The majority of Black haircare products are purchased at major mass retailers and at beauty supply stores, not from beauty salons. This is why when you pop into a Target, Walmart, Walgreens, and even a Duane Reed or CVS you’ll see an expanded assortment of products for Black or “multi-ethnic” hair including natural, coily, curly, or even nappy hair. Yes, these large marketers have got the hots for the business of Black hair.
How did it happen? You may remember when Chris Rock released the film Good Hair in 2009 and showed the “creamy crack” market. Black women were revealed spending thousands of dollars on weaves, scorching their scalps with chemical relaxers, and many causing damage to their hair and their psyche.
The film led to serious discussions by Black women of alternatives and helped usher in the movement to natural hair. Since the release of Good Hair sales of chemical relaxers have fallen more than 30-percent according to market research firm Mintel. Weave sales have also declined adds BOBSA (The Black Owned Beauty Supply Association).
One thing about large, multi-billion dollar companies — they’re not stupid. Another thing is they won’t sit back and simply watch market share or sales decline without launching a strategic response.
Target, the second-largest discount retailer in the U.S., saw an opportunity in the natural-curls trend. So in 2010, they invited the founders of several small Black-owned (or multi-racial) companies to come and present to them at their Minneapolis headquarters.
Among those invited were Miss Jessie’s, The Jane Carter Solution, Mixed Chicks, CURLS, Kinky-Curly and Shea Moisture. Target decided to showcase these six brands, with a showcase promotion at the end of the aisle in 400 stores—and the bet paid off big time.
Combined annual revenue for the hair-care lines has soared from less than $10 million in 2009 to about $150 million today, estimates Michael O’Neil, vice president of sales at Ultra Distributors, which supplies the products to Target and other large retailers. Target expanded the initial promotion to 700 stores.
Essence’s 2009 Smart Beauty research study found that African-American women spend $7.5 billion annually on beauty products and spent 80 percent more on cosmetics and skin-care products than the general market.
According to celebrity makeup artist Sam Fine, Black women are spending more at the counter because “there’s little satisfaction. She keeps buying with the hope that this product will do what it’s supposed to do.”
Nielsen, the leading global measurement company, notes that hair care is serious business in the Black community at all income levels. In the African American Consumer Report 2013, they inform retailers and manufacturers that there is an “opportunity to improve market share by ensuring their products are placed in this popular [beauty supply store] channel.”
Non-ethnic products that are rebranded with messaging that addresses the uniqueness of Blacks’ hair textures and styles could see a rise in market share currently represented in the Ethnic Health and Beauty Aids (HABA) category.” – Nielsen and NNPA – The African-American Consumer Report 2013
Entrepreneur Jamyla Bennu decided to cut chemicals and other harsh ingredients out of her beauty regimen in the early 1990s and launched her company Oyin Handmade in 2001.
She didn’t feel she was ready for Target when they came knocking in 2009, but has since increased her production, output and staff and is now ready to hit the Target shelves. In the spring of 2014, Oyin Handmade will become Target’s newest natural beauty line.
The interest in the business of Black hair is what’s also spurring organizers to convene the first ever International Black Hair Summit in Montego Bay Jamaica in October of 2014. The goal of this event is to increase the knowledge and participation in this growing industry which is dominated by Black women on the consumer side.
What say you?