After a couple of incredibly strong years, how will the nail industry continue to expand? This year, said CND co-founder Jan Arnold, will be all about increased options. “For 2013, I see more choices for the consumer,” she predicted. “Be it color, style, or finding the right solution or service, it’s all about individual expression.”
Jan is, of course, the personification of individual expression. With her crisp platinum crop, chic statement dresses, and—of course—uniquely detailed nails, she looks more a cutting edge fashion designer than a beauty industry executive whose company sells its products in 65 countries. Passionate and tenacious, she’s equal parts business acumen and creative zeal.
CND’s best-known product is arguably its most innovative: Shellac, launched nearly three years ago. “Our chemists were able to listen to what women really wanted, which was, ‘Get it on me not like a gel, with no nail destruction, let it be high shine like patent leather, and when it comes time to get it off, get it off without grief,’” she said. For 2013, CND is introducing 19 new Shellac colors and continuing its process of accrediting salons and technicians who perform the detailed process correctly—a bit like the letter grades restaurants are given—with the goal of certifying 12,000 nail professionals this year.
The genesis of Shellac wasn’t without problems, however. In its first two months on the market, CND sold 12 months worth of its supply of Shellac, which meant its popular new product was sold out, making it that much easier for the many imitators (Jan said there are now 52) to step in. “It was the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in business: angry, angry people who had found something they loved and suddenly they weren’t able to get it,” she recalled. “The business lesson for me was that you listen to customers during good times because it’s fun; you listen twice as hard during bad times. We were so tuned in to our customers. It took a few months to get back, and we made good on every promise.”
That resilience also came in handy last summer, when the CND’s President and Chief Executive Officer, John Hefner, left to take on a similar role at competitor OPI. “John was with us for over a decade,” Arnold said. “He’s moved on and found a new niche. Obviously we wish him well in that.” Although John isn’t being replaced per se, since his departure CND’s parent company, The Colomer Group, has taken a more active role in the company. “That’s the value of having a parent company,” Jan said. “When you have change you have a great succession plan in place. Sennen Pamich [Colomer’s Executive Vice President for USA and Canada] is more engaged in our business now and he brings a different experience to our table. We’re very much a global company, but we’re learning to be an even better global company. Under his guidance I think it’s taken us to a new level.”
Right now Jan and her team are gearing up for the fashion shows in New York, where they’ve been creating nail looks backstage for 17 years. “The business goal behind the effort has been that we really wanted to elevate the status of nails as a fashion accessory,” she explained. “We felt that nails had a role in accessorizing the total look of an expressive woman and that it had been unexplored on the runway. It’s changed the way designers see the detail, and for us it has elevated the status of the nail professional as an equal influencer of the total beauty look backstage.”
The shows also offer precious inspiration for Jan, who’s similarly motivated by traveling to places such as Russia and Japan for both work and pleasure. “I always come back with an idea in my head,” she said. “Life is what fuels the good ideas.”