By: Merilyn E. Ulrich,
Contributing Editor/Senior Staff Writer
The Hair Society
If everyone who operated a business believed as Michael Napolitano of HAIRUWEAR does when it comes to running a successful business, there would be no failures. Michael’s philosophy is based on education, quality and knowledge of the many brands under his watch. It is based on giving the client quality and the best customer service possible. It is based on making the client feel good and satisfied through understanding of their needs and how to serve them.
Michael Napolitano is passionate and it came through in every answer to every question that I asked him.
A while ago, I wrote a piece for The Hair Society called “An Experience to Remember” about an event put on by HAIRUWEAR at their corporate headquarters in Lenexa, Kansas. The facility is quite impressive and the experience was incredibly informative and inspiring. I now have considerably better insight as to why. I recently sat down for an extensive interview with HAIRUWEAR’s President and CEO, Michael Napolitano where we covered a range of topics.
When it comes to running a business, Michael Napolitano believes that success comes from a tireless commitment to education, quality and innovation. He encourages the best from his employees with the simple yet powerful statement to “Be Better.”
This philosophy is applied to EVERY aspect of the business and across all of the brands under his watch. The ultimate goal is to offer both the best quality products and the best customer service – then work to make those offerings even better by listening to the needs of the customers and their clients.
After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism, Mass Communication and Writing, Michael went to work for a Fortune 500 computer company in Marketing and Sales. Together with his wife Denise and his mother Eleanor, Michael launched AHL (American Hair Lines) in 1980. Sixteen years later, Michael acquired Eva Gabor International from Cargill Industries and merged the two companies. Eva Gabor International became HAIRUWEAR Inc. and was reinvented into a multi-branded, fashion focused company. HAIRUWEAR today is widely recognized as one of the most well-known and well-run hair companies in the world. Michael’s vision has resulted in a sizeable portfolio of market leading brands.
- American Hair Lines – Natural Advantage, Virtual Reality and Virtuesse provide the ultimate in non-surgical hair replacement systems for men and women.
- Raquel Welch Signature Collection – Hollywood icon Raquel Welch serves as both muse and creative director for this gorgeous collection of fashion-forward wigs and hair additions.
- Great Lengths USA – Professional hair extensions made from the finest 100% human hair of guaranteed origin. Certified Great Lengths stylists are the most sought-after by extensions clients.
- Hair2wear – The Christie Brinkley Collection gives every woman supermodel hair super easy. Choose from clip-in extensions, perfect ponytails, camera-ready wigs and more.
- Hairdo – For style at the speed of life, Hairdo offers clip-in extensions, ponytails, wraps, wigs and more. It’s your hair, your way – fresh, fearless, no commitments.
- Gabor – Just like your favorite pair of jeans, Gabor is every woman’s go-to hairstyle collection. The looks are effortlessly wearable modern classics, inspired by salon stylists’ most-requested cuts. The new wardrobe essential, Gabor makes every day… beautiful.
- HAIRUWEAR Professional – A state of the art, high-quality, non- permanent hair extension program only offered in the professional market to assist salons and stylists in building service revenue. Developed for Professionals by Professionals.
- POP (Put on Pieces) – To add length, volume, texture or a splash of bright color – just POP in a clip-in extension, hair wrap or braid! Put On Pieces® are affordable and easy.
Michael is passionate about the business and its history, a passion that came through in every answer to every question I asked.
HS: What is your company about?
M.N.: Success! We are driven by the knowledge that every appointment, clients must leave the salon happy and satisfied with their experience. HAIRUWEAR enables salon owners to achieve superior customer satisfaction and be highly successful by offering the hottest hairstyles made with high quality materials, and the most advanced construction techniques. Innovation is a top priority. We stay ahead of the trend curve by partnering with the best celebrity stylists and global trend forecasting experts. Our unrivalled knowledge allows us to forecast and design what will become the most sought-after styles years ahead of their debuts.
H.S.: What is required of a salon owner to sell your hair lines successfully?
M.N.: Education about the products and application is key and with some of our products a requirement. Our products are made with such care and quality that they’re very easy to use if the stylist and technician is well trained. This allows professional stylists to be the artists they are! They appreciate the styling freedom they get with HAIRUWEAR’s high quality products. Our mission is to provide a brilliant result to every client.
H.S.: You speak about “quality”. How do you guarantee that your lines meet the criteria for the highest quality hair lines?
M.N.: Across the organization from initial design to manufacturing the finished product, quality is another top priority for the company. We invest a substantial amount of time and money insuring we deliver the highest quality products in the industry. This investment includes having offices in several overseas locations including Northern China, Southern China, Indonesia and Hong Kong. Our offices in the Far East work very closely with our teams in Kansas and Florida employing an extremely stringent and formalized quality control process where production is monitored for quality assurance every step of the way. This process is in place 365 days a year. Each brand also has its own benchmarks and unique criteria for the materials and techniques used. This ensures that every single piece produced is consistently of the very highest quality. HAIRUWEAR employees also receive regular education to maintain quality standards.
H.S.: Are there any regulatory agencies overseeing your process?
M.N.: No. We oversee and regulate ourselves. It’s an area of great pride and we are far more thorough and stringent than any other company in the industry.
H.S.: What can a salon or hair restoration business expect when working with your brands?
M.N.: We essentially make them a partner by providing them with training, support and the tools to make their business successful. Our customer service experts are available for consulting on every aspect of the business. Our online services are always available. We intend to not only make the salon owners successful, but to make the consumer thrilled with the products. We do this by educating the salon owners on every aspect of our hair lines (materials, techniques and styles) so they are best able to service their clients.
H.S.: How do you market your hair lines?
M.N.: Our brands are sold in over 60 countries. Our marketing approach is as innovative as our product development. While we maintain a sizeable print presence in the leading beauty and trade publications, we’ve created highly targeted & fully integrated marketing support that includes digital and social media, video, and PR. We’re making significant investments in our marketing and media strategies building high awareness and strong equity for all our brands.
H.S.: How do you handle price point versus quality and how do salon owners approach this issue with clients?
M.N.: Regardless of income, every person deserves to look and feel fabulous and confident. Across our brand portfolio, we design and develop an extremely wide range of high quality products that appeal to all ages at a variety of price points everyone can afford. We use only the finest materials and the construction of our products is without compromise. We never vary from that. HAIRUWEAR customers can assure their clients they are ALWAYS getting the very best for their money.
H.S.: What suggestions would you offer to individual salons and/or hair restoration businesses in order to improve sales of your products?
M.N.: Businesses that thrive all have a desire to be the best at what they do. Perception is everything so always project an image of quality; from the products offered to how employees present themselves to the cleanliness of the salon or store. And make clients feel welcome. From the people at the front desk to the stylist who works on the client, be confident in your experience and training. Again, education is key.
H.S.: There are many new methods in hair restoration such as PRP and other treatments. How does this impact your branded products?
M.N.: All new methods create more awareness about hair loss and the need to seek solutions. This is great for the entire industry. Discussions and research regarding hair are beneficial to all. Not every client will be a candidate for surgical procedures and not every client will be cured of hair loss overnight. We will always need hair replacement lines for immediate and long-term use. Non-surgical solutions will always be needed to keep up with fashion and trends and to make people feel good about themselves. This creates tremendous opportunities for growth. I’m bullish about our future.
H.S.: Any final thoughts?
M.N.: I’ve been blessed to work in a phenomenal industry. At HAIRUWEAR, we have the ability to help people achieve how they wish to project themselves to others whether that’s happy, confident, beautiful or sexy because there is no better or faster way to change how you look and feel than with your hair! That’s captured in our new corporate tagline – HAIRUWEAR…Changes Everything
We’re not just making big investments in products, marketing, and a new state-of-the-art warehouse and corporate headquarters. We’ve also built a world class executive team that’s taking the company to a whole new level. And now, we’re launching new lines of fashion-forward items in every category, revolutionizing fashion hair from wigs to clip-ins. We’re changing the way the world sees fashion hair, elevating it from a “bad hair day fix” to the ultimate must-have accessory for women to express their style.
Lastly, I can’t stress enough my passion for education and artistry, and find these two qualities to be essential in serving the needs of our clients. If you want to evolve and grow, ongoing education is a necessity in any profession.
After we ended our conversation with Michael Napolitano, we realized that because of his passion for constant innovation, superior quality products and processes, and commitment to education, HAIRUWEAR and its brands are in a class of their own. Sure, there are other companies that claim they have the best products, people, and services but none have the proven track record, equity and authority, as HAIRUWEAR.
Taking a page from Michael’s playbook, we would encourage you all to find and attend an educational course in your area. It will only help you and your salon grow, provide a higher level of value and service to your clientele, and help separate you from the rest.
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