On March 3, Luxury Brand Partners, an incubator for artist-driven beauty brands with offices in New York and Miami, announced that Reuben Carranza is joining the company as president of specialty brands. In his new role, Carranza will oversee the development of several innovative new brands and education platforms that will be launched over the next several years.
Carranza joins LBP after an illustrious career at Procter & Gamble, where he spent the last eight years as CEO, North America of Wella, the salon professional divisional of P&G, where he led a portfolio that included Wella Professional, Clairol Professional, Sebastian Professional and Nioxin. Carranza also serves on the board of several industry organizations, including the Professional Beauty Association and Beauty Changes Lives, and was honored with the 2013 City of Hope Spirit of Life Award in 2013.
On his first day on the new job, Carranza sat down with Stacey Soble, editor in chief of SALON TODAY in an exclusive interview to talk about the transition, the future of professional beauty industry, and his plans for Luxury Brand Partners:
SALON TODAY: First, tell us about your family heritage and how you believe that’s shaped your career in professional beauty.
Carranza: “Both my mom and my aunt were hairdressers and were working behind the chair for 40-plus years, and I grew up in that environment. There were a few instances when my father lost his job, and though my mom wasn’t a celebrity hairdresser or a salon owner, I remember it was her tips that would help keep food on the table and buy us shoes for school. Growing up in that environment, I also was struck by the power of the relationships that were a part of my mom’s working world. When I think about my brother’s and my milestones growing up—like the first day of school or graduating from high school—it it would some of her clients that shared those with us. My mom had clients from before she got married, and they celebrated personal milestones with each other. She even had clients who put it in their wills that she was the one who would do their hair for their funerals. There’s a bond of loyalty and friendship between a stylist and a client that promotes longevity and loyalty, and it’s a relationship you don’t see with many professions.”
SALON TODAY: You left the helm of P&G to come to Luxury Brand Partners – what drew you personally to this opportunity?
Carranza: “First, I can’t say enough about how great my career with P&G was—it was a time I not only grew myself professionally, but over the past eight years in particular, I had the chance to fall in love with this industry from a whole different angle. When I looked at my age and my stage of career and I looked at the future of this industry with the blurring of channels and the wide distribution of products…then I saw what Luxury Brand Partners is doing—creating luxury brands inspired by artists that play to the power of the relationship salons and stylist have with their clients—that’s where I wanted to be and where I thought I could make a huge impact. I think it’s a chance to be part of the next evolution this industry will go through, and I’m incredibly excited to be part of that journey with this group and organization.”
SALON TODAY: How is continued education important to the trajectory of a stylist’s career, and how is Luxury Brand Partners addressing it?
Carranza: “Luxury Brand Partners is about incredible, creative products that are artist-driven with educational approaches that are unique and different. It’s a dynamic formula that we’ll continue to use as more brands are brought into the fold. We plan to have a very broad impact through education—with an approach that is holistic—one which addresses the business side of ownership or the artist who has a business requirement, as much as it does the technical aspect.
“The environment that professional stylists and owners operate in isn’t getting any less competitive, and education is incredible important—it’s how they stay relevant and current—especially in the luxury market. And, while today’s environment can be very threatening, there also are huge opportunities. One of the dynamics that none of the other mediums or channels have is a consumer who is willingly sitting in their chair for an uninterrupted 40 minutes or more. That’s a huge competitive advantage, a chance to create a dialogue and build loyalty in a way that differentiates your salon in the marketplace. But, you need to know a great many things like how to recruit and train great talent, how to continuously motivate your staff, how to leverage social media to communicate with your clients to name a few. You need a partner who’ll be there with you and help you address all those issues as you grow your business.”
SALON TODAY: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for aspiring salon owners/stylists to build financial security in today’s professional beauty industry?
Carranza: “As we discussed, there are a number of big opportunities available to salons and stylists because of their unique relationship to the consumer, but there are a few requirements you have to have. First, you have to have a business model that is focused on a great product that is based on service and the consumer experience. I’m constantly amazed by how many salons try to be everything to everyone, but what they end up being is somewhere in the murky middle. Secondly, you have to have quality in the workplace and in your staff that is paramount—from the receptionist at the front desk to the assistant to the technical expert in the salon. With the dynamic that’s going onto today with the booth rental phenomenon, it’s challenging to assemble, keep and grow talent in the salon. And, thirdly, you have to create opportunity by finding and leveraging the enduring relationships your salon has with clients. What’s your point of view, and how does it drive all aspects of your salon? It’s about wants, not always about needs. They are coming to you because they have a choice, and you want them to feel they can’t live without you.”
SALON TODAY: What is one of the biggest trends you and your new team see in beauty and business that you will encourage your network of prospective salons/stylists to embrace?
Carranza: “The dynamic that information is available 24/7 to the end consumer, and that social media is a powerful venue for recommendation and advocacy. I think about last night’s Oscars and how Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds were all abuzz with unprecedented amount of activity—it’s a dynamic not a lot of owners are leveraging in a strategic way. I’ve been impressed with what LBP has done in that environment.”
SALON TODAY: How would you describe the luxury beauty consumer?
Carranza: “She tends to spend in the top two percent in skin, hair, cosmetics, nail and dental categories, and she tends to be a fairly frequent buyer—online, in salon and in department stores. She can be loyal to specific brands, but she’s also always interested in what’s new. She’s very well represented across hair, skin, cosmetics and nail categories, and her age can run the gamut—with expenditures on categories varying by age and growing as she ages. She’s geographically dispersed, and she tends to spend a healthy percentage of her disposable income on these beauty categories.”
SALON TODAY: What types of salons will "win" in 2014?
Carranza: “It’s a dynamic that’s playing out with the income distribution that’s prevalent in the United States. The higher-end, higher-price point, more experiential salons with a clear strategy that builds loyalty will win. As will the value salons and value chains that we see growing in the industry. But, there are many salons in the middle and that’s the most difficult dynamic and the ones who are seeing the most difficulty right now.”
SALON TODAY: On a lighter note, where did you watch the Oscars and how was Luxury Brand Partners involved?
Carranza: “We literally just moved to Miami where LBP is headquartered and are not scheduled to get our cable and internet until later this week, so we ended up watching it at home but live-streamed, which is the first time ABC has done that. It was a very interesting way to watch the Oscars. LBP had shipped product to many top hairdressers and we enjoyed the live commentary from many of the artists in our network, who commented not only on hair and makeup, but on the celebrity’s total finished looks.”