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Indie Hair Color Brand Packs Punch in Dull Market

Splat plans an app to help customers virtually try on shades they might be afraid to make a commitment to apply.

Little Brand Packs Big Punch in Hair Color Market
Retailers are clearing shelves to make room for bolder hair colors from Splat.

The impact indie brands have made in beauty categories is widely chronicled. But there is a similar, sometimes less noted, story in the hair color category where a smaller brand has outstripped the growth of category giants.

Splat, from Developlus Inc., has accomplished what most other hair color brands haven’t — moved hair color sales into the black. That’s been done with bold “fantasy color” shades that are miles away from ash blonde or jet black. For the 12-week period ended Aug. 13 in multiunit doors, overall hair color sales continue to lag, down 1.1 percent. Women’s hair color sales declined almost 2 percent, but Developlus posted 5 percent gains. Splat has been at the forefront of moving a wide spectrum of hair colors from a niche to a core business for retailers.

To keep the momentum going, Splat recently launched an e-commerce site and has plans for an app to help customers virtually try on shades they might be afraid to make a commitment to apply.

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“We want to serve our customers wherever they are and in today’s market that includes e-commerce. We are going to still point our customers to our retailers, too,” said Kiran Agrey, president and chief executive officer of Developlus. “Customers want immediate gratification and we need to support them by evolving from an information site to a full-service site.”

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Splat’s e-commerce access also could help neutralize the onslaught of online-only competitors looking to capitalize on consumer interest in the vibrant colors that comprise the fantasy hair segment of the market. Agrey added the timing is crucial because the company has new products in the pipeline that will lend themselves to e-commerce support — especially education and the chance to view the products. “We have the most diverse lineup of colors [in the industry],” Agrey claimed. On the horizon, she predicted galaxy is the new trend for bold hair color. Galaxy hair combines blue, purple and pink for a Space Age look.

Next month, Splat will offer an app allowing try-before-you-buy capabilities developed by Spinx Digital. “The need [to try hair color] has always been there, but now the technology has caught up with the need,” said Brian Talbot, senior vice president of marketing for Developlus. “We have a big commitment product — one that is larger than picking a lip color. With the app, you can spend some time with that color.”

Customers take a photo in the app, outline the hair they want colored and then pick their color. The app lays the color down within the outlined area. The image can be shared with friends, posted to social media, saved for later or purchased seamlessly through the app. Customers have the option to shop from the app or be directed to the retailers carrying Splat such as Ulta Beauty, CVS, Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Rite Aid.