Brian Robinson isn’t one to sit around and wait for opportunity to find him. More than a decade ago, he latched on to the concept of male grooming and built Zirh, and its line of men’s facial, shaving and anti-aging products, into a well-known brand. He made money when he sold the brand to Shiseido back in 2004 and made news in 2008 when he bought back the brand from Shiseido. A little more than two years ago, Robinson made headlines again when he sold Zirh to Procter & Gamble for an undisclosed amount. In 2008, Zirh’s sales were about $20 million.
Now, Robinson is back in the news, aggressively adding new brands under his new venture, TPR Holdings.
“TPR Holdings is basically the successor company to Zirh Holdings,” he explained. “When Zirh was sold to Procter and Gamble, to avoid confusion, we changed the name to TPR Holdings. TPR is a consumer products holding company that is not only an investor in the consumer products industry but also an operator.”
In recent months, TPR acquired three companies in quick succession. In December, it purchased Trilogy Fragrances; in June, it acquired controlling interest in Oscar Blandi hair care and this month, it bought Freeze 24•7. Purchase prices were not disclosed. The acquisitions come at a time when demand for personal care products is beginning to grow again.
“I think the personal care industry is in better shape than most industries,” he told Happi.com. “I see a lot of creativity starting to bubble up again. It’s very exciting.”
Trilogy operates as a fragrance oil supplier that specializes in the natural personal care space. According to Robinson, Trilogy has a tremendous amount of potential and there were additional financial resources that were needed to aggressively grow the business.
“TPR Holdings has provided those resources and we are seeing the business dramatically increase,” said Robinson. “Trilogy is supplying many major natural products companies that manufacture personal care products. We anticipate that business continuing to grow and are using our industry contacts to set the business up for a fantastic future.”
Robinson has had his eye on Oscar Blandi for nearly four years, but the hairstylist and entrepreneur initially balked at the advances in order to make sure Robinson was the right partner for him.
“The company was being run in a very entrepreneurial manner and needed a strong infrastructure to go to the next level,” recalled Robinson. “TPR is able to offer that infrastructure and we are already seeing the benefits in cost reductions (and more) only three weeks into the acquisition.”
Although TPR acquired controlling interest in the company, Robinson insists that Blandi remains very involved on the creative side and will continue to make on-air and in-store appearances and also remains a committed shareholder.
According to Robinson, the prestige hair care category is a very attractive place to be with great valuations and Oscar Blandi has plenty of room for expansion.
“Right now, Oscar Blandi products are not in any material international distribution besides Canada. We intend to expand international distribution materially and position Oscar as one of the only true prestige celebrity stylist brands.”
Robinson said his group was drawn to Freeze 24/7 because of its fantastic packaging and its great sell-through history.
“The company had some financial problems that we didn’t think were reflective of the brand,” recalled Robinson. “In speaking with key retailers and international distributors, the feedback we received was that there was still great potential in the Freeze brand.”
He noted that the barriers to entry in women’s skin care are very high and to have the ability to enter the market with somewhat of a proven commodity was very attractive to TPR.
“Additionally, there are only really a handful of SKUs, and we see many brand extension possibilities,” Robinson explained. “(It’s) a long-term project but one with major potential.”
Robinson explained that TPR Holdings’ corporate strategy is to use its entrepreneurial experience along with its existing infrastructure to more efficiently operate consumer products businesses.
“We can effectively wipe away much of the G&A (general and administrative expense) of most consumer products companies. We are also acquiring businesses that are slightly smaller than traditional private equity firms like to invest in,” he told Happi.com. “Additionally, many private equity firms invest in management. Historically, businesses the size of the ones we invest in have weak management, further limiting the ability of PE firms to invest. We act as management so we don’t worry about whether the existing management has the ability to scale the business.”
Now, Robinson wants more, and is focusing on the direct sales channel, which he described as a “white space” to most of the top players but, by virtue of its importance in markets like Brazil and Mexico, it’s a channel people will be looking more closely at in the next decade. Beauty devices are also of interest to TPR Holdings.
Looking ahead, Robinson said TPR Holdings will continue to scale its business and bundle its brands to domestic retailers and international distributors.
“We have a model that’s very difficult to duplicate,” he insisted. “I expect that the next 36 months will be a time of strong top and bottom line growth. We have just added another 45 seats in our corporate offices and intend to fill the entire space by end of 2012.”