Braided, curly, long and pressed, completely natural and cropped black hair, these days anything goes. Today’s black women have more hair styling options than ever before. Of course, frequently updated looks require women to stock up on hair care products that maintain styles and condition overstressed locks.
Over the last few years, manufacturers of black hair products for the mass channel, taking cues from professional brands, have steadily expanded their lines beyond chemical treatments to offer consumers a complete system. Often a relaxer is a brand’s first handshake with a customer. By offering everyday styling products, such as spritzers, sheens and wrap lotions, black hair care manufacturers can build a loyal following.
However, the flood of new styling products, coupled with a finite space for ethnic sets in the drug channel, make it more difficult for category managers to decide what to put on the shelves.
“Most retailers are keeping the size of their planograms the same, but increasing the mix,” said Vincent Durante, president of Imperial Dax Co., which manufacturers and distributes black hair care products. He also noted that retailers that rely on distributors are pushing them to diversify the ethnic set, as well.
Retail consultant Roslyn Chapman of The Chapman Edge said drug stores have made strides in offering their ethnic customers more current assortments. “Options have always been there,” said Chapman. The categories offered 25 years ago-which consisted of chemicals, hair dressings, styling and hair color-when retailers first began putting ethnic planograms together are the same as today. However, certain segments, namely styling and hair color, are exploding with growth, said Chapman.
While overall drug store sales of black hair care products dipped 1.9 percent to $100.6 million in the 52-week period ended Aug. 18, the styling segment enjoyed a healthy 8 percent sales growth, according to Information Resources Inc. Chapman recommends to retailers that styling account for 20 percent of the ethnic set, outpaced only by hair dress at 25 percent.
Stellar growth in the styling segment has attracted general market brands such as John Frieda to the ethnic space. In fact, this fall marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of John Frieda’s FrizzEase Relax-a line of styling products designed for the specific needs of chemically relaxed hair. Relax, inspired by the original Frizz-Ease, seeks to give women of color a variety of styling options without having to rely on heavy, greasy products.
Pro-Line International, a longtime black hair care brand, has breathed new life into its TCB line, Taking Care of Beauty, with vibrant new packaging, an updated logo and product names such as Balancing Creme conditioner and Energizing shampoo, to appeal to women on the go. TCB has also the first ever No Lye/No Mix One-Application Relaxer Kit, available in two strengths.
“We targeted women as heads of households and working women whose active life includes exercise daily,” said Renee Cottrell Brown, executive vice president for Pro-Line. “We’ve capitalized on their mindset-that their busy lives deserve uncomplicated, useful product.”