PBA Executive Summit: How We Got Here

The leaders of approximately 130 beauty manufacturers and distributors gathered for the Professional Beauty Association’s first Executive Summit December 4-5 at the Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The event kicked off with a welcoming cocktail party the evening of Thursday, December 4th, giving executives the chance to network with one another. Harlan Kirschner, who is CEO of the Kirschner Group and also serves on PBA’s board of directors, welcomed attendees to the first executive summit and encouraged them to share ideas with one another during the two day event.

The following morning, PBA board members Scott Buchanan and Reuben Carranza welcomed the executives to a deep dive into trends—generational trends, beauty trends and data, and historical trends. They also introduced the audience to the event’s moderator, Gene Randall, a former CNN anchor and NBC correspondent who covered global new events and the political campaigns of five U.S. presidents. Randall shared his view on the beauty industry, praising it for “activism that could serve as a model for any industry,” he said. “At a time when the NFL is urging the wives of players to be quiet about domestic abuse, the beauty industry is teaching stylists to recognize the signs of abuse and coaching clients to seek help. I salute the association, you clearly are working to get it done and others will follow your example.”

Randall introduced the morning speaker, generational expert Jane Buckingham, who navigated the audience through the differences and similarities between generations X and Y (and a bit of V) and discussed various marketing strategies companies could use to target each one. She described Gen Y as entitled and empowered, socially networked, and highly protected with high anxiety. “Their role models are reality TV stars and founders of companies like Facebook and YouTube – for many years, when surveyed about what they want to be when they grow up, they’d respond, ‘Famous,’” said Buckingham.

But Gen Y is a fabulous consumer for the beauty industry, according to Buckingham, because they are so confident in expressing themselves for fun and happy to experiment with a new hair color every month, and even dye their armpit hair. “They are also tending to stay in their jobs longer, because they don’t have many options,” Buckingham explained. “But they crave flexibility and today’s employers should be more flexible in granting requests like giving them three weeks to backpack overseas if they want. Don’t see that as a character fault, and they’ll be loyal to you.”

Next, Carrie Mellage of Kline & Company shared preliminary results from PBA’s revolutionary and comprehensive industry study. To date, the study has tracked a year’s worth of sell-in (product buying) and sell-through (register transactions) from 600 salons, with an overall goal of tracking 3,000 salons. While results are still preliminary, Mellage already can point to some trends: “Men’s products are on the rise in both chains and independent salons. Texturizing products, especially for men, are driving growth in the styling category. Dry shampoos witnessed a spike in sales and continue growth activity. Anti-aging products are over the hill, and sales of anything with the word aging in it is losing share. Thermal care styling aids are gaining share,” she shared.

To round out the day, Randall introduced the crowd to Steven Johnson, author of the book How We Get to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, and the inspiration for the PBS series of the same name. By exploring the scientific and historic developments of glass and frozen food, Johnson was able to reveal to the audience the environments that foster creativity and innovation. “We tend to talk about people who have innovated during these times of change as having a Eureka or A-Ha moment, but that’s often not the case. They tend to evolve over time as more of a slow hunch, a feeling of possibility that is kept alive.”

Johnson also spoke of the power of diversity, and that the most innovative people surround themselves with people who are different than themselves. He showed a slide of one of the coffeehouses frequented by Ben Franklin in London and how the great thinkers of the day would gather for coffee and tea and share ideas – ‘the third place.’ During his presentation Johnson stopped and said, “Just this morning I was thinking, the salon is also a third space, a place where people come and gather and share ideas and creativity.”

With thought-provoking speakers and powerful networking, PBA’s inaugural Executive Summit served as a successful third place where professional beauty leaders could gather, collaborate, and share great ideas.

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