GHD – Is it a Billion Dollar Global Fashion Brand?

The rise and rise of GHD is becoming an ever more impressive story. Despite being ultimately a one-product company (the iconic ghd hair straightener, albeit it in various sizes and colours), and despite (or perhaps because of) being headquartered in deeply unfashionable Silsdon in Yorkshire, UK, GHD seems to get as many mentions in the fashion press as a certain Mrs Beckham.

Monique Lhullier, Miss Sixty and many others featured GHD as their haircare partner at their recent Fashion Week shows, with wavy, sea-inspired styles that showed off the versatility of the ghd iv styler.

Perhaps even more importantly the GHD marketing and PR machine that was so effective in dominating the UK market for GHD, is now fully up and running on a global basis with the famous pink GHD promotion now appearing across the globe (with a global network of breast cancer charities benefiting). Other campaigns like the GHD Pure / GHD Dark promotion also enjoyed global promotion

further example of how GHD is becoming a genuine international fashion brand is the unwelcome arrival of large-scale counterfeiting of GHD products. Indeed, major UK-based discount beauty and cosmetics chain, Superdrug, recently admitted supplying its customers with counterfeit GHD hair straighteners, albeit unintentionally [Source: BBC News Website, Friday, 19 September 2008]. This would suggest that GHD counterfeiting is now highly organised and very professional (as it is with designer perfumes and luxury fashion accessories). Of course, no-one at GHD will be happy with fake GHD products being sold, but it does bracket the company in some pretty exclusive company (Gucci, Prada, and the like).

It would appear that GHD have realised from the start that building a fashion brand is not exclusively about sales figures. Turnover, although important, must be conducive to brand building. For that reason, GHD have a famous reputation for refusing to supply to high street names – culminating in rejecting likes of Boots when GHD themselves were only a few years old. Although this policy has been relaxed slightly in recent years (with Boots and Amazon starting to sell directly supplied GHD hair straighteners in the last 12 months), it helped create the exclusivity and allure that any brand needs if it is to become a significant asset in its own right.

Which brings us to the issue of how much GHD might ultimately be worth. When the most recent management buy-out took place last year (just before the global credit markets seized up), the valuation was around $288 million ($160m). One of the reasons given for injecting capital a that stage into the business was to help it strike out around the globe to boost its presence and revenues from the US, Europe and Australasia. Achieving this, particularly in the US, where it was previously an underground cult brand, will certainly see the valuation of the GHD brand soar.

Of course, now isn’t the time to get carried away with valuing privately-held companies, but once the markets have returned to normality in 2010 or thereabouts, and provided that GHD has managed to continue to build its presence globally, then there is no reason why the people of Yorkshire won’t be celebrating the presence of a billion dollar fashion brand just up t’road.