Another Industry Legend Retires- Gary Winterhalter

Another Industry Legend Retires- Gary Winterhalter

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After more than 27 years with Sally Beauty, a.k.a. Sally Beauty Holdings (SBH), Gary is hanging it up within the year to enjoy life. As the CEO, President and Chairman of the Board, one can only wonder the responsibilities Gary has had to tackle including those dreaded quarterly conference calls in which analysts ask questions they shouldn’t be asking.

I’ve had lunch with Gary and he has always been an affable type of guy that enjoyed running the business. Although SBH is one of our biggest competitors, Gary always had the vision that the beauty business is like all others and the bottom line is the most important. It’s all about numbers and basis points.

From a 30,000 foot view, this is the perfect time for Gary to exit. He already oversaw the acquisitions of many independent distributors to create Beauty Systems Group and Cosmoprof, now with more than 1000 stores and nearly as many DSC’s. Sally itself has ventured overseas but its been the USA business that has kept the machine running. With the low hanging fruit wiped out, the next CEO is going to have to spend his life in airplanes to grow the business. And I am certain that is not Gary’s desire.

With Gary’s announcement of retirement, he also announced his successor, Christian Brinkman. What is telling about this hire is that Brinkman is from outside the industry and was most recently a VP at Kimberly Clark (known for Huggies and Kleenex) on the international side. No doubt his hire was to grow the Sally business overseas. The press release stated that Gary would “train” Brinkman for up to one year. For sure Brinkman will need to learn the difference between nail polish and gel polish which could take at least a couple months. My biggest take-away from this hire is that Sally no longer needs a merchant to run its business, the days of merchants are over (and that is another commentary), and the focus must be on new growth. And the only place to grow is international.

Love him or hate him, Winterhalter and before him, Michael Renzulli (photo below in 1972), got their nails dirty in the business.

On one hand, I am thrilled for Gary to leave on a high note. On the other hand, it’s another tipping point for the pro beauty industry as the industry continues to evolve into the retail community. For us, it’s good news because no matter how much Winterhalter mentors Brinkman, Brinkman’s focus will never replace Winterhalter’s. Looking forward, salon professionals top 3 choices for buying products include:

  • SBH focused on international expansion and run by an ex-Kimberly Clark VP
  • L’Oreal (owns Salon Centric, Kerastase, Maybelline and a slew of brands), a $28 billion French empire
  • THE INDUSTRY SOURCE, independent and family owned since 1985 still focused on the customer and being a merchant.

So long Gary and enjoy retirement (although you still have a few more years to offer your valued insight). Perhaps you can have lunch with George, Bill, Max, Essie and a few others one day. I wonder who would buy.

Happy Wednesday!