TOPSYTAIL™, The $100 Million Hair Gadget that Could... And Did©

Back in 1991, while our New York fashion accessories sales rep showroom, Accessory Brainstorms, Inc., was figuring its way out of a national recession, we received a call from an editor of ACCESSORIES magazine about a great new hair invention called Topsy Tail™!, that was not a hair accessory but a hair tool.

The inventor, Tomima Edmark, had convinced the editor that the Topsy Tail™ had the potential to turn the accessories industry on its head and create a sales revolution despite the fact that it was only selling in a few boutiques at that time. The editor, knowing a good thing when she saw it, advised Dallas based Tomima to secure a New York sales rep that would sell it into the major department stores and provided her with several recommendations. Tomima selected Accessory Brainstorms, as we were already focusing on ‘out of the box’ accessory items that would get the media's attention and drive sales in the weak economy, We immediately reached out to buyers to introduce them to the product wonder that turned a ponytail inside out to make numerous beautiful hairstyles.

Meanwhile Tomima, a former marketing person for IBM, was busy at work securing a Direct Response TV (DRTV) deal. Topsy Tail™ would become the first fashion accessory to appear on a television commercial. Topsy Tail™ had all the makings of a successful DRTV campaign. It catered to a huge demographic --‘anyone who can ponytail can Topsy Tail™ was inexpensive to produce, it could be marked up for profit many times and still be offered at less than $20, it’s effect made people feel special and more attractive, it was simple to use, and had an element of magic. At about the same time of establishing the TV connection Tomima hired a New York public relations firm with credentials in promoting both fashion accessory and beauty products, to deliver the news on Topsy Tail™ into the hands and heads of American girls and women.

Even before the TV and PR campaign took hold, the department stores responded and orders started to roll in. Only Bloomingdales buyers turned down the Topsy Tail™, stating it did not fit into their product mix. When the media exposure did hit all hell broke loose. The department stores placed reorders for monthly deliveries for up to a year out. One morning we received an urgent telephone message from the top executive at Bloomingdales asking us to call their buyers ‘As soon as possible!’

Tomima had also hired sales reps in other key markets nationally. She had all targets covered. The orders were coming in so fast and furiously that she could no longer run the operation from her garage. She was running out of funds to produce the goods. A decision had to be made on how to keep up with demand. She formed an alliance with a DRTV company to fund the production of goods (allowing Tomima to retain oversight of quality control), run the TV campaign worldwide and oversee distribution

In addition, she established an extensive network of outsourced vendors to deal with everything from manufacturing to servicing retail stores; keeping her own company very small (3 full time employees) and creating an economy of scale. By allowing herself to focus on what she did best—which was creating the Topsy Tail™ , and effectively managing the business, she was able to capitalize on her whirlwind dream.

This tsunami of sales continued for well over a year in the US and reached into international markets as well. In the summer of ’92 while on vacation in Barcelona I was watching TV in my hotel room and lo and behold a Topsy Tail™ commercial appeared on CNN! After a year and a half, just as Topsy Tail™ had thundered into the marketplace, the storm had run its course.

The market was saturated and was ready for the next ‘big thing’ which was to be the HAIRDINI ™ , (but that’s another story.) By that time, Topsy Tail™ had generated over $100 million in sales to take its place as the best selling hair invention in history.

Joan Lefkowitz, an original marketer of TopsyTail ™, is president of ACCESSORY BRAINSTORMS, NYC, a licensing agency, sales representative and consultancy for Fashion/Beauty Accessory and Lifestyle Inventions. Accessory Brainstorms is always looking for inventions in these categories, and offers one-on-one consulting. ACCESSORIES Magazine awarded Joan for “Most Inventive Products” and cited her as one of the 100 most important accessories industry “Movers and Shakers”. Contact at www.accessorybrainstorms.com.