A Walk Down Memory Lane When Innovation Mattered

A Walk Down Memory Lane When Innovation Mattered

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It’s a sad state of affairs when innovation in our industry has been left to a new flavor of lotion or brush color. After reviewing the product selection for our THE BEAUTY BOOK Fall edition, it is apparent that most companies are sticking with their tried and true products and not investing in the next “AH-HA” product. Without new and different, there is nothing to get consumers excited about buying, so products become more and more commoditized and discounted.

Now back to memory lane, the year can be anytime between 1989 to 1995. This was when the industry trade show for distributors was called the BBSI (Barber Beauty Supply Institute) and the show was held each year in Las Vegas in the summer and a resort city in January such as San Diego and Orlando. These were the days when innovation was king and start up manufacturers flourished with new ideas, new concepts and new dreams. Most of the memories are still alive but alas, the companies long gone. Let’s take a stroll down a few of the aisles at one of the BBSI shows.

There’s Marlene Sortino [Italian Jewelry] introducing her new gold fingernails and dangling charms. Each charm is handmade and over 200 designs. The nail drill to make the hole in the nail is a huge hit.

Right across the aisle is Katia (Kami Nail Designs]. Everyone of her fingernails are long and decorated with rhinestones, striping tape and the newest sensation, snakeskin. Snakeskin is applied with glue and comes in 6 colors. Demand is high.

Tony Cuccio [Star Nail] is walking by his booth donning his dark sunglasses and black hair (which is long gone). The booth is nothing more than a couple tables and banner filled with cheap polish, files, block buffers and generic nail glue. But he is busy making deals.

Jan and Jim Nordstrom [Creative Nail Design] have a private room and excited to feature Solar Nail, Solar Beam and Solar Oil. Acrylics are hot and they have the best acrylics. Solar Beam was the first gel light but the design was flawed and had to be dropped. But it was a way cool concept. They are getting ready for their really big distributor party at the Hilton later that night featuring live music, great decorations, open bar and plenty of awards.

George and Myriam Schaeffer [OPI] have the large booth at the end of the aisle and they are launching their new polish line called Lacquer. It’s higher priced than the competition and going to be advertised in consumer magazines. George is so excited about this that even his suspenders are made of nail polish bottles. Myriam is showing off fine jewelry for loyal distributors to partake in. The booth is packed. George is quoted in NAILS magazine:

“Ours is the old style,” mused George. “It is a business philosophy of loyalty to the little guy, to those who got us started. This is the whole gist,” he added, “giving them extra, the best possible product attainable. Our first consideration is the product—the profit will come if the product is right.

“Don’t get me wrong,” George adds quickly, with a sheepish grin, “we like a little profit.”

Lorenzo Meija [IBD]is donned in his fashionable Italian suit perfect from the dry cleaner. He is excited to show off his new Soft Gel collection, the first gels to cure under a UV light. 5 Second Nail Glue is already a household name. Quoting Meija in the 1991 issue of NAILS:

“According to Lorenzo Mejia of International Beauty Design Inc., gel services are the fastest growing segment of the professional market today.

The natural look of gel nails is a major selling point with clients. In addition, the virtual lack of odor makes gels a popular service in full service beauty salons, where hair oriented salon professionals have for years used the odor complaint to relegate nail technicians to the back of the salon, or even keep them completely out of the salon.” OK, so 20 years earlier gel polish could have been invented.

Jack Sperling [Alpha 9]can be found in another aisle making practical jokes on everyone and having the best laugh as he sells his powder and liquid at outrageously high prices and gets away with it. No one had more fun in the business than Jack. This show he is proud of his new 4-Way nail file.

Vern and Lynn Rae [San Francisco Nails] have one of the hottest booths in the show. Airbrush nail art is ultra hot and everyone wants it. Machines, paints and stencils are on fire.

Ben Edwards [Design Classic] is a true entrepreneur and is showing off his latest creation: Fiberglass for nails. Wraps are getting bigger as fiberglass overtakes silk and linen as the preferred choice for nail techs.

Essie and Max [Essie] also have tables and a banner sporting Essie nail polish in over 100 colors. The big news at this show is that the polish went from $1.00 a bottle to $1.25 a bottle and the new seasonal collections are going to be introduced every quarter. We were not sure if manicurists would pay another quarter for a bottle of polish. Max was very busy behind the booth bullshitting about “nothing but nothing.”

Kirk Hamilton [Menda] was behind the innovation at Menda, or at least he represented the line well. Menda was introducing a new dispenser bottle that actually kept the acrylic powder from entering the bottle. Ingenious. However the plastic bottles remain their mainstay.

Calvert Billings [Calvert International] invented the first nail polish dryer using of all things, light bulbs. Really? I ordered 144 and had to reorder many times. He later invented something called the Laquer Whacker. Actually I am thinking of that for gel nail removal.

Dal LaMagna [Tweezerman] made the tweezer famous and could be found at the booth plucking eye brows while talking politics. Can you imagine if he was around at the time of computers he could have invented Facebook.

You get the picture. Back then business was fun, innovative and full of excitement. Our industry needs to return to this before it is entirely assimilated into retail beauty and all beauty becomes one. Or as I have said earlier, perhaps it is already there.

Happy Wednesday!

Out Of My Mind On A Friday Mornin’

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STOP THE CLOCKS PLEASE! It cannot be December 6 and Christmas cannot be in less than 3 weeks. 2014 cannot be in less than 4 weeks. It was just Thanksgiving for crying out loud. Wait, it was just Labor Day! It has to slow down to enjoy. But alas, if Amazon.com is sending robots to deliver packages and eBay is using bicyclists in NYC to deliver packages, nothing is going to slow down.

I had my final farewell lunch with George Schaeffer recently in Santa Monica. George is officially retired as CEO of OPI later this month and will stay on in a consulting capacity. He is happy and at the tender age of 60-something, he has a lot going on. But at the same time, it was a quite sad moment as another milestone in the industry has come and sold.

I also had the pleasure to spend time with Max and Essie in NYC for a couple of days and that too was sad as they are mostly gone from the company and like George, serving in a consulting capacity. Essie is as busy as ever doing what she loves to do although she misses the business terribly. Max on the other hand is content designing new toilet brushes and other bathroom accessories for his next business. Bottom line: Two industry icons sold out and global corporations now control the brands. Boy, the photos I could share of everyone at our trade shows back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

What’s new for 2014? Plenty. We just completed THE BEAUTY BOOK Spring 2014 Edition and all I can say is that we have the most and new exciting products to offer in the past ten years. The catalog hits January 7.

Hot items for Christmas are our bebeautiful makeup palettes, ForPro Aroma Diffusers, and Root candles in regular and holiday scents.

Other than the Kindle series, iPad Mini and iPhone 5S, are there any “must-have” products this holiday season? Gift cards are more popular than ever.

The whole thing about Black Friday and now Black Thursday are so over. Yes there were more consumers who shopped on Thursday, but they spent less money and visit fewer stores on Friday. At what point enough enough?

Big game tomorrow and all eyes are on MSU to complete the task of turning from an under-performer to a high-performer team. Anything less than a V spells disappointment even with their perfect BIG 10 record. My prediction: MSU 27, OSU 21.

The OPI Gel Light promotion with 6 OPI Gel Colors for $199.95 has been one of our top promotions for the year. Already with sales well more than 1000 deals, we are gearing up for the last push. Starting January the lights go to $249.95 so the savings are huge.

Bye-Bye-Gone! Stock up now on China Glaze, Orly and Zoya polishes at up to 50% off.

How ironic is it that Detroit is officially in bankruptcy and both Ford and GM are doing better than ever?

Happy Friday!

Out Of My Mind On A Friday Mornin’

Are you shopping online or at stores for holiday gifts?

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STOP THE CLOCKS PLEASE! It cannot be December 6 and Christmas cannot be in less than 3 weeks. 2014 cannot be in less than 4 weeks. It was just Thanksgiving for crying out loud. Wait, it was just Labor Day! It has to slow down to enjoy. But alas, if Amazon.com is sending robots to deliver packages and eBay is using bicyclists in NYC to deliver packages, nothing is going to slow down.

I had my final farewell lunch with George Schaeffer recently in Santa Monica. George is officially retired as CEO of OPI later this month and will stay on in a consulting capacity. He is happy and at the tender age of 60-something, he has a lot going on. But at the same time, it was a quite sad moment as another milestone in the industry has come and sold.

I also had the pleasure to spend time with Max and Essie in NYC for a couple of days and that too was sad as they are mostly gone from the company and like George, serving in a consulting capacity. Essie is as busy as ever doing what she loves to do although she misses the business terribly. Max on the other hand is content designing new toilet brushes and other bathroom accessories for his next business. Bottom line: Two industry icons sold out and global corporations now control the brands. Boy, the photos I could share of everyone at our trade shows back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

What’s new for 2014? Plenty. We just completed THE BEAUTY BOOK Spring 2014 Edition and all I can say is that we have the most and new exciting products to offer in the past ten years. The catalog hits January 7.

Hot items for Christmas are our bebeautiful makeup palettes, ForPro Aroma Diffusers, and Root candles in regular and holiday scents.

Other than the Kindle series, iPad Mini and iPhone 5S, are there any “must-have” products this holiday season? Gift cards are more popular than ever.

The whole thing about Black Friday and now Black Thursday are so over. Yes there were more consumers who shopped on Thursday, but they spent less money and visit fewer stores on Friday. At what point enough enough?

Big game tomorrow and all eyes are on MSU to complete the task of turning from an under-performer to a high-performer team. Anything less than a V spells disappointment even with their perfect BIG 10 record. My prediction: MSU 27, OSU 21.

The OPI Gel Light promotion with 6 OPI Gel Colors for $199.95 has been one of our top promotions for the year. Already with sales well more than 1000 deals, we are gearing up for the last push. Starting January the lights go to $249.95 so the savings are huge.

Bye-Bye-Gone! Stock up now on China Glaze, Orly and Zoya polishes at up to 50% off.

How ironic is it that Detroit is officially in bankruptcy and both Ford and GM are doing better than ever?

Happy Friday!

Cosmoprof 2012 Recap

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Once again, Mandalay Bay Convention Center was where the action was for Cosmoprof, now in its 10th year (although many of us will refer to it as the BBSI for another 10 years).

The show floor was filled to capacity with stands and booths and this is with virtually every major hair company off the floor. The show cannot grow at Mandalay since there is no more space to be had. And we surely don’t want to go back to the Las Vegas Convention Center but those issues are those of others. July 14-16, 2013 is confirmed at Mandalay and most likely, the next few years as well.

Attendance although advertised up over 15% from 2011 seemed OK on Sunday and light on Monday. Clearly the Euro recession is in full bloom as there was little presence from across the continent. Asia and Canada were in full contingent along with regions in Mexico, Middle East and South America. I left early Tuesday so don’t have any feedback but most likely it was even lighter than Monday. The perfect clue is that on both Sunday and Monday, the Verandah restaurant at the Four Seasons was oversold for breakfast. On Tuesday, you could have a table of your choice, inside or out.

The show really kicked off Saturday night at the City of Hope dinner featuring George Schaeffer. Or should I say, the George Schaeffer dinner featuring George Schaeffer. Sure Al Green showed up in his really bad toupee and worn dancing shoes and Aretha Franklin for those that endured the midnight hour honked out 45 minutes of Motown. But the night was pure George and are no words that I can write that could translate into what happened for more than six and one half hours. Bottom line: More than twice the number of guests registered than any other City of Hope event and more than $5.4M was raised with George kicking in more than half of it. This was more than five times the previous record for net proceeds. With word that Reuben Carranza from P&G will be the 2013 honoree, P&G best start collecting  for every tube of Crest, box of Pampers and jar of Olay to make a company-wide $5M contribution.

This year’s show overkill theme was argon oil and gel polish. I guess it beats hair extensions and straightening products. There had to be 40 companies hawking argon oil and at least that many with gel polish. Let’s guess how many of each will be around at Cosmoprof in five years.

Of course the grand-daddy of argon oil is Moroccanoil and they dominated the private meeting area with a huge meeting room block, exhibit and private dining area for its distributors. One thing about MO is that everything they do is first class and with the introduction of their spa line, from $18 soap to $52 scrubs, first class is the only way they know.

Helen of Troy had a virtual city within the show floor and if Mandalay Bay had a retractable roof, the exhibit could have literally flown out. I could only imagine Art August’s expression when he signed off for the budget. But in the end, leaders do what leaders need to do and Hot Tools is still the #1 brand.

black 15in1 kicked off its first Cosmoprof with a huge booth presence and although it couldn’t get the island location it wanted, it still drew interest from more than 20 countries. It was truly exciting to see the brand recognition from those who stopped by and everyone commented on both the booth presentation and packaging. It is refreshing coming of the Premier show dealing with business people interested in investing in the brand versus watching people fill up rolling carts with close-out goods.

Tony Cuccio was very busy launching Cuccio Veneer and Lacquer. While already launched internationally, the U.S. launch is September. TNG is the exclusive master distributor for the U.S. and big plans are in the works for this huge launch. Already more than one million bottles have been sold and demand has been outstanding. In all, there are 24 Veneer shades and 72 Lacquer shades in the initial launch.

One thing very evident on the floor was the number of salons on the selling floor. Cosmoprof is not for salons and why they continue to let them into the show is a huge concern. There are plenty of beauty shows for salons to attend with one in Vegas just a month prior to Cosmoprof. Another concern is the number of companies setting up shop in hotel rooms. Yes space on the show floor is a lot more than a room you sleep in, but the inconvenience is not worth it. Next year none of our buyers will attend meetings in off-floor suites, we will utilize open meeting space on the show floor.

Monday night was all Moroccanoil. Once again they took over MIX atop TheHotel. Open premium bar and free flowing appetizers included sliders, shrimp skewers, and ahi tuna bites. There were more than 300 crowded into the space. About an hour into the event, MO held a business meeting and among other topics, handed out prizes to its top 12 salon consultants across the U.S.. Two each won a BMW and two each won a trip for two to Israel. Once again, MO showing off their class. After the business meeting, a buffet dinner was served.

All in all, Cosmoprof is the best all-purpose show to align companies within the beauty industry. Most likely, private on-floor meeting rooms will need to move to the second floor and NAHA needs to be moved to ISSE to get rid of the salon presence. And closing the show floor at 5:00PM on Monday would be nice as well.

Happy Wednesday!

Bottle of OPI Lacquer: $4.25; All The Bottles: $1 Billion; Naming Your Own Colors: Priceless

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Paul DeJoria is licking his chops and having a shot of Patron to celebrate. Already worth some $3.5 Billion, he is watching from the sidelines what OPI is going to fetch. DeJoria owns both Paul Mitchell and Patron. Mitchell is the beauty industry’s biggest privately held company.

OPI is the second largest and is on the auction block. Looks like Coty is a lead bidder and a few private equity firms such as Bain are tagging along. Ultimately the selling price could be $1 billion.

That’s a lot of money. We all know Essie sold to L’Oreal earlier this year but that was a $28 million company compared to the mammoth $300 million company OPI is. I wouldn’t be surprised if L’Oreal doesn’t step in later, they know there isn’t another brand like OPI around.

I’ve written my fair share about OPI, George Schaeffer, Suzi-Weiss Fleishmann and for good reason. They created a phenomenon from nothing. They took risks and spent millions in consumer publications. They took risks and put in state-of-the-art filling machines when most people were outsourcing. They took risks in naming lacquers with strange names.

Now the risks are going to pay off and pay off big. They deserve it. But once the deal is over, the bigger questions remain: Will OPI go retail to pay off the investment and will George and Suzi stay on?

Of course there is a small chance that all this talk from today’s Wall St. Journal is gibberish and only rumors. Wouldn’t that be nice. But in today’s global economy and with companies and equity firms flush with cash, this sounds like an opportunity that won’t be passed up.

WOW. What else is there to say?

Happy Wednesday!