Kokoro: At the Heart of Mexican Hair & Beauty

Based in Mexico City, Bernardo Santaella’s company has been steadily developing in the last 35 years, importing and distributing top international brands in the Mexican territory. In 2003, he started his own brand, Kokoro, first producing tools and then beauty products to satisfy the growing demand for quality in the Mexican market.

Estetica Export met Bernardo Santaella, CEO of Kokoro, who talked about the Mexican market and helped us understand the reasons for Kokoro’s success.

How did you start?
In the beginning, around 35 years ago, we opened a company to distribute a hair fashion magazine called Passion. This introduced us to the world of hairstyling and soon we saw an opportunity to sell products. In particular, we believed the Mexican market wanted higher-quality electrical tools. The business was successful and, since then, we have been importers and distributors of electric tools. A little later, we started importing hair & beauty products for both the retail and professional markets. Then, in 2003, we started producing and distributing our own brand, called Kokoro”.

Bernardo Santaella, CEO of Kokoro

Why did you start a new brand?
Once again, we wanted to respond to the need of the Mexican market by offering better products to medium and high-profile salons. At that time, it was hard to find that kind of product, so Kokoro started offering tools with high-quality components. About 10 years ago, we also started producing hair & beauty products. On top of that, we import salon furniture so that we can offer a complete service to our clients”.

Does the name Kokoro have any particular meaning?
It is a Japanese word that means from the heart.”


What are the main brands you import?
As distributors in Mexico, we represent some of the most prestigious international brands, such as Parlux, Denman and Termix, as well as beauty products such as K18, Revlon, Lakme, Living Proof and Truss. We have about 15 brands all positioned at the highest level in the hairdressing sector. We also have some skincare brands like Eminence”.

How is your sales network organized?
We have different sales departments that take care of the channels we serve. We have a spa/hotel department, then there’s a department that sells directly big brand like LOréal, Henkel, Revlon, Alfaparf to salons for trade marketing operations. We also have a retail department, as we also supply some high-end retail outlets like Sephora, Liverpool and Palacio de Hierro”.

Do you sell also online?
Yes, we do. We have our own e-commerce and we are present on Amazon and Mercadolibre, the biggest Mexican marketplace. On this channel, we only sell retail products. We started 10 years ago, being one of the first in Mexico and I have to say that sales are growing steadily”.

How many people do you employ?
We have around 90 staff”.

And how many salons do you serve?
Of the 110,000 official salons in Mexico we serve 5,000 at a medium-high level”.

Can you tell us something about the Mexican hair & beauty market?
The big brands we just mentioned are continuing to grow. The market, generally speaking, is going well and is growing. Hair salons are also working better than in the past and they are improving their services to attract more and better clients. However, they are not improving their retail performance, although the retail market is more active in other traditional channels and e-commerce is performing quite well.
I believe that this trend is going to continue for at least 10 years because Mexico now has a very solid and reliable economy and is attracting investment”.

Do you take part in trade fairs?
Yes, we have always been exhibitors at EBS Expo in Mexico City where we have a huge 600 sqm booth. During the fair, we celebrate our annual Kokoro Awards – an important event dedicated to hairstylist which attracts some 500 participants every year”.


What does a brand need to be successful in Mexico?
It has to be original with unique characteristics. High quality is important and most of all the product must be effective and it must do what it says on the label”.

Is it important to make sustainable and green claims?
That is not the priority for the Mexican market, even if all the brands we sell are oriented to sustainable and green production, even vegan. We can say that at the customer level, there is only a small segment of the market that cares about this issue. Hopefully, it will grow in the future”.


Any special plans for the future?
On the distribution side, we still want to increase our catalogue with new high-end international brands at the same level as those we are working with.
We are also planning to move the production of Kokoro to Mexico, which at the moment we are producing in many different countries from the Far East to Europe.
For the moment we are only distributing Kokoro in Mexico, but further down the road, we will export it to some other countries starting with neighbouring Central America, and also South America and the USA”.

There is still no news about it.

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