COLOR FOR MEN

Men's hair coloring products are adding fuel to the growth of the $1.3 billion mass market hair color category. However, not all supermarkets are taking notice of this emerging opportunity.SN surveyed food chains for comments on what ACNielsen says is the fastest-growing segment in the hair color category, up 20% over last year, according to a report released by the Schaumberg, Ill.-based research

Men's hair coloring products are adding fuel to the growth of the $1.3 billion mass market hair color category. However, not all supermarkets are taking notice of this emerging opportunity.

SN surveyed food chains for comments on what ACNielsen says is the fastest-growing segment in the hair color category, up 20% over last year, according to a report released by the Schaumberg, Ill.-based research company. Out of calls to 10 chains, half said they didn't carry men's hair color products. Among them were Homeland Stores, Harveys Supermarkets and Genuardi's Family Markets (owned by Safeway).

Said one nonfood executive for a food chain on the East Coast, who asked not to be named, "We've tried carrying men's hair color products and they didn't move."

This outlook contrasts sharply with a prediction made to retailers seven years ago by Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, a New York-based retail trends research group. At the time, she predicted men's hair color would be a "hot trend." Her prediction didn't exactly turn heads. "When I made that prediction, retailers balked. Today, as it turns out, those who nurtured the category are realizing the trend to be true," she said.

Factors influencing Liebmann's prediction are well-documented. "Men are doing more of their own shopping. There are more 'Mr. Moms' than ever, and men are marrying later in life," she said. "In addition, male teens have lots of disposable income and are into their looks. As they grow up, they're getting comfortable coloring their hair, so, by the time they start graying, they'll be used to these products and won't think twice about using them."

These factors obviously impact how retailers should approach men as consumers, and for retailers not paying attention to men's purchasing habits, they could end up sidelined and left out of the game, say other industry analysts.

For now, "men are still uncomfortable about coloring their hair," said Dominic DeMain, senior vice president of U.S. marketing, Combe Inc., White Plains, N.Y. Six percent of American men use hair dyeing products, according to company studies. Combe hopes to increase those figures with football legend Joe Theismann, the new spokesman for Just For Men.

"For us, promotions aren't big category drivers, so we focus on educating and changing attitudes through advertising," DeMain said. The company heavily advertises its Just For Men brand in magazine's like "Sports Illustrated," "Men's Health," "Golf Digest" and "Playboy."

Combe jump-started the category by introducing its popular Grecian formula gel in the early 1960s and the liquid-based Just For Men in 1987. Today, Just For Men ranks sixth in the top-selling hair coloring brands -- No. 1 in the men's segment -- with $73.6 million in sales, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc., for the year ending Dec. 3, 2000.

The company reformulated its Just For Men to include vitamins, natural ingredients and extra conditioners. The company offers products for men who want to hide their gray or white hair, without looking like they're trying too hard to stay young, said DeMain. Approximately 83% of supermarkets carry Combe products, he noted. Kroger and Albertson's are the largest supermarket chains that carry Just For Men. For these retailers, and others who manage the category successfully, sales are best in progressive areas such as Florida and Arizona, with large, aging baby-boomer populations.

Over the last 12 years, Combe has enjoyed double-digit annual growth and claims 76.8% market share of the $140 million men's hair coloring segment.

Clairol, New York, a unit of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., has been manufacturing women's hair dyes since the early 1930s. Top supermarkets that carry Clairol's men hair coloring are: Ahold, Albertson's, A&P, Fred Meyer, Pathmark, Safeway, Wakefern and Winn-Dixie. The company offers two products for men: Natural Instincts, launched in 1999, and XtremeFX. Natural Instincts is the industry's first and only shampoo-in men's hair color. Targeted to men ages 30 to 54, it offers 13 natural shades.

In late fall 2000, after conducting research that indicated young males' use of color had increased 25% in five years, the company launched XtremeFX, a line of hair color aimed at the younger, unisex, multicultural consumer ages 13 to 24. Billed as "hair color with a wild streak," the product is for consumers desiring a "wow-factor" and in tune with what's happening in the worlds of sports, music, entertainment, fashion and the Internet. Dye colors include red, orange, purple, white-blonde and blue. The product costs $14.99 for a bleach-out tool kit and $7.49 for the color.

To help supermarkets move hair color products, Clairol places strong emphasis on category management, said company executives. It closely examines total department stockkeeping unit movement and aids stores in designing planograms. "When merchandising in the mass channel for women, a wall of color is needed, but men don't want lots of color. Older men just want to cover their gray and the younger crowd just wants what's new and fresh," said Michelle Saxe, senior product manager. "Any supermarket doing its job has to meet these distinct needs."

Not only are boomers getting into the hair coloring act, but so are their babies. L'Oreal, New York, introduced its Casting ColorSpa for Men last year, a line of seven shades for men that are less than 40% gray. In addition to Casting ColorSpa, L'Oreal offers Feria, a global brand of 34 "notice me" rich, natural colors appropriate for all ages, genders and ethnicities. Four shades specifically feature men on the packages and all shades are merchandised in the women's hair care product aisle. Feria claims 10% of the men's hair color market. Across all brands, L'Oreal maintains a 49% market share.

Said Jennifer Stephens, a spokesperson for L'Oreal, "With Feria, we've just hit the tip of the iceberg. Men's hair coloring products are not a trend. For younger men, it's about breaking the rules and doing the unexpected. For them, next to clothes, coloring their hair is the single best way for them to publicly stand out and express themselves."

For L'Oreal, as well as the category in general, men's hair color products fare better in drug and general merchandise stores, because that's typically where men shop most often. Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart experience the best unit sales for L'Oreal products. Supermarket chains like Albertson's, Kmart and Safeway also perform well.

New York-based L'Oreal and Clairol also advertise in men's magazines, preferring those with a young readership like "Vibe," "GQ," "Maxim," "Details" and "Rolling Stone." None of the companies interviewed would reveal plans for the future, but they guarantee it won't be a one-size-fits-all approach. According to Liebmann, "continuing to promote and segment the category by understanding men's sensibilities, and translating that in a way that comes across clearly at retail is imperative for any retailer who wants to succeed with this category."