When it comes to hair care, it’s no secret that Black Americans are the No. 1 consumers of ethnic hair care and beauty products. Yet, we own less than 1 percent of the entire market share in the nearly $700 million Black hair market, which is largely dominated by Korean and Chinese manufacturers.
Moreover, many of the popular hair care brands marketed to African-Americans aren’t Black-owed, and the same goes for the thousands of beauty supply stores they are sold in. That’s why the Black-Owned Beauty Supply Association, or BOBSA, moved to create a partnership with Chinese manufacturers in an effort to cut costs for Black hair care businesses and give Black business owners more control in the supply sector of the Black hair industry.
“I have just made an agreement with the Chinese manufacturers of hair,” BOBSA founder Sam Ennon announced in a press release Tuesday, Dec. 6. “We’ve created a [partnership] named Enterprise of Black Hair Alliance to change the distribution of hair in the U.S.”
BOBSA, founded in 2002, has provided African-American businesses and professionals with a platform to compete in the nearly $9 billion Black hair care and cosmetic industry, according to its website. Now, its new EBHA alliance seeks to put Black beauty supply owners in direct contact with Chinese manufacturers.
Ennon told Atlanta Black Star that Chinese hair manufacturers have been trying to permeate the U.S. market and reach Black consumers for years but didn’t have the proper distribution channels to do so, like the Koreans. He explained that the Chinese actually produce and manufacture the hair, while Koreans go to Chinese factories to create the brands ultimately sold in beauty supply stores around the world.
“If you’ve got the network of distribution, then you kind of control what goes into the stores,” Ennon said.
Unfortunately, it’s only the Koreans who make a profit off of the distribution. BOBSA CEO said he initially tried to work out an agreement with the Koreans, who Ennon said were totally uninterested in forming a partnership with his Black organization.
“They never wanted us to sit at the table with them” he said. “They just don’t want us to be partners with them. Just want us to be consumers.”
That’s when the Chinese reached out in search of an alliance that would put them that much closer to consumers of African-American hair and hair care products. Chinese manufacturers have contacted other Black hair organizations in the past, but none that have been around as long as BOBSA, according to Ennon. He explained that he’s been working side by side with the manufacturers over the past six months, as alliance members hoped to make the deal official by the start of the new year.
“I felt that the time was right to try and negotiate and get a partnership with them because the hair in our [African-American] market is big, even with the new natural styles coming in,” Ennon said.
In 2015, sales of the overall Black hair care market, which the BOBSA founder calls the “Wild Wild West,” were an estimated $2.7 billion. Moreover, a consumer market analysis by Mintel Reports revealed that 51 percent of African-American consumers purchase hair styling products compared to just 39 percent of American consumers overall.
Ennon said the mission of EBHA is to partner directly with Chinese manufacturers, since Black people are the main consumers of hair, and then get Black business owners involved in order to get a better price on the product. BOBSA would essentially act as a bridge between the manufacturers and Black consumers, thus eliminating the middleman (the Koreans).
“Now, the money is coming directly to our community via this entity,” Ennon explained. “And Black folks are gonna be selling to Black folks with quality hair and good pricing.”
Moreover, the new partnership would bring more dollars into the Black community and keep it circulating there. Ennon said that the Chinese producers also agreed to give back 10 percent of the profits made through the alliance, which will then be given to local charities in the Black community.
The organization, which has helped open over 150 Black-owned beauty supply stores across the U.S. over the past 13 years, hopes to open an additional 300 stores through the new EBHA. Ennon explained that now BOBSA would be able to provide capital to individuals who wished to open their own beauty supply stores. He said the ultimate goal is to connect, build and sustain more Black-owned businesses.
“If its going to be [sold] and distributed in our communities, we wanna be somewhere in that control of distributing,” he said, adding that the Black community is still just a consumer of hair products. “The money never touches our hands.”
For Ennon, the partnership was important because Black people have very little control in the Black hair market, even though we’re the number one consumers of it. He also noted that the Black community hasn’t been able to pass wealth down to the next generation, as numerous Black manufacturers in the past have sold to white companies. Still, he noted that gaining wealth isn’t always the main objective.
“It’s not always about money, it’s about pride,” Ennon said. “Black pride.”
Over the next three years, EBHA and BOBSA ultimately hope to open additional Black-owned beauty supply stores and create more sustainable Black brands.