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Sexy Hair Makes Move to Boost Market Share

Folks in the hair products biz often talk about volume and bounce, and now Sexy Hair Concepts has made a move to do just that for its own business. Jim Morrison, an industry veteran who spearheaded the acquisition of Redken while at L’Oreal, has joined the Chatsworth-based maker and marketer of hair-care products as president. Morrison, who is also an investor in the company, will take the reins from Michael O’Rourke, the company’s founder, as Sexy Hair Concepts seeks to expand its distribution and market share in beauty salons nationally and internationally. O’Rourke, who in 1978 founded the Carlton chain of hair care salons and developed it to 38 locations before selling it to the Opal Corp. in 1999, retains an ownership position in the company along with several other investors in addition to Morrison. He will focus on a newly opened training center for stylists, The Institute of Courage located in a Spanish-hacienda-style home in Topanga Canyon. “We probably right now are one of the 15 largest companies in the U.S. salon industry,” said Morrison. “To get the company where myself, Michael and the management team want, we will end up being in the top three. So we’ve got a bunch of people to pass and a lot of revenue to add.” Competitors like Matrix and Redken, which hold the top spots in salons, also began as entrepreneurial ventures headed by hair stylists. Because they have worked in the field and have hands-on experience applying different products to different hair types, the products they create tend to garner more credibility from other hairdressers than do products developed in the laboratories of big packaged goods conglomerates. At the same time these former hairdressers often lack the business skills to move beyond the small, niche businesses they create. For Sexy Hair Concepts, which has grown to sales of about $50 million since it was launched in 1999, playing on a level field with the likes of Matrix or Redken will take far more marketing know-how and power, industry experts say. “Sexy Hair got to a certain level, and it’s certainly in a lot of salons, but you get to a point and it’s stuck in neutral,” said Marianne Dougherty, editor-in-chief of Launchpad, a Creative Age Publications trade magazine for the salon industry. “Then you need somebody to get you over the hump. Jim is the one who purchased Redken, and their profits doubled or tripled in a year. So Jim has that kind of skill.” The first order of business, Morrison said, is to round out the line, which currently includes about 100 different products. Several months ago, the company launched its first hair color product, a semi-permanent formula called Liquid Art, and there are plans to launch a permanent hair color as well. “The strategy is to make this a very complete line for high-volume and higher-end salons,” Morrison said. “Our intent is to align ourselves with salons that will carry the whole line, concept salons where we would also help the salon in marketing, promotion and advertising.” The Institute of Courage is expected to assist in the firm’s marketing efforts as well. The institute will offer courses to salon owners and stylists, but just as important it is intended to help promote the company. “It’ll be a great place for hairdressers to come and see what the company is about,” said Morrison. “It definitely has a positive spin on the market because they see the company in a different light. Redken spent $3 million on its 5th Avenue salon in New York, and it had a dramatic effect.” Morrison believes Sexy Hair’s strongest attribute may be its name. “Nine out of 10 times a woman sits in a chair with a stylist and she wants that stylist to make her look sexy,” Morrison said. “So it’s a very desirable aura to have. So we will use that as our guide. We will continue to dream up products that make a woman look and feel sexy.” The company’s first two products, under the moniker Big Sexy Hair, were Spray & Play hair spray and Root Pump mousse, and they continue to hold the No. 1 and No. 2 ranking in the company’s sales. But since then, Sexy Hair Concepts has also reflected changes in hairstyling trends, adding products geared to straight hair styles, Straight Sexy Hair; short hair styles, Short Sexy Hair;and most recently, the interest in shiny, healthful looking locks, Healthy Sexy Hair. “They’ve been able to capitalize on the trends in hair and launch fun, sassy products that go along with those styles with the key thing being sexy hair,” said Morrison. “It sounds simple, but it’s brilliant.”

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