According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Black and minority ethnic groups made up almost 16% of the British population in 2011, and are perceived to increase to 35% by 2035. The face of Britain is becoming a face of diversity and ethnic minorities in the UK have an estimated spending power of £300 billion highlighting the incredible opportunities of new, diverse and thriving markets. The UK has been slow to grasp these opportunities, especially in the area of hair care and beauty. According to a Mintel Report there is the consensus amongst major retailers that perceive investment in the ethnic market as not enough return on investment, and so with low investment produces low levels of market growth.
With Afro-Caribbean women reported to spend six times more than other ethnicities surely there should be more investment by companies in this market. The Afro-Caribbean hair care market is lucrative, with numerous mainstream and independent brands existing in the market today, as well as new entrants solely created as a response to the rising consumer demand for natural hair care ingredients. Globally, the Afro-Caribbean hair care market is valued at $684 million (£427 million), estimated to rise to approximately $760 million (£475 million) by 2017. Though representing somewhat of a niche market, behind these figures is a huge demand for ethnic products to suit the unique hair and beauty needs of this minority, particularly in the UK. Although representing less than 5% of the total hair care and beauty market, better investment in research and product development as well as advertising promotion, is the solution to turn this seemingly niche market into a mainstream pool of profit.
Ethnic products are mainly sold through specialized hair and beauty stores, but are yet to have an established presence on the shelves of mainstream outlets. Although stores such as Asda, Boots, and Superdrug have branched out into accommodating a limited number of ethnic brands on their shelves, there is still a long way to go. A recent study by Mediareach revealed that 16 out of 20 respondents did not purchase their hair care or skin products from mainstream stores, mainly because of differences in price, however they said they would be more encouraged to see wider ranges of hair care products aimed at them in stores. Larger brands such as Organic Root Stimulator (ORS) and Soft-Sheen Carson’s Dark & Lovely are recognized market leaders in the Afro-Caribbean hair care market both worldwide, our research indicated retailers named ORS and Dark & Lovely as top selling brands in their stores within the major categories of hair care; relaxers, shampoo, conditioners, and moisturizers.
Companies such as ORS have noticed the thriving market and earlier this year set up an integrated campaign to launch their new range of HAIRepair products aimed at women of colour with afro-textured hair in London. However, brands such as Dark & Lovely simply thrive their strong brand awareness amongst this target group.
Popular culture dictates that European hair is the epitome of beauty; therefore the identity of the Afro-Caribbean woman in the UK is intricately linked to her hair, justifying the amounts spent on hair care, as well as beauty. Overall, our research indicated that this consumer does not necessarily stay loyal to one brand; rather they prefer to discover a range of brands that meet her hair care needs, and are willing to travel long distances to find these products. However we argue, why make the consumer travel far when what they need should be found in her local supermarket or drugstore, just like European-textured women.
Retailers, Manufactures, and Marketers need to realize that Afro-Caribbean hair and beauty is a profitable market, and if approached in the right way, through the right media streams can generate huge returns on investment. As mentioned before, although the hair care market is deeply saturated, it is also widely underutilized.