‘Not afraid of bigger brands’: TUFT’s Australia launch is the first step in bigger global ambitions

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

TUFT set to make its biggest export move yet with Australia launch. [TUFT]
TUFT set to make its biggest export move yet with Australia launch. [TUFT]

Related tags Hair care Hair care applications Australia

Singapore-based TUFT International is set to make its biggest export move yet with the launch of its professional-grade hair styling tools and devices in Australia this March.

The choice to launch its global expansion in Australia was mostly serendipitous, having secured a well-connected local partner it could trust intimately.

One of the key advantages of this partnership was that it was able to provide the brand with five after-sales centres in major cities and be a major strength for the brand.

With operations secured, the company said its goal for the next 12 months would be to make its entire range available in the Australian market.

It would also focus on building brand awareness with plans to engage influencers and hair professionals to drum up excitement.

Speaking exclusively to CosmeticsDesign-Asia​, Toh Kok Swee, CEO of parent company Tai Wah Distributors, said the first goal beyond that would be to open a local office serving Australia, highlighting his commitment to this expansion drive.

A new chapter

Its Australian debut will mark a significant milestone in the brand’s history, which started way back in 2001. However, the brand only began its global expansion in 2020.

Until recently, it had been a prudent choice to focus the brand on the business-to-business (B2B) space, where it has been very successful, said Toh.

Today, the brand’s pro-level hair tools and machines can be found in hair salons from South East Asia to Europe, as well as in hotels, spas, gyms, golf clubs and recreation clubs.

“We recognised that until now, we were not ready. It’s not easy; even now I think about the challenges that we will face as we expand. You’re under tremendous pressure to launch new innovations, new products on the market, even if it’s the same product in a different colour,” ​said Toh.

However, the company could not ignore the opportunities in the consumer market.

Viral how-to videos on heatless curls and the ‘bowl method’ still remain popular search terms on YouTube, according to Google Trends. This reflected consumers’ high interest in styling their hair at home.

In 2020, the company made a “calculated risk” ​by launching just one SKU, a hair iron, into the market.

“It was COVID, and our OEM business plateaued. We knew we couldn’t sit around and wait, so we just bit the bullet. At that time, there was a great shortage and we just so happened to be there with a product fresh out of the oven. I would say things went pretty well,” ​said head of business development, Maisy Foo.

Since then, the business has been growing two-fold annually despite challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Toh revealed to us that the company will take the brand to more markets across the globe in roughly three years.

Europe is one of the targets, where it can leverage its strong foothold in the B2B space. Another market the company has its eye on is South America, home to markets like Brazil, one of the most vibrant hair care markets.

While Toh has underlined many challenges the company faces in this international foray, one thing he is not worried about is the competition.

“Honestly, I am not afraid of the big brands. I think I have a competitive advantage because their operating costs are far higher than mine and I think I have better products.”

According to Foo, even some of the biggest brands operating in this space have very high defective rates, with percentages in double-digits. However, TUFT’s defective rate is less than 1% because of its engineering support.

Product development

This year, the company is set to unveil a new lightweight and compact digital hair dryer at Cosmoprof Las Vegas in July, which will feature “all the futuristic features and functions”,​ Foo hinted.

As it expands, the company will be pushing its research and development team, which is based in their product development centre in Guangzhou, China.

With the rapid development of the hair care market in general, the company see a lot of untapped spaces to play in.

For instance, there are opportunities to create more solutions for people who are wearing synthetic hair – a trend that has been growing rapidly, said Foo.

“We see a lot of opportunities in this space, if not we wouldn’t have made such a big commitment.”

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