P&G DISCONTINUES STRUGGLING SASSOON BRAND

Hair Care Line Saw 75% Drop in U.S. Sales

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- Procter & Gamble Co. is discontinuing its VS Sassoon hair care brand in the U.S. and Canada in February amid falling sales and a barrage of competitive entries.

The brand, which Richardson-Vicks began selling under license from stylist Vidal Sassoon 26 years ago and P&G acquired in 1985, will continue to be sold overseas, where it currently has a stronger presence in some European markets than it has in the U.S.

Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles advertising duties for the brand in the U.S.

Strategy backfires
Since an attempt at an upscale positioning in 2000, VS Sassoon has lost more than 75% of its U.S. sales. And after receiving $25 million in ad support behind the repositioning, the brand hasn't had U.S. media support in more than a year.

VS Sassoon is one of several struggling hair care brands under pressure early this year as marketers foist an unprecedented 150 new items into U.S. hair care aisles, led by Unilever's Dove and L'Oreal's Garnier Fructis.

Possible comeback
A P&G spokeswoman termed the discontinuation "stepping back to explore how best to leverage the Vidal Sassoon heritage." She did not rule out an attempt at a comeback later, as P&G is currently attempting with Clairol Daily Defense, which is being repositioned as a value brand after it was discontinued in the U.S. last year.

"It's too early to tell" whether P&G will make a comeback bid for VS. The company earlier this month did extend its licensing agreement with Helen of Troy to market hair styling aids under the VS Sassoon brand.

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