out with the original logo and retails for 19 euros, or about $21 at current exchange rate.
“The brillantine was really something special, because it allowed my father to be the number-one producer in Italy in terms of quantity,” said Fabio Franchina, president of Framesi. “And we are talking about 1945, where most of the houses in Italy had no bathroom,” he noted, adding that most of Italians only had access to toothpaste, coming from U.S. Army soldiers. Fantasy No.5, an eau de cologne, was the second major hit for the company, that sold 40,000 liters every year to Italian barber shops.
Framesi has since then expanded its business to 64 distributors in 70 countries, aiming to be a one-stop shop for professional hair salons, offering hair-color and -care products, as well as furniture and tools and training courses. The firm also opened the its first concept salon in collaboration with Arvi’s in the heart of Milan’s Porta Nuova district. “The vision of the company is to be so well perceived by the hairdressers, that they are going to suggest us to others as main partners,” Franchina said.
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For 2015, he expects the company to close the year with revenues of about 27 million euros, or $30.6 million, up 8 percent, compared to the previous year. He noted that the hair-color specialist is struggling in some countries, including Greece, parts of the Middle East and Russia. “It has nothing to do with the quality of the hairdressers, it’s the political and economical situation, which really is the problem,” he said.
Some countries on the other hand don’t seem to be influenced by politics and a troubled market. According to Franchina, Framesi has built up a strong position in North Africa with a 40 percent market share in hair color in Tunisia and sold 200,000 color tubes in Libya. “You would think that they [Libya] have some other issues to take care of,” he said and added that the quality of distribution is making the difference, even in a troubled market like Libya’s. “Women still go to the hairdresser to change the color or to take care of their own beauty,” he noted.
Asked about the most important market out of the 70 countries, Franchina holds on to the “old economy.” “We can say whatever we want on the BRIC, but at the end of the day, the U.S. and Europe remain the key players, at least for us.” The company is present in the U.S. since 1979, where hair color represents about 85 percent of the allover business, and recently decided to give up the partnership with one of its distributors to give full exclusivity to Beauty Systems Group.
For the future, Franchina has plans to penetrate several new markets. On the agenda for 2016 is the reentry into the major European market, Germany, where the company was present for 15 years, before exiting because of problems with the distribution. “Germany is a tough market to get in. Three of the top four brands are German, the other one is French, so it’s not an easy market to get in,” he noted, adding that the firm wants to set up a distribution more focused on minor distributors but with a better network and also has not been struck with luck in Japan.
“We have been in Japan for more than 15 years, but unfortunately the distributor we got at that time, had some issues and we have been forced to go,” Franchina explained and pointed out that due to lack of control, distribution is the only major limit for the company, but at the same time remains the key element. The company wants to reinforce its position in the existing 70 markets and also has his eye on another Asian market.
“We have a little dream to be successful in probably the largest market in Asia, that is also the most difficult market for professional products. I’m talking about China,” said Franchina, noting that due to the market’s size and cost of getting in, is very tough to penetrate. According to Franchina the firm is already dealing with a potential partner, but noted that Asia works with a different schedule: ” Whatever you do here in three months, you do over there in three years, so maybe, maybe not.”