Peter Lichtenthal, President of Bumble and bumble, is the architect who designed the new retail paradigm that brought professional products into prestige retail while honoring and elevating the brand’s salon Network. Here, Peter talks about changing the game inside a salon’s retail environment and how the salon’s consumers’ needs are ever evolving.

BI: The 56th Street flagship recently had a makeover. Tell me, what’s new?

PL: The redesign was the first in over 20 years and was based on extensive research of our clients and stylists with the principal goal of transforming and enhancing the salon experience. The project, overseen by Helen Steed, VP, Creative; and Régis Péan, founder of retail experience design firm omni//form; focused on how the client moves through the salon, from entrance to checkout and everything in between. Enhancements include a calmer entryway; new consultation rooms; quiet areas; cutting floors with enhanced product displays and more privacy; larger changing rooms and renovated bathrooms. The shampoo station now includes a waiting area surrounded by literature, magazines and inspirational imagery and iPads available to view styling images. There’s also a more engaging and interactive product display. It’s something we’ve not done before and I’ve not seen in a lot of salons. One part of the product display is an evolving presentation that has ‘stylists picks’ for holiday, for summer, from the runway. It enables the stylist to ‘talk’ about new ways of combining products, new looks they’re after. They can engage the client with what they’re dreaming of and what they’re inspired by. We’ve also built a consultation area for new and returning clients who want more 1-on-1 time with a stylist, and to get special training on a certain service, such as a blow dry. What we’re committed to is not just having a beautiful-looking salon, but providing what clients want out of a salon experience today.

BI: As salons add bigger retail environments, it seems retailers are incorporating more elements of the salon industry into their stores versus a year ago.

PL: The trend you’re seeing at retail reflects the fact that retailers see the opportunity that hair care offers their customers. For women it’s always been hair/makeup, hair/makeup, hair/makeup. Likewise, salons that are serious about retailing have expanded their retail offerings from being exclusively hair to incorporating makeup and skincare. What this all points to is that the beauty customer is open to shopping different categories of beauty where she’s receiving a service. And while there are changes happening in the salon world, to be very honest, I think it’s untapped.

BI: Why haven’t other Estée Lauder non-hair care brands been integrated into Bumble’s Network salons, say with nail and makeup services?

PL: Traditionally, Bumble has purely been about hair. Integrating other categories into our business is something that would need to reflect the other brands’ interests in being part of the salon world. The Estée Lauder Companies has a tradition where each brand makes its own decisions on distribution, where and how they sell. So in the case of Bumble, we’re a salon brand that has entered into prestige retailers in a bigger way. The other Lauder brands have their distribution strategies and we don’t violate them. Where they can intersect, if they can intersect going forward, we’d be open to that. But one of the beauties of our company is that the brands do operate in a very pure way relative to their distribution strategies. That’s how we operate in the Lauder culture.

BI: So as a brand, how smart would you say Bumble is on the digital side? Do you see any immediate opportunities?

PL: Digital is a big opportunity for us. We’ve grown our digital presence dramatically over the years, not just from a commerce standpoint, but from an educational standpoint. We’ve dramatically increased the number of “how-to” videos that are continually being refreshed online. We’ve taken our DNA pillar of education and said, ‘We need to be state-of-the-art in education, wherever and whenever we support our Network, and where we support our customers.’ Our two flagship salons both have touchscreens, and we’ve installed them in a number of salons in our Network, as well. Nothing takes the place of salon training or what goes on in a chair, but consumers today will find information wherever they can get it.

BI: How is the Internet affecting education of the Bumble brand?

PL: The reality is that the hair category is more frequently visited than any other beauty category for advice. I did a speech where I took my iPhone and Googled ‘How to make a ponytail’ and I read all of the videos and links and information. There were dozens of options. It’s clear that people make decisions based on advice from pros and peers. And it’s really liberating when you start thinking about how you cannot just enhance your own business, but help enhance the business of your salons, and of your retail partners, by understanding that you need to reach out with information, with engagement, with advice.

BI: What are your international opportunities?

Big, big, big. Our single biggest market internationally is the UK. It’s about 50% of our international business with about 2/3 of sales from salons and 1/3 of sales from prestige retail. And, we’re now in Boots. They’re creating with us and Ojon the first premium hair department, separate from their existing hair department, located in the prestige beauty area with branded installations, trained product specialists and trained stylists giving hair advice. This is an example of us going into a market asking, ‘Where can we further create awareness and access to Bumble products in a prestige environment?’

BI: What is your philosophy on stylists selling to their clients?

PL: Most of the world would kill for the opportunity salons have: for a client to be sitting in a chair for an hour or two hours and having their attention. The great salons of the country are the ones who are capitalizing on that to create for the client a great experience and give advice. But selling in a salon doesn’t just mean selling, it means educating, inspiring and informing.

BI: How was the brand’s venture into print ads last year? Is it now a part of your overall strategy?

PL: We began print ads last spring with the launch of Bb texture, which quickly became one of our lead styling SKUs. We then went on to advertise our Bb Straight line. This past summer we went back into our iconic favorites and got behind Surf Spray. That was an amazing campaign, and we’re going to continue advertising this fall for our Bb Straight line. Our strategy is to continue to raise awareness of Bumble, to give our advertising a unique Bumble look and feel, to always credit our stylists and to allow readers to know where to find Bumble products. We’ll always feature our Network Salon locator, as well as list other points of sale.