M: HOW HAS CONSOLIDATION IMPACTED YOUR BUSINESS?
Stockman: Consolidation of distribution (and manufacturers) has had enormous impact, both positive and negative. Combining different strengths and resources in a more unified manner can be very powerful and effective for everyone. On the other hand, fewer choices can sometimes lead to weaker customer focus, less innovation, and a business that bounces more sideways than one that puts its head down and drives forward. Think of water: Nothing better to drink on a hot, sunny day. On the other hand, a foot of it in your basement - -not so good. It’s not so much the fact of consolidation as it is what we all do with it.
Reaching customers is so different and more difficult. It’s also opportunity. Fragmentation has grown. Specialization (blow bars like Dream Dry in NY, boutique color salons, spa service growth) has gained momentum. Booth rental continues to expand even into traditional full-service salon geographies. Store counts have climbed. All of these are double-edged swords. We strive every day to crack the code regarding connecting to and influencing all of our customers. Our business and customers have grown tentacles; we need to make sure we do as well.
Distribution is significant but in many ways, it’s like any other challenge we navigate. You try to pick your partners well (and I believe we have). Adjust when the circumstances or opportunities warrant it. Make sure your customers are serviced well. It’s important to always try to look ahead, which can be extraordinarily difficult when everyone is so busy. But you have to do it. Effective distribution is brutally critical to our success, but we believe that with a sharp focus on product quality, innovation, technology, performance, and education, our salon customers will be with us.
M: HOW DO YOU SEE THE INTERNET IMPACTING DISTRIBUTION OF PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTS?
Stockman: The internet is a means to an end; it is not an end in and of itself. Successful merchants of any kind have come to understand that there’s not a zero-sum battle being waged by bricks & mortar versus the internet. The internet is an additional tool for engaging a business or brand with its customers. At Conair Professional, we view the internet as opportunity. Opportunity to connect with distribution, hairdressers, and clients. Opportunity for our partners to service their customers effectively. Opportunity to deliver education and information more easily and efficiently. The internet represents choice, connection, ease, and simplicity. We embrace its value-added and respect its boundaries.