Q & A with Arthur Mitroulas, Hairhouse Warehouse
This article appears in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand magazine recently interviewed Hairhouse Warehouse CEO Arthur Mitroulas to find out more about his role within this leading hair and beauty retailer and salon group.
Please can you tell us how you became the CEO of Hairhouse Warehouse (HHWH ); the journey you have been on?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Marketing, Business and Commerce at Monash University and went through their graduate programme with a scholarship as part of an international study programme. At that time there were a number of International companies interested in graduates from Monash bachelor programme. Coca-Cola, MTV, The Body Shop, and L’Oréal Paris; were introduced to me as a potential study programme and my interest lay with the L’Oréal Paris group. I secured a position in their graduate recruitment programme where upon graduation I entered their Professional Division, which encompasses beauty and hair salons.
My entry role with L’Oreal allowed me to develop as Product Manager within the Redken Division. The role exposed me to forecasting, trend reviews, international team alliances, product launches and multiple market entry executions. My graduate term with L’Oreal allowed me training in different facets of the business. For a time I worked within sales, with my own call cycle. There, my passion for enterprise and growing brands and revenue streams grew. My first ever sales call was at the Hairhouse Warehouse store at Knox. Tony Lattouf was running that store at the time and we built an instant connection. My interest in growing enterprise and Tony’s drive to be bring Hairhouse Warehouse across Australia complimented. I spent the next ten years with the L’Oreal group being promoted from product management to; brand management to; marketing management to; commercial director and finally general management all the while maintaining connections from my initial sales roles and salon businesses.
After working your way through the ranks and after 10 years with L’Oréal Paris, what prompted you to leave and join HHWH ?
L’Oreal is an incredibly dynamic company to cut your teeth. Growing with them allowed me the opportunity to travel, work with teams in Paris and London and learn from incredibly talented and diverse executives and leaders. I was exposed to commerce, marketing/ branding, relationship management, supply and warehouse management and I gained an understanding into how merchandise can work in a salon environment, something not typically practiced across service models. As I developed with L’Oreal my entrepreneurial interest grew, as did my relationships with key salon groups; Hairhouse Warehouse being one of them. I admired the enterprising and ‘go for it’ spirit the Lattouf brothers had. They began to discuss with me their vision to expand in Australia and proposed I help them lead that expansion. My progression in the L’Oreal group looked to international development but my heart lay in entrepreneurism in Australia and so the time felt right for a new challenge.
What was HHWH like back then? How many franchisees were within the brand?
When I joined there were 70 stores across the network, largely centralised in Victoria. The company had expanded quickly through their enterprising spirit but there was a need to ensure the growth could be supported through improvements in the buying, marketing and a strong standard being implemented in their operational effectiveness. We also needed to ensure there was a plan for progress, we quickly recognised that we needed to invest in people. There was a real appetite within Tony and Joseph to invest in creating a supportive Head Office that facilitated the growth vision. My focus initially was to ensure there was strong support across these core pillars of the business allowing both a growth trajectory and comprehensive support for the current model going forward.
Since you joined 8 ½ years ago, how has HHWH evolved to become the powerhouse it is today?
There’s been huge learning’s for us as a board and a company. We’ve never been afraid to give something a go and I’m proud of many of the achievements and initiatives we’ve developed and tested over the years. Most importantly we’ve never rested on our laurels. It’s pivotal that we’re always adapting to the market. A key personal objective for me was the protection of our market share with the threat of online and parallel import to the retail landscape. The investment in a private label division within our company became paramount. Building the right relationships with manufacturing and supply chains to support these labels was critical and one that took us many years to finesse. Then came the task of finding the right leadership team to develop and support these labels into brands in their own right. My background in L’Oreal meant I never undervalued the power of brands so the objective was not just protect our market share but to create brands that could compete both in quality and aesthetic to the market leaders. To date we have seven brands in our portfolio. They spread across electrical, styling, hair care and cosmetic categories and some of them have gained so much equity they have progressed to international distribution in global powerhouse retailers. Having these brands as exclusive labels to Hairhouse in Australia allows Hairhouse Warehouse to become a destination of these much loved products to consumers and allows the collective brands an enthusiastic and supportive launch to market.
So where to now? What does the future hold for HHWH and its franchisees?
The futures exciting for Hairhouse Warehouse. We are constantly looking for ways we can improve our offerings. We recognise the market change and critical to our growth and development is a consumer centric omni-channel experience. Typically franchise models focus heavily on store environment- and this is of course critical for Hairhouse future. We’ve been in design development of our new store environment for some time now. But making sure our fully enterprised point of sale system is dynamic across our stores and our online space means our franchisees will have the best inventory management system, up to the minute information, dashboard measurements and decision making tools and our customers will have a seamless end to end experience from the store and digital platforms. In tandem franchisees are already benefitting from the integration of the salon scheduling and the appointment management systems. The flexibility in creating dynamic communications with their service base means we ensure connectivity through both services and the, soon to be launched, loyalty programme means our customer engagement should be better than ever.
The power house that our collective brands are becoming has meant not only increased opportunities for franchisee to leverage but also the potential of a global market entry for many of these brands. Our first entry into the export market in the US was earlier this year and the growth potential is hugely promising. At a company board level, the increased energy placed on acquisitions and overseas expansion has promised exciting opportunities coming forward.
There are a lot of challenges in our footprint but we always find ways to make it work. The energy is there, people enjoy the environment and we connect with the customer and maximise the opportunity for the franchisee. We’re a people business, and we’re offering solutions and value.