Pulleez Pulls Into Ulta Beauty With Its Upscale Hair Elastics
Rubber bands are basic. For ponytails destined not to be, there’s Pulleez, a high-end hair accessories brand that’s landed on Ulta Beauty’s website.
“The Ulta customer is the perfect age for our product. I think every age appreciates it, but, if you’re 30 or under, you really get the product right away. Consumers are ready for an alternative to traditional elastics that wrap around the hair,” says Diana Wright, CEO and founder of Pulleez. “Ulta’s going to be a critical piece of our growth.”
On track to hit $2 million in sales this year, Wright estimates Pulleez’s Ulta entrance along with continued success at QVC, The Grommet and Amazon could double its sales next year. The brand is starting out with elastic ponytail holders intentionally on ulta.com in four styles featuring silver and gold knot charms on black and brown cords, gold nugget charm on a champagne cord and silver stud charm on a black cord.
“Our product is more expensive than the ponytail holders they have in store right now,” says Wright, noting Ulta carries hair accessories from Scunci and Elle. “We all agreed to see what sells and, depending upon the response online, we will decide whether to jump into the stores. It’s a bigger risk to go into the stores, but we can. From our end, as a small business, we would like to see real performance before we commit.”
“The Ulta customer is the perfect age for our product. I think every age appreciates it, but, if you’re 30 or under, you really get the product right away. They are sick of seeing the same thing that wraps around your hair.”
Pulleez has already proven beauty shoppers will pay above commodity prices for hair elastics. When the brand first appeared on QVC in 2014, there were concerns about the receptivity of its audience to elastics pricier than the fare at mass-market retailers, but the brand has become the hair accessories leader on the television shopping channel. Today, roughly a third of its sales are from QVC.
Kicking off its distribution in 2012, Pulleez premiered at Henri Bendel, a major retail pickup that wasn’t by design. Prior to creating the brand, Wright was a fashion show producer who doubled as behind-the-scenes makeup artist and hairstylist if necessary. In 2011, she whipped up a toggle-elastic apparatus decorated with jewelry to quickly tie models’ hair back with a dash of pizazz, and it ended up on the runway, where a Henri Bendel buyer spotted the hair bling and immediately wanted to stock it.
Pulleez is carving out a distinct niche in a hair accessories market expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2023. It’s certainly not the most expensive brand in the segment – Jennifer Behr’s pony wraps ascend to $225, and Lelet NY has ponytail holders for $78 – and it’s definitely not the cheapest. A 250-pack of Goody rubber bands costs less than $5 at retail.
“We all agreed to see what sells and, depending upon the response online, we will decide whether to jump into the stores. It’s a bigger risk to go into the stores, but we can. From our end, as a small business, we would like to see real performance before we commit.”
Pulleez’s assortment spans around 70 options and multiple price points. Its metal collection with ponytail holders priced at $13 is the most popular. Elastics increase to $20 in a premium collection accented with Preciosa crystals, and an acrylic collection includes elastics at $7.50. Sporteez is a new collection containing $7.75 ponytail holders with tiny footballs, baseballs, tennis balls, soccer balls and basketballs dangling from them.
“We’re the first prestige ponytail holder to make a transition to masstige. We launched at Bendel’s and, now, we are at QVC and Ulta,” says Wright. “Our differentiating factor isn’t only our patented system, but also the jewelry charms that offer many possibilities for themes and exclusives for different retailers.”
She suggests Pulleez competes in the hair accessories sector dominated by the likes of Goody, Scunci and Conair because its two-holed toggle system constructed to fit fingers and not damage hair is patented. “In order to get around our patents, you have to reconfigure the mechanism, which a couple of people have tried, but it’s not as functional,” says Wright. On top of its unique toggle, Pulleez works with a jewelry manufacturer to make charms free of lead, cadmium and other chemicals identified under California’s Proposition 65 to be linked to cancer or birth defects.
Going forward for Pulleez, Wright points to global distribution and licensing deals as potential business drivers. To help build the brand, she’s on the hunt for an investor able to bring insightful guidance and assist with infrastructure for expansion outside the U.S. Wright says, “We can go out and raise money, but I don’t think it would benefit us as much as partnering with a larger, really solid player, and they’re hard to find.”