Alishia Smart – New General Manager, L’Oréal NZ Professional Products Division

Alishia Smart - L'Oreal NZ GM PPD

Alishia Smart has been appointed new General Manager for the Professional Products team in New Zealand. Alishia began her career at L’Oréal New Zealand in 1998 and during her time here, was Technical Consultant for L’Oréal Professionnel, Area Manager for Redken and then National Education Manager for L’Oréal Professionnel.

In 2008 she relocated to Australia as the Victorian State Sales Manager for L’Oréal Professionnel and then went on to become General Manager for Matrix. Alishia Smart is greatly admired as a leader in the Australian hairdressing industry and L’Oréal NZ are delighted to welcome her back home with her well-developed business skills and industry experience and know-how.

We recently caught up with Alishia Smart for a quick chat over coffee…

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing you in your new role?

“Although it’s early days since returning to New Zealand, I know we can do more as a great business partner to our salons to help them to grow and succeed. The world is changing at an incredible pace, so there is a need to support our salons in a different way than we have done in the past. As an industry we must be obsessed with the salon experience for clients to ensure they receive bespoke services and experiences.

We can only do this when we understand their needs so we can respond and hopefully exceed them. Consumers today have so many choices in terms of where they choose to spend their money; high-tech devices like smartphones, accessible travel destinations or going to a beautiful café – these days we are even competing against avocado and feta!

If I have $100 to spend on myself, the options are endless, however unfortunately research has shown us that hairdressing does not rank at the top of the aspiration list. In fact, some consumers tell us they see the salon experience as a chore. So we absolutely need to draw client back into the salon and deliver not only fantastic results, but create a memorable, must-have salon experience.

So, making the salon experience a destination again is my mission. I know we can do it by offering our salons the very best education, insights and tools to help them achieve this.

What new innovation will we see from L’Oréal Professional Products this year?

“Leading innovation is a given for our brands, however for me the focus is less about products and more about service excellence and supporting our salons as true business partners. Obviously across our brand portfolio, we have different salons we want to speak to in a bespoke way. If you are a L’Oréal Professionnel salon, you may be looking for sharper business acumen for instance.

So what resources and innovations can we bring to these salons to help them succeed?

‘Piiq’ the new digital consultation tool is a perfect example of innovation that can help grow your business. This revolutionary consultation tool, founded by Richard Kavanagh, is available exclusively through L’Oréal salons.

The Kérastase Diagnostic Camera, which delivers very a specific scientific diagnosis of the hair for the salon to elevate their consultation service, is another great example. We will tailor solutions for all our brand partners based on the individual needs of the salon.

Which brand do you consider has the most potential for growth and why?

“L’Oréal Professionnel is a premium and iconic brand with great potential to lead the way in terms of providing career and development opportunities for stylists, opportunities to really stretch and engage them from a business perspective.

However, many salon owners are so busy working in the business that they are unable to work on the business. As a hairdresser I found myself facing the same challenges when I was working in the salon. Working on the floor, cutting hair, doing wages late at night – just juggling to keep abreast of what’s coming next is difficult.

Most salon owners I speak to don’t have the resources or the time to spend decoding market trends, digital upskilling, identifying changes in the workplace and gaining insights to understand consumers evolving needs. Understanding how she searches for new products and services, her decision-making process and her ‘go-to’ when looking for hair advice. That’s where L’Oréal can offer great insights as a business partner, to help with a strategy to develop and grow their business, together.

In what direction would you like to see our industry head in the future?

“This is such a unique industry where as a hairdresser we can touch a client’s hair and scalp before we have even spoken to them. It’s a privilege to have such an intimate and precious relationship with our clients to prescribe the best services and products for them. We have a duty to be obsessed with education and relentless training to ensure we valorise the profession and remain a trusted expert.

And client consultation is absolutely vital to this. It cannot be skipped over or not done at all. If we truly want to understand our clients and offer them our expertise, we must have the conversations and ask the questions – then actively listen to the responses. Tell me about your hair concerns? What are you loving about your hair? What’s important to you about your hair?

The keys to unlocking the salon services and recommendations lies in the answers. So, we must empower hairdressers with confidence and training to have those conversations to offer expert advice and personalised salon services.

Education and training are priority – and a responsibility at L’Oréal which we take very seriously. Empowering industry experts with knowledge and confidence – is vital to future-proof the industry.

What are the plans for The Collective event which premièred last year?

“The inaugural Collective event in 2018 was a phenomenal success, with many telling us they enjoyed the collaborative style of event that showcased expertise, trends and business insights. In 2019 we have decided to pause and review the event so we can identify ways build on this success and make it even more inclusive and for a broader audience. Watch this space for 2020!

Out of all your brands which one would you rate as your favourite?

“That’s a difficult question given there are so many fantastic brands in our portfolio, however the brand I greatly respect is L’Oréal Professionnel, largely because I grew up with this brand and as a hairdresser this brand for me represents iconic and premium hair colour that always delivers exceptionally beautiful results.

Have you found any differences between the market over in Australia, and here in New Zealand?

“There is a difference in the markets. I felt it going into Australia and I feel now retuning to New Zealand. Australia is fast-paced and a real melting pot of cultures with every state having a different personality which really influences the culture, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

It’s also highly competitive with new brands popping up constantly and Australia is on sale permanently so it’s super competitive from a price perspective. Service delivery is also challenging with the likes of Amazon and Iconic offering delivery within 24 hours in Australia. There is greater complexity in doing business in Australia, so meeting customer expectation is really difficult.

But what an incredible experience I’ve had over the past 10 years with so many unique opportunities which I feel incredibly blessed to have had with L’Oréal. After extensive training, development and coaching over the years, I feel really well prepared returning to New Zealand with this experience under my belt and a much broader perspective. I plan to draw on all the best insights and resources from Australia to nourish my team in New Zealand enabling us to bring our A-game to our business partners here.

It also opens the opportunity to give our Kiwi clients unique experiences in Australia, to inspire their thinking and extend their network. That said, L’Oréal New Zealand is independent of Australia, the two business operate separately. I know it’s important to our business partners that we retain our NZ identity and not be operated by remote control from another country. Feedback from our salon partners is that they appreciate local service and being able to speak to the local team in local time.

It also means we are responsible, and accountable, for excellent delivery and service levels. We want to think globally but deliver first-class local solutions and service to our partners.

I feel really privileged to have had the experience in Australia, but I’m thrilled to be back in New Zealand working with our teams and partners. It feels familiar, it also very different – but it feels like home.”