In 1942, Charles G. Spilo founded his eponymous company to distribute professional salon products. He started with one product, and today as the company celebrates its 70th anniversary, Spilo Worldwide manufactures, imports and distributes thousands of products in 50 countries. Current CEO Marc Spilo spoke to MODERN about the company’s decades of growth and success.
MODERN: 70 YEARS IS AN IMPRESSIVE MILESTONE. TELL US HOW IT BEGAN.
MARC SPILO: After my father came to this country from his native France, he worked with my uncle selling a French hair color formula. Hair color, of course, was not the enormous market then that it is now and in 1942, he left hair color behind and started his own business as an importer and distributor of professional beauty and barber products. He was the first to import Solis hair dryers and curling irons, a premium brand from Switzerland. He branched into barbering razors, combs and brushes from Europe. My father always recognized quality products and there was a certain cache to having products imported from Europe.
MS: WHAT FACTORS ENABLED SPILO TO GROW AND EXPAND?
SPILO: In the mid-1960s, American Safety Razor introduced Personna blades, which became the best selling razor blade on the market. The Charles G. Spilo Company became the exclusive distributor for Personna. With the Personna business, the company grew dramatically.
My father died in 1973 and his longtime business partner Roz Barton ran the business, later joined by my mother Ann. In 1977 I joined the company and we saw the need to distribute other company’s products and to grow our exclusive business. In addition to Personna, we became distributors of other exclusive lines like Velcro Rollers, Rubis Tweezers and Bondini Nail Glue. With time, we added non-exclusive, open-line items and purchased brands to sell under the Spilo name as well as manufacturing our own brands.
MS: WHAT EXACTLY IS A MASTER DISTRIBUTOR?
SPILO: Master distributors distribute a company’s products to wholesale beauty suppliers. Master distributors warehouse, package, ship and bill the wholesaler, providing all the same services as the company that owns the brand. For our exclusive lines, we are the only source in the country for these brands.
In the Western U.S. we have five dedicated sales associates who sell only through Spilo. We work with a network of manufacturers representatives throughout the rest of the country.
MS: HOW DO YOU DETRMINE THE PRODUCTS YOU DISTRIBUTE, MANUFACTURE OR ACQUIRE?
SPILO: Much of our success has come from constantly looking for new lines, either exclusive or open line that are a strategic fit for the company and for our future goals. With the first nail care boom in the late 1990s, we purchased Mehaz, a German-made line of manicure-pedicure implements. Several years ago we acquired Flowery, a leading manufacturer of nail files. Right now, we are seeing a resurgence in the barbering business. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen has been in the technologies that are available in products and tools. This has a great impact on the type and quality of products we sell, distribute or acquire. We changed the name of the company to Spilo Worldwide to reflect the global nature of our business.
MS: WHAT’S NEXT FOR SPILO?
SPILO: We have some interesting projects in the works with new software and hardware investments to help us slice and dice the large amount of data we have with so many product lines and brands. We are expanding our presence on social networking sites, but most importantly for the future, we plan to continue to grow and evolve Spilo Worldwide in the ethical, friendly and courteous manner that is my father’s legacy in the business.