EsteticaExport has interviewed Carmen Oancea, Executive Manager of Salon Pro, one of the leading distributors in the Romanian professional hair & beauty sector.

Please introduce your company.
Salon Pro is one of the main distributors in the professional hair & beauty market in Romania. My partner Alexandro Edu and I have been in this field for about 25 years. In 2006, we decided to start SalonPro to import and distribute professional brands in Romania. We started with Artego, which is still one of our main brands. It was successful from the beginning thanks to its quality and its marketing strategy, which suited the demands of our market very well.
Artego focuses on quality without compromise and is recognised by everyone. With every new launch,
they always offer a real product evolution and the new formulas are always a step forward in terms of effectiveness and customer satisfaction.
Besides Artego we carry some important brands such as BabylissPro, the market leader for professional electrical appliances. 3 years ago, we also started importing Gamma Professional. We also distribute a lot of accessories brands for salons, mostly from Italy, like scissors from Kiepe, and brushes from Olivia Garden”.

How is your distribution organised?
We are sole distributors in Romania for the brands we represent. We have a network of salesmen that distribute directly to salons in some areas, while in other areas of Romania, we use sub-distributors. We also sell to the general public through our own e-Commerce platform and we are present on some marketplaces. Of course, some professional products are not sold online”.

Carmen Oancea Executive Manager of Salon Pro

Are Romanian hairdressers OK with online sales?
They are getting used to it. We try to protect them as much as possible. But there is a phenomenon we cannot fight against, that many companies from foreign countries are selling to quite a lot of Romanian clients, especially from Poland and Germany. You can find anything you want online and order it very easily. Professional products are not protected anymore”.

What are the main professional brands in Romania?
Wella, Londa and LOréal used to be the main protagonists of the market, but in recent years, the market has changed. We have now a lot of different brands that are dividing the market into smaller parts. It is very hard to follow them all and to know for sure who is doing well. Sales are volatile and there are no official market reports”.

How is the Romanian market recovering after the recent crises?
I would say we are now back to the pre-pandemic figures in terms of sales. Nevertheless, we are very close to the Ukrainian war and this is having an impact on our market. Some brands which can no longer sell much in Ukraine are trying to expand their networks in other countries and Romania is one of them.
A consequence of the pandemic is that consumers have learned to take care of their hair at home, so now salons need to offer something special to attract people. The quality of service becomes fundamental to survival in this evolving market.
People, especially young ones, have become more addicted to the internet and they use it for everything. For example, they check feedback on a salon before entering. Their choices depend upon the comments of other people. Salon owners have to pay great attention to their online and social media profile”.

How is the economy doing in Romania?
Inflation is now rising quite quickly, especially as a consequence of energy costs. Probably it started a little later compared to other EU countries but now it is hitting hard also on food and other essential products. Another problem for Romanian companies is the fast increase in the cost of labour. This frustrates any attempt to hire more people and grow the business”.

So, the salon business is shrinking.
Not shrinking, actually, at the moment it is a steady market, but not growing as much as it could if inflation werent biting so hard”.

What does it take for a product to be successful in your market?
First of all, the product should have a point of difference in order to attract interest. Then it takes a lot of work and commitment from the side of the manufacturers and the distributors. And always, quality is the element that cannot be lacking to do well in the market. Brands which can offer healthy and sustainable products also have a distinct advantage”.

How do you see the future of our industry and your company?
“This is a period of profound change in which everyone must be able to change and adapt to the evolving situation. I try to be realistic. I believe that we constantly improve the services we can offer our clients. We can provide the value that is essential to improve the quality of services and therefore increase our business”.