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Shampoo

WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter John Paul DeJoria laughs while describing a picture of himself taken on a trip to China earlier this year. The photo shows the hair-care mogul in Shanghai standing with a traditional Chinese hairstylist: a white-robed barber who conducts business on the street with little more than a stool, a pair of clippers and a bucket of water. DeJoria, the co-founder and chief executive of John Paul Mitchell Systems Inc., was in China for the sales launch of his company’s hair-care products. The photos, he said, illustrate some of the cultural obstacles the company is attempting to overcome in one of its newest overseas markets. “Hairstyling has been done very differently in China,” said DeJoria. “They need to know Western hair styling, product use, merchandising. We’re working to create a new professional industry there.” It’s a major undertaking, but the company is not starting from scratch. First of all, in the past decade a smattering of hair salons have popped up in large Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Hairstylists from these places have been among the first targets for the upscale hair products company’s market push. “Many hairstylists in China have never used certain types of hair-care products that Western people use all the time,” said Jerome Alexander, a founder of the Shanghai-based China Distribution & Marketing, which Paul Mitchell chose as its sole China distributor. As a result, China Distribution is holding ongoing product-launch events and seminars at which Chinese stylists learn Western hair-care and styling techniques and, of course, are instructed on how to use the various shampoos, gels and other potions that Paul Mitchell makes. DeJoria said that Paul Mitchell is the first upscale Western hair-goods company to launch in China (distribution began in March), though companies with generally less expensive products (such as Germany’s Wella AG) currently distribute there. And he said that a major challenge for the company is to teach hairstylists and their clients why Paul Mitchell Systems products are considerably more expensive than many other brands. So far, Paul Mitchell products are sold in 20 Chinese cities, and revenues are projected in the “multi-tens of millions of dollars” per year in the first couple of years, and should reach into the “hundreds of millions” in a decade. The privately held company does not divulge specific revenue figures, though DeJoria said Paul Mitchell’s overall annual sales figures are “approaching $200 million.” As of early July, its products were sold in 27 countries.

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