MODERN EXCLUSIVE: An Interview with New Wella CEO Sal Mauceri

Toronto-born and a citizen of the U.S., new CEO of Wella North America, the Salon Professional Division of P&G, Salvatore Mauceri is a 25-year veteran of sales and marketing in both business-to-business and consumer products. Mauceri has spent the past decade at Wella, first leading the U.S. Eastern Division for P&G Salon Professional, and then successfully managing the North America integration of the company into P&G. Most recently, he has been Director of Global Developing Markets, a business unit that grew under his leadership to encompass more than 90 countries in three regions. Mauceri transformed a small, opportunistic export organization into a vibrant global division, thereby building the fastest growing business unit in Wella globally.

In 2014, Mauceri relocated from Geneva, Switzerland to Wella North America’s headquarters in Woodland Hills, California to lead the entire organization of professional educators, sales staff, marketers and researchers in the U.S. and Canada. MODERN spoke with Mauceri to hear his views on the diverse beauty market in the U.S. and his plans for the future.

How do you view the health of the salon industry and do you see any looming threats or disruptions?

The industry has struggled based on the changes in the economy. Here in the United States, there have been a lot of shifts. You have the booth renter, which is a significant phenomenon here, and it’s growing dramatically.

In terms of a threat, the economy has put people in the position of questioning how they are serving their client. I really believe that, as an industry, it’s important that we provide consistent education and inspiration for stylists. We are going to stay very, very focused on the stylist by giving them the innovation they need in order to be successful and to provide an experience for their clients. And for the salon owners, we are dedicated to offering a business education platform that makes sense for them.

Are salon products sold online in Europe and developing markets and how does that compare to what’s happening in the U.S.?

Selling salon products online is a little easier in the European community where the flow of products is easier and people take advantage of foreign exchange. Globally, there are different reasons that people are going to the internet to purchase products. In the developing world, which I managed, it’s almost a necessity because of the infrastructure. In many places, you can’t drive to a salon or to a retail outlet, and it’s too difficult to get there, so people tend to rely on ecommerce or e-education and they are a little more open to the internet. It is evolving for different reasons in different parts of the world. At the end of the day it is really important to ensure that we provide a premium service to someone coming in to a salon. When they walk in, it is not just about cutting hair and getting it colored and walking out because if it is as simple as then we may end up losing them, especially during tough times, to products that are sitting in the retail stores. Visiting the salon has to be about the total experience.

I managed 93 countries before I started this assignment and all are very different in terms of the level of the stylist. In some countries, there is no licensing program while in others they have incredible apprenticeship programs. In the Middle East, beauty is incredibly important and the money they spend is astronomical. In Asia, social media is huge so people are demanding quick access to trends and styles from the US and Europe. Latin America, Brazil and India, it is all about care of the hair and spa treatments for the hair. We’re leveraging what we’re learning in these different markets to reapply it globally.

How do you see ecommerce of salon products evolving in the U.S. market?

It’s opportunistic, it’s becoming a part of the industry and we need to understand what it can become in the future. For me, always, the focus is the stylists. They are at the center of everything we do and we need to be able to reach them. In the U.S., when so many stylists are booth renters, sometimes the best way to reach them is via the convenience of ecommerce but we need to really define how we want to leverage it. Ecommerce is also e-education. We can touch more stylists with technique style education, and more frequently, because it is live and it is immediate.

How can professional products maintain the cachet they have?

One way is through innovation and we have really changed the game, making real step changes. The second way is around creating services. If we just put shampoo in a bottle and sell shampoo, the consumer can purchase that shampoo from whomever they want. But if we create a premium service experience, the salon can charge more and the consumer can walk away with a different experience. That is how we maintain our cachet versus losing it to a transaction that can happen anywhere.

Many of the new successful brands have come from smaller entrepreneurial companies with niche products like oils, nails or keratin products. What innovations will P&G bring to salons?

We were a little worried, actually, because of the amount of incredible innovation that we will be presenting but we will also be spending a lot of time making sure we are supporting it. We’re not going to launch and leave products, we’re going to launch and leverage.

We just introduced additive for our permanent colors, Koleston Perfect and Illumina Color, which allows you to put color on color without foils and without bleeding; that launch is about changing behavior and about reducing the amount of time that clients spend in the salon. Stylists can really push their artistic talents to the limit.

We also launched Wella SP Luxe Oil, which has been a phenomenal success. It gives hair nourishment and benefits; it’s lightweight with an incredible fragrance.

We have a new care line called Elements that is paraben free, sulfate free.

 Koleston Perfect Innosence is one of those step changes I mentioned. After over twenty years of work, we isolated a new dye molecule, ME+, which reduces the likelihood of allergic reactions while also performing at the same high level as pervious permanent colors. This is truly breakthrough technology.

Do you see opportunities for new channels of distribution for your products?

I do and I don’t know exactly what that is. Many of them are very traditional and already available to us. For me it is very important that we highlight the stylist as the point of contact. Also, we must make sure we don’t create internal barriers or obstacles based on our own structure or set up. How you go to market is something that you have to constantly evolve and understand given all the nuances that we’re dealing with—differences in culture, climate, infrastructure, religious behavior—while you continue to keep the stylist at the center.

Wella and the portfolio of brands have a strong heritage in supporting cosmetology schools, students and new salon professionals. How important is education in your strategy?

I’m especially passionate about education. It was a big area of focus for us on the other side of the business and here I am fortunate that we have a huge organization, a great infrastructure and incredibly talented people so we can continue to do some of the things we do really well, like Hairdressers at Heart. We are winning the hearts and the minds of the stylist and that’s great but we just need to be able to touch more of them and take education to the next level. I’m really pushing the team to think about different ways of doing this through e-learning, training the trainer, collections and other sources of inspiration.

Our new Wella Studio in New York is downtown, in the artistic heart of Manhattan. It is set up for stylists to drop in, network, take classes in and really amplify their talents and skills. That is incredibly exciting.

Final words?

No matter where they are in the world, stylists and salon owners share the same passion and the same concerns. They look the same, they act the same and they want the same things. They want to hire good stylists and they want to keep them. They want to be inspired. And we’re ready to help them with all of this.

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