What’s the (Hair) Story? – An Exclusive Interview with Hairstory CEO Eli Halliwell
If this is the first time you’re hearing of Hairstory then where have you been? The global brand created by Eli Halliwell – of Bumble and bumble fame – is reinventing the way we wash hair has recently expanded the the edited range with new products, starting with New Wash (Deep) and New Wash (Rich).
We had an exclusive interview with the CEO Eli Halliwell to find out about the top tier range and why he be creating many more products for the range…
Talk us through the gap you noticed in the market for Hairstory…
When I left Bumble in 2006, nearly 100% of professional hair care sales were through salons. Today, I’d be willing to bet that number is less than 50% in the US, and the UK can’t be far behind.
You can buy salon brands everywhere – from Sephora to Amazon – and even salons that do a good job introducing their clients to products are losing out on replenishment purchases. It turns out people like to buy online, and, until Hairstory, e-commerce has completely passed salons by. But one thing hasn’t changed: hairdresser recommendation is still the most powerful way to introduce consumers to hair products. The bond of trust is unlike any other – except maybe a doctor.
And yet every single hair company is abandoning the salon channel. Amazon is probably already the largest retailer of professional hair brands in America. I thought to myself: Does it have to be that way? What if you could enable hairdressers and salons to participate in e-commerce rather than be trounced by it? Wouldn’t that be a win/win for both consumers and hairdressers? And it would clearly be a win for anyone who launched such a system, because, as I mentioned, hairdresser recommendations are as good as it gets. Within literally minutes of connecting the dots on this concept, I realised I would quit my job to bring this idea to life.
Salon retailing has seen a dip in revenue, why do you think this is and how can the Hairstory referral system aid this?
Salon retailing is seeing worse than a dip – it has fallen off a cliff. Estee Lauder acknowledged as much on their last earnings call. They said salon retail is down, offset by sales growth at Ulta (the Boots of America). And they are not upset about it – profits for them are up! Salon retail has been negative now for at least 5 years in a row in the US, as salon brands have decided to adopt direct-to-consumer strategies. The same trends are clearly impacting the UK too. This, combined with tremendous technology disruption on the service side, has changed the entire face of the industry.
Combining these two trends, I believe the salon as we know it will be extinct within the next 10 years. There is tremendous opportunity for hairdressers and salon owners who adapt, but those who continue with a “business as usual attitude” are in trouble.
Hairstory’s business model is targeted at those salons and hairdressers who want to adapt and are open to changing the way they think about their business. Hairstory hairdressers can sell the old way, but the real goal is to refer their clients to buy online directly from us.
We leverage technology to identify every time one of their clients buys from our site, and they make just as much money on an online sale as they would make selling from their salon. That means they hardly need any inventory, which frees up tons of money to invest in their core business – servicing their clients. For those salons that really embrace our business model, we don’t even charge them for inventory until they have sold it to a client, again leveraging technology. And because our hero product – New Wash – has such strong repeat purchases, our hairdressers are basically building an annuity stream. For the first time in their lives, they earn money in their sleep.
How did you decide on your brand identity?
As a company, Hairstory is helping people rethink everything about hair in a world where the old rules no longer apply. When it comes to branding, that means embracing diversity and celebrating individuals, not scaring or shaming people into thinking they aren’t good enough. Everyone has a hair story, and we want to know it.
We are open, honest, direct, and good listeners, and we wanted to bring that simplicity to everything we do. That’s how the packaging ended up so clean and simple, stripped of visual noise and hype – quiet enough to be welcome in anyone’s home, and strong enough to stand apart in a salon. What I love about hair products is they serve a very clear function, and you get the results immediately. And as part of our belief in honesty and simplicity, we are sharing what most hairdressers already know – you don’t need a dozen products, just a few favourites.
Other companies launch a new product every month. We have had four products for our first three years, and we are rounding out the hairdressers’ toolkit now with another five. Maybe there will be another two or three down the road, but we aren’t in the business of launching products. We’re in the business of giving people great hair.
Do you have plans for further products or are you planning to stick to an edited selection?
We are sticking with an edited range. We have 3 new styling products coming out in July, and maybe there will be another two or three down the road, but that’s it. The reason we’re launching these all at once is that many of our salons want to stop carrying other lines, and yet there are some products they need to complete their offering. We are filling those needs now, so our salon partners can confidently commit to Hairstory.
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Lead image via instagram