Memo Exclusive: An Interview with Denman Chairman John Rainey
Chairman of The Denroy Group and Denman International, John Rainey was awarded with the title of MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).Photo 1 of 5
Chairman of The Denroy Group and Denman International, John Rainey was awarded with the title of MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).Photo 2 of 5
Vidal Sassoon with a Denman brush.Photo 3 of 5
The early days of Denman manufacturing.Photo 4 of 5
A Denman patent.Photo 5 of 5
The Denman hairbrush gained prominence when a young Vidal Sassoon made the blowdry finish a forever trend and the Denman line continues to thrive and grow. “2018 sees the 80th anniversary of the brand and we are excited to be celebrating this with all our customers worldwide,” says Denman Chairman John Rainey, who shared some history of the company with MODERN, as well as its bright future.
MS: Please share the backstory to your company, including when it was started and by whom.
JR: The first Denman hairbrush was invented in 1938 by Ulsterman, John Denman Dean (also known as Jack Dean). Denman hairbrushes were popularized in the swinging sixties by hairdressing legend, Vidal Sassoon, through his revolutionary blow-drying techniques. We are eternally grateful to Vidal Sassoon for changing the architecture of hairdressing and deeply proud of our association with this industry icon.
In 1972, my father bought a local plastics company and renamed it Denroy Plastics. The factory is located in a coastal town in Northern Ireland and today manufacturers in excess of 400,000 brushes and combs each month for the Denman brand.
The company also operates offices in London and Amsterdam and has a wholly-owned subsidiary in Boston, MA.
MS: Your sister company is Denroy Plastics. Can you explain the relationship between the two?
JR: In 1979, Denman sales were expanding at such a fast rate that a second factory was opened to meet the increase in demand. This became the principal Denroy plant and in 1995 all production was consolidated at this site.
Since then, product development and manufacturing has continued at Denroy who produce 90% of Denman’s products in Northern Ireland. This gives us complete control over product quality, a seamless link with the R & D teams and the ability to move quickly to fulfil market and customer demands.
MS: What is special about a Denman hairbrush? And how did you communicate that so effectively to hairdressers?
JR: It’s iconic.
The brand was recognized by Vidal Sassoon in the 1960s and today thousands of hairstylists all over the world use a Denman in their kit every single day. The brushes’ quality of heat and chemical resistance, durability and performance make them an essential professional tool.
We continually evolve to design and create products that meet the demands of this professional market. An important part of that process is working closely with barbers and hairstylist such as Ivan Zoot and Paul Stafford to ensure we are developing products with the correct properties and features. This collaborative process means we are constantly learning and moving forward to ensure we are relevant to all levels within the market.
By having professional endorsements and a team of ambassador demonstrating our tools across the globe, this ensures the effective communication of the brand to the professional market.
MS: What are your top-performing markets?
JR: The USA and Japan are the most significant markets to us. We have worked hard with our sales and marketing teams to meet the demands and expectations of these international markets and our export success continues to grow.
We have had remarkable achievements in the Philippines and South Africa. Our South African agent has secured the Denman Brand as the number one position in both the professional and retail markets with remarkable sales volumes.
Germany has always been a very solid market for over 30 years and it’s developing further.
We are expanding in the Middle East markets and India and our sales in Australia have doubled.
Our success in the USA continues to grow with this market accounting for 25% of our total sales.
MS: Where do you still see room for expansion?
JR: We have committed major resources to developing our presence in the Indian and Chinese markets. We hope to reap the benefit from the respect that British-made products receive in these markets.
Currently, our sales and production teams have a sharp focus on developing for the ever-expanding American market.
MS: Has acquisition of other lines been part of your growth?
JR: Yes, with the acquisitions of other brands, this has allowed us to fulfill the demands of the market and has introduced us to new export markets.
In 2005, we acquired the Comby Company in the UK which was a distributor of high quality professional tools very much aligned to Denman’s philosophy and strategy. It allowed us to increase our percentage pf the professional market and carry other prestigious brands.
In 2014, we acquired the Bobby Company in the USA. We had always enjoyed a special relationship with this US company and it gave us access to additional premium professional products.
Acquisition remains a significant part of our strategy. We are strongly committed to manufacturing in the United Kingdom and have avoided the temptation of sourcing products from low-cost suppliers to preserve our control over quality standards.
MS: You are family-owned in an industry that is seeing more and more consolidation. Do you intend to remain a family-owned business?
JR: I have always felt self-conscious about being a business owner. I was recently inspired by the words of an Austrian company who were trying to secure our business and impressing upon us the fact that they were one of two family-run businesses in the manufacturing sector. Their status gives them the ability to dictate their own destiny, not needing to satisfy the sometimes short-term vision of the stock market.
We can decide when and how we invest. We decide when we need to conserve resources and be in a stronger position to satisfy our needs in the long term.
This is one of the reasons Denman wishes to remain a family-owned business.