Josh Wood Colour, a U.K.-based at-home hair dye brand by celebrity colorist Josh Wood, raised a $6.5 million dollars Series A on March 10 to propel the brand’s global growth and accelerate its digital innovations.
The Josh Wood Colour brand is relatively new, launched in February 2018 online and in U.K.-based Boots drugstores. Currently, the brand is in 440 Boots doors, and it earned at least $2.5 million in its first 12 months. (The brand said it sold over 240,000 products, which start at around $10, but declined to confirm sales.) The funding round was led by Index Ventures, which counts Farfetch and Glossier in its portfolio. JamJar Investments and Venrex also participated.
Josh Wood Colour is currently in discussion with U.S. retailers and public relations firms to press into the U.S. market and establish a presence by early 2020, according to Josh Wood, founder and CEO of Josh Wood Colour.
“There isn’t an expert voice that can guide and help women with a consultation to find the right hair color,” he said. “The market has been heavily segmented through marketing and big manufacturers, so there is a clear divide between the professional salon and at-home color.”
The brand is entering the U.S. hair market at a time when the industry is going through many changes. Multiple high-end and progressive brands are using technology like algorithms and augmented reality that promise an improved at-home hair dyeing experience. Madison Reed, which recently received a $51 million in a Series D round, and eSalon both utilize artificial intelligence-backed color recommendations. And heritage brands like L’Oréal and Redken (Wood is currently Redken’s global color director) have leveraged ModiFace and YouCam, respectively, to allow users to test hair colors.
Josh Wood Colour is not looking to futuristic tech for its digital strategy, at least not yet. “[The brand’s] not looking for a sexy new piece of technology to solve problems, but rather, it’s looking to start with a great physical product that continues with a great experience online,” said Danny Rimer, a partner at Index Ventures. “As tech [like AR] matures, then the brand can layer them into the experience.”
According to Euromonitor, the global at-home hair color market is worth $9.4 billion, however, only 27 percent of people in the U.S. use at-home products. Heritage brands have started investing more in the space through funding, acquisitions or brand relaunches. For example, Coty relaunched Clairol in March 2018. L’Oréal is bringing in-store personalization to the Garnier brand, and it acquired creative color brand Pulp Riot in 2018.
Josh Wood regularly works backstage at runway shows (most recently, for Marc Jacobs and Valentino in 2019) and on photo shoots for magazines like Vogue Italia and Vogue India. He also maintains a salon in London, and his British celebrity clientele includes Elle Macpherson and Florence Welch. (He does not have social media accounts outside of the hair dye brand.)
But Wood does not yet have brand name recognition in the U.S. Wood noted this would be a primary challenge to overcome when moving into the market, but he plans to rely on his 30 years of experience and established connections within the film and fashion worlds to help communicate his brand’s value proposition.
“We are a listening brand, not a shouting brand,” he said. “The authenticity is that I don’t have to say I’m an expert, because I am recognized as an expert. Influencers are important too, but every relationship we cultivate has to be authentic.”
Wood aims to bring together the professional salon and box dye narrative by creating a brand that “holds people’s hands” through the process of hair dying at home, he said. Currently, Josh Wood Colour offers a Tips & Tricks section on its website, as well as video tutorials for how to use products and a chatbot consultation option for finding the right product.
Moving forward, with the support of his recent investment, Wood hopes to improve the chatbot feature with more in-depth questions, and also hopes to refine the look and feel of the products and create simpler video tutorials to better showcase his expertise.
“I hadn’t anticipated how lost people were in the [hair dye] category, so things need to be simpler,” he said. “Our customer should feel safe and looked after, so all of those elements need to be dialed up on our website.”