Mintel: Hair relaxer sales down double-digits over past five years

CHICAGO — Natural may just be the new normal in the African-American hair care market as sales of relaxers continue to decline, according to new research from Mintel.

According to Mintel, relaxers account for just 21% of African-American hair care sales and the sector has declined 26% since 2008 and 15% since 2011 when sales reached $179 million — the only category not to see growth.

Mintel’s research estimates the relaxer segment will reach $152 million this year, down from $206 million in 2008. Furthermore, in the past 12 months, 70% of African-American women say they currently wear or have worn their hair natural (no relaxer or perm), more than half have worn braids, and 41% have worn locks.

“The natural hair trend is driving an increase in sales of styling products such as styling moisturizers, setting lotions, curl creams, pomades, etc., but the increase has caused the relaxer segment to decline in sales,” stated Tonya Roberts, multicultural analyst at Mintel. “A look at expenditures from 2008-2013 shows steady growth in the Black hair care category for all categories except relaxers/perms.”

Shampoo and conditioner formulated for African-American hair is estimated to reach $257 million in 2013, up from $211 million in 2008. The styling products segment has also increased from $220 million in 2008 to an estimated $268 million in 2013. Meanwhile, the hair color market is forecast to see sales of $36 million in 2013, compared with $32 million in 2008.

However, when it comes to achieving the perfect look, it seems African-American women are willing to shell out top dollar to change up their hair. More than half (51%) agree that it’s worth spending more on hair care products to achieve the best results while 39% say they like to experiment with new hair care products.

“Given their passion and love of hair, Black consumers represent a lucrative market for companies. Black consumers are always looking for new products to try and seeking information about hair care products,” noted Roberts. “Social networking is one avenue that has helped to garner trust, empowerment, individuality, and pride as it relates to hair care. Brands have been born and re-born using social networks.”

 So what’s the appeal of the natural style? Forty-eight percent of women believe natural or curly hairstyles exude confidence and the same percentage consider them daring. Meanwhile, 45% of African-American women think natural coifs are trendy.

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