Less than three months after JuE Wong took the helm of hair-care brand Olapex in January 2020, the pandemic hit the U.S. With the largest chunk of the company’s business coming from the professional channel, the brand had to make big changes to adapt to salon closures.
“We migrated very quickly to digital,” she said.
Nearly two years later, the omnichannel strategy that Wong describes as “mutually reinforcing” the brand’s salon, retail and DTC channels has paid off. On September 30 of this year, Olaplex went public with a valuation of more than $16 billion. It recently announced third-quarter year-over-year net sales growth of 81% in its first financial report as a public company.
Olaplex’s success has stemmed from its role as a pioneer in the bond-building hair-care category, which Wong said is “no longer a moment, but a movement.” The category’s focus on repairing heat- and color-damaged hair’s chemical bonds has attracted a devoted fan base on social media and inspired a collection of competitor launches.
Despite the pandemic-caused shakeup of sales channels, the category’s popularity meant that 2021 was the right time for an IPO for the brand, said Wong.
“If you look at Olaplex from the time it started to the time we got acquired by an international private equity firm, it was very clear that the team was ready,” she said. Wong was named CEO upon the closure of Advent’s acquisition of the brand on January 8.
Though salons were closed for much of 2020, digital sales exploded for Olaplex, said Wong. Now that its financial results are available, it’s clear that the company is still seeing strong growth: Its third-quarter sales in specialty retail grew by 128% year-over-year, and its DTC sales were up 87%.
Wong was quick to emphasize that Olaplex is still “very supportive” of the professional channel, which accounted for over 46% of its total sales in the third quarter.
“Many brands talk about omnichannel, and what they’re really doing is managing channel conflict,” she said. But she pointed out that, for Olaplex, 35% of the brand’s online customers are recommended by professionals, and 50% of the brand’s online shoppers also buy through physical locations including salons.
“Just as [hairdressers] have stood with us, we stand by them,” she said.