The Voice of the AHLC
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE HAIR BUSINESS? Michael Napolitano: It is really interesting where life takes you through all its many twists and turns. Sometimes you wind up where you didn’t think you would ever be. When I graduated from Rutgers University, the hair industry was not something that was even anywhere near my thought process. I graduated with a degree in journalism and mass communications, thinking that I was going to be the next Walter Cronkite or something. Obviously that didn’t work out, so I switched over to business and ultimately found myself in sales and marketing in the computer business, working with Fortune 500 companies. I was doing pretty well in it for a young guy just out of college. At the time, my mother was a salesperson at Eva Gabor International selling men’s hairpieces. They eventually didn’t want to go forward with that product line because they were a female-oriented business. So, my mother comes to me and says, “I have an idea. What if we go into the hair replacement business together? There’s this opportunity that I think could potentially grow into something.” I wanted no part of it. AHLC: Famous last words. MN: Yeah, right. I’m in a completely different category of business and I can’t relate to that. Long story short… I did it. My mother, my wife, and I founded the company, and it was basically just the three of us. We had no employees. We had nothing. We started with the attitude of, “Let’s see where this thing can go,” and we worked at it. We grew American Hairlines and slowly started to add team members. We created a wide variety of items and
a custom product department. Building marketing assets came next and little by little it started to turn and click. Then, in 1996, there was an opportunity to acquire Eva Gabor International. I knew that there were good resources there, a good foundation, and I saw this synergy that could be created.
The goal was to make Eva Gabor International recognizable as a leading brand rather than the niche type of business that it was at the time. It was a great company, but it was a little old lady wig company during those years. Once we acquired the company, we then started on the journey of re-inventing it. I combined what was our American Hairlines business with Eva Gabor International so they were all under one roof with different and distinct portfolios. As we were expanding the different brands and types of products, the first order of business was establishing a celebrity brand we could utilize to create some terrific marketing assets and consumer recognition. I signed Raquel Welch in 1996 and created a salon-inspired brand around her. It was a tremendous success and has since become the Number 1 wig brand in the world. I then brought Great Lengths® to the United States and developed it into America’s Number 1 luxury hair extension brand in the professional market.
Not only did we market to the trade, but we marketed to the consumer. We created incredible consumer demand, to the point where they were going into shops and salons requesting the brand. We built both of those brands into powerhouses. Just with Great Lengths alone, we certified thousands and thousands of salons in the United States and continue to do so. We started adding more brands, like Hairdo® with Jessica Simpson. Hairdo was very consumer driven as well, and sold in both salons and stores. We then signed Christie Brinkley and created Hair2wear®. A tremendous portfolio of brands emerged that are sold worldwide and cover every type of hair product. From a hair replacement type program that might cost several thousand dollars to a $1,500 or $5,000 Great Lengths hair extension service to wigs sold for $100 to $4,000 all the way to high quality synthetic clip-in hair pieces that you can purchase from $10 to $99. We cover it all. In the past few years, we’ve extended our leadership position by filling some voids that existed in the marketplace. There was a lack of quality ready-to-wear men’s wigs so we introduced the HIM Collection, which has been very positively received. The quality surpasses what was in the market, the marketing is far superior, and we priced the HIM Collection comparable to competition. We are currently launching an adorable line of children’s wigs under the Hairdo umbrella called KIDZ by Hairdo. We are filling another marketplace void with products of much better quality supported with marketing that is remarkable. By launching under Hairdo, it takes advantage of another growth strategy; expanding our core brands and maximizing all the advertising and marketing support we put behind the brands.
Issue 29, Spring 2019
The Link Magazine is a quarterly trade publication for the Hair Restoration Industry, published by the American Hair Loss Council, www.AHLC....