Nicky Clarke has been a household name in the UK since the 1990s, yet surprisingly the hair care and heated tools brand is only launching into the US this September.
Clarke himself is an iconic British hairdresser who co-owned a prestigious salon in London’s Mayfair with then-wife Leslie, where his hairdressing skills were in-demand among the global glitterati and royalty – from Kate Moss to Brad Pitt to Princess Diana.
The brand’s consumer range of heated hair tools and hair care products have been sold in Britain for decades across a variety of channels, including leading high-street retailer Boots, its direct-to-consumer website, and Amazon.
So how come the brand has never tried to break into the US market before?
“Historically the hair tools side of the business was licensed from the mid-90s while Nicky & Lesley focused on running the UK salon business,” explained Nicky Clarke Managing Director Robin Young. “Therefore, the international expansion of the Nicky Clarke range was not explored until recently.”
Targeting salon professionals
The license agreement ended five years ago, and the business was taken back in-house. The brand and product range were both updated, and investment was made into social media and PR to relaunch into the UK market. But international progress was slowed by the COVID-19 epidemic.
In 2022, Nicky Clarke made its first foray into the States and exhibited at two trade shows: Inspired Home Show in Chicago and Cosmoprof North America, where it received a good reception.
The team returned to Cosmoprof in Las Vegas again this month to showcase its upcoming US launch, The Nicky Clarke AirStyle PRO – an all-in-one hairdryer and styler with ionic and infra-red technology. The product will launch this September in professional distribution channels, including trade beauty wholesalers Salon Centric.
“In the US we will be initially launching online via SalonCentric.com and Amazon.com with a view to securing distribution in salon professional focused outlets in 2024,” shared Young.
Although the brand has traditionally sold to the end-consumer via many of its UK sales channels, the products are made especially for professionals and tested at Clarke’s signature salon in Birmingham, UK.
Sadly, Clarke’s famous Mayfair salon was forced to close in April 2022 due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising rates.
Film sets, red carpets and NYFW
There is a lot of marketing and PR effort to be made, as Nicky Clarke is a new name in the US and the brand would not have access to the full product offering that the UK market has.
It is currently working with professional hairstylists in salons, on TV and film sets, red carpet and editorial to test and use products. Plus, two hair teams at New York Fashion Week will be using the AirStyle PRO in September.
Although the focus is on professional stylists in the States, the products will also be available to consumers on Amazon. And as the brand expands, more launches are in the pipeline.
Speaking of the new strategy for the US market, Young said: “Being all too aware that the sheer scale of the country means a ‘one size fits all’ approach would not be appropriate. In the US, our focus is on the professional market – targeting stylists and salon distributors – which means our brand and product messaging is a little different.”
Future plans for the brand
The US is the second international market the Nicky Clarke brand will break into outside of the UK. It launched into South Africa in November 2022 and the first year of trading has seen brand recognition grow in the region, with range expansion planned for Q4 2023.
It’s also not planning to neglect its domestic market; there is plenty of upcoming NPD that will launch first in Britain.
“In the UK we are also releasing the GlamPRO Styler, a 3-in-1 large barrelled volumiser with multiple attachments,” shared Young. “We are always on the lookout for the latest developments in technology that can add real value to our current range of products.”
Young said that Nicky Clarke plans to launch into a new sales channel, QVC, in October this year with an exclusive bundle that will incorporate its hero product Hair-Raising Spray, a root lifting, volumising spray.
“We’re also developing a new wash and care range that will cater to consumers’ desire for ‘clean’ formulations and sustainable packaging,” she shared. “This is scheduled for release in 2024.”