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WASHINGTON POST — EXPANSION PLANNED AS LUXURY MARKET FLOURISHES

By Michael Gilman, Friday, December 23, 2:06 PM

Opening a new Grooming Lounge location in Bethesda is a top priority for us in 2012. We think it’s a good time to expand for several reasons: Business has been good at our other two Washington-area locations. This region’s economy has proven to be resilient. And “affordable luxuries” — upscale products and services — in many cases have weathered the downturn better than discount brands.

The hair, and to a parallel extent, spa industries, have been very consistent even when the economy is faltering. Hair always grows (for the lucky ones) and having a modern haircut and irritation-free face is increasingly important for a man’s confidence and personal brand. Add the idea that people pamper themselves via spa-like services when times are good — and want to escape via such relaxing luxuries when times are tough — and the strength of our segment is apparent.

I got into this industry after serving as the unofficial grooming supplier to my friends. We opened our first storefront location in D.C. in 2002. But two years before that, we launched our Web site where men could order hair and facial products. Our second goal this year is to increase our online presence.

The last few years have seen a proliferation of successful Web sites catering to men’s style, clothing and accessories. The online men’s grooming product business has mirrored this trend with more males (and the people who want them to look good) heading to the Internet to research and purchase the products required to improve their shaves and skin.

Having recently installed a new back end online platform, we plan to better harvest this software to improve customer personalization, merchandising and ensure smoother transactional experiences. Partnering with online marketing agents, hiring more customer service agents and adding fresh partner brands should help grow our stateside and international Web business.

Growing the distribution channels for our barber-created Grooming Lounge shaving and hair products is a third primary goal for the year ahead. Currently available through our stores, Web site and a handful of select retailers, we intend to expand awareness of our house brand and company by putting the product in more people’s hands (and on their faces and heads).

We’re already off to a good start, having secured a partnership with ULTA Beauty stores to roll Grooming Lounge products out to all 400+ of their stores. The hope is to spread the word about these formulations en route to increased sales and overall company recognition.

We know that success in 2012, as in every other year, mostly relies on creating positive experiences for our guests online and in our storefronts.

Consistently getting a great haircut, receiving a shipment quicker than anticipated or using a product that exceeds expectations are the types of things that will make this business special and successful.

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  • About Grooming Lounge

    Michael Gilman is Founder of The Grooming Lounge, the country's premiere destination for men's grooming products, services and advice. In this blog he'll talk about his business, customer service, the gentlemanly arts and whatever is currently bothering him.

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