WHENEVER SALON TODAY explored niche markets in the past, we looked at different categories of clients, such as teens and tweens looking for edgy cuts, boomers searching for rejuvenating products and services, or expectant moms on the lookout for prenatal spa services. Our editors would discuss demographics, make a list of different client groups, then research the salons who catered to them.

As we started to discuss niche markets for this issue, we realized that a host of sociological and economical forces were converging to create brand new categories of clients who couldn’t be defined by their demographics alone. Global forces— such as the accessibility of information through the internet, the struggling economy, and the continuing mix of cultures— were reshaping these niche markets and creating new ones. And these new niches, while they may resemble the old ones on the surface, are seeking and consuming professional beauty services and products in very different ways.

For this article, we decided to focus on four of these new niches, explore the forces that are driving them, and showcase the salon and stylists who’ve strengthened their businesses by delivering exactly what these niches want. We hope our exploration will help you think about your clients in a different way, even encourage you to line up a new niche in your sights.

 


 

The Modern Man

By Kelly Cison

WITH SALES OF MEN’S GROOMING SERVICES AND PRODUCTS OUTPACING THE OVERALL BEAUTY MARKET, MANUFACTURERS, SALONS AND STYLISTS ARE TURNING THEIR ATTENTION TOWARD THE GUYS.

The New Target MarketsEVEN IN A SLOW ECONOMY, men are still showing up for their regular hair cuts, are less likely to appointment-stretch, and some salons report they are even trying new services. Industry data supports men care more about their hair and skin than ever before. According to Eufora, the men’s grooming market is outpacing the overall beauty market, and John Paul Mitchell Systems cites statistics that male consumers are spending a staggering $61.3 billion on grooming annually. Why?

A few reasons, according to Eufora: Men are working longer than ever before and need to look youthful and well-groomed to stay job competitive. They are delaying marriage and children, freeing up disposable income for prestige products and services; and nally, they have evolved their thinking to recognize the value of high-quality cuts and grooming.

As a result, many professional brands are rushing to meet the niche long catered to by American Crew. In the past few years, Aveda launched its Aveda Men Pure-formance line, Eufora unveiled Hero, Joe Grooming continued to grow its market share, and JPMS is debuting Mitch.

Today’s man no longer ts the molds of “metrosexual” or macho—rather, he is original, con dent, stylish and aspirational, say experts. And the salon industry is uniquely positioned to benefit from this modern male market, but only if they approach it the right way. Here’s how educated owners are capturing these clients.

Camouflage the gray. Men aren’t looking for dramatic color, but they do want to blend their gray. Demipermanent color done at the shampoo bowl takes 10 minutes and starts around $30. “Paul Mitchell’s Flashback service is 70 percent of our male color business,” says Bill O’Brien, co-owner of Floyd’s 99 Barbershops, which has 53 locations. “You just let it sit and rinse. Once a guy does it, he’s hooked.” O’Brien attributes the naturallooking results to helping a client land a job.

Keep private services private. Men don’t want to sit at a nail station or get waxed in the chair, say owners. At Emerson Joseph, a men’s grooming lounge with two locations in North Carolina, all manicures, pedicures, glycolic peels, body services and back and eyebrow waxing take place in private rooms. “These services would definitely not be as popular if they were out in the open,” says Kathy Lotierzo, operations manager. But no matter how satisfied men are with their nails or skin, don’t expect them to refer their friends. “They are not interested in doing that,” she laughs.

Find out what men really want. At the Men’s Grooming Lounge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, owner Jay Fata utilizes Eufora guest consultation forms with every appointment. It’s a useful part of a consultation, as male clients can jot down what they’re looking for and explain their needs without having to verbally detail their request for an upper back wax.

Offer a signature service. Lots of men love a hot towel shave, agree owners. But try adding luxury into a hair cut, as men enjoy pampering just as much as women. Emerson Joseph, which uses American Crew hair and shave care products, has a signature service that includes a shampoo, cut, shoe shine, mini mani, hand massage and hot towel service. With that one-stop service, “very few come in for just a cut,” says Lotierzo.

Skip the hard sell. Introduce services or products informally, like you would to a friend, recommends Fata, whose lounge carries Eufora’s Hero for Men line of hair, scalp and skin products. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their needs and to spell out how to use a product, he adds. “Guys are loyal and if you show you’re willing to help them, they’ll keep coming back.”

Don’t offer too many choices. That means creating a concise men’s service menu and streamlining your retail displays so men can nd what they need quickly. Make sure you limit the number of men’s lines, too, says Fata, who reports that aligning with only one brand increases sales 20 percent.

Get them comfortable. Decor doesn’t need to be overly masculine, but it shouldn’t feel like their mom’s salon either, says O’Brien, who favored hardwood and concrete oors and stainless steel counters for Floyd’s. A customized radio station, which is contracted out, ensures Floyd’s always has a great mix of music. Other ideas from owners that men love: a TV tuned to news or sports, a Playstation, a pool table, video golf, men’s selection of magazines, and complimentary beer, wine or soda.

Don’t keep them waiting. Floyd’s offers same-day service: “Men call when they realize they need a cut, not six weeks prior,” says O’Brien. And the Men’s Grooming Lounge offers walk-in-only appointments two days a week. But even with scheduled appointments, there is nothing more important than punctuality, declares Lotierzo, who says Emerson Joseph prides itself on running on time. And when male clients do arrive, greet them right away and escort them to their stylist’s chair.

Make them a member. Both salons and clients benefit from memberships. Guys simply pay a monthly fee for a certain amount of services as well as a few bonuses, like free neck clean-ups or the privilege of renting out a lounge for private use. Businesses ensure a consistent clientele, while men enjoy the added value and the no-hassle checkout—you just simply run their member number, and they’re on their way, says Lotierzo.

Don’t exclude women. Sounds counterintuitive, but O’Brien says men welcome seeing a woman client in the chair—it lends credibility to the Floyd’s brand. Plus, women average a higher service and retail ticket, and stylists will be more willing to join your team if they can bring their own clientele, which undoubtedly includes women. Finally, you get the opportunity to incentivize female clients to refer their male friends and family to your salon.

Time Crunchers

By Kelly Cison

EXPRESS SERVICES NOT ONLY TEMPT CLIENTS TO TRY NEW SERVICES, THEY HELP OUT THOSE LOYAL CLIENTS WHO ARE FEELING THE PINCH OF TIME AND MONEY, KEEPING THEM TRUE TO YOUR ESTABLISHMENT.

The New Target MarketsWHEN THE ECONOMY TURNED a few years ago, Aveda stepped up by developing its Beauty on Demand program, a menu of express services its salons could implement that gave clients a taste of a wellness service at a reduced price. With the launch of its Total Results line, Matrix developed its $5/5 minute conditioning service that introduce clients to the line right at the shampoo bowl. And, while color accelerators have been around for years, for the first time color manufacturers are beginning to embrace the technology developing fasterprocessing hair color.

Over the past decades, as more and more women have entered the workforce fulltime, there’s been an accelerated constriction on client’s time. More recent constrictions on budget though, have added to the interest for express services, because typically they yield similar results for a smaller price tag. Salons that develop an express service menu, not only help clients with their time and money constraints, they help maintain the loyalty of clients who may be tempted to stray to more budget-friendly salons.

While it’s common for salons to simply scale down traditional treatments like manicures or massage into mini services, the new generation of express services goes even further than that: think open-concept facial bars and rapid color processing and techniques. While the client obviously benefits, businesses do too, with increased bookings and flexibility with last-minute appointments. And though they may charge less for each service, smart owners make up for it with reduced personnel and equipment expenses. Take an express look at three ideas in accelerated services and how they are catering to the new niche:

Express Facial Bar. Like open concept color bars that changed the color department five years ago, the open concept facial bar brings new energy to skin care services. First conceived by Repêchage founder and CEO Lydia Sarfati, who developed treatments specifically for this environment, the idea is gaining traction as furnishing companies, such as Eurisko Design, step up to help spas design and furnish these new spaces.

One salon reaping the facial bar rewards is Rebellations Hair and Beauty Studio, an Arrojo Ambassador Salon in Hoboken, New Jersey. Their express facial bar eliminates the need for multipurpose rooms, which are costly to build and maintain. Rebellations’ facial bar treatments are priced $25-$95, compared to typical treatment room prices that can run $100-$200. Better yet, the out-in-the-open design allows other clients to view facial bar patrons as they recline in a chair and relax during their service. “That’s the beauty of it,” says salon manager Madelyn Alexander. “People see it and ask questions while their color is processing.” To further educate clients, a facial technician will walk around and greet salon guests, explain the facial bar treatments and let clients feel and smell the products that are used.

Not only is the facial bar design efficient, the services are quick too, ranging from just 20-30 minutes. Rebellations performs 15-20 treatments per week, with the $55 Seaweed Facial on the Go, which lasts 30 minutes, the most popular. Results are comparable to traditional facials, says Alexander, although extractions are not performed. As a bonus, “90 percent of facial bar clients buy retail,” she adds.

TCA—The Color Accelerator. TCA, The Color Accelerator from Dennis Bernard Inc. is a clear formula, which can be used with any manufacturer’s color line, and works by letting hair process at a higher heat so color flows into the cuticle more quickly, dramatically speeding up processing time. According to A.L. Segro, owner of Segro’s Lancaster Hairport in Pennsylvania, a 45-minute process can be reduced to 10 to 15 minutes. “It’s a big difference,” he says. “It gets people in and out quicker, which means you can do more services and make more money. We do three times the appointments in the same amount of time.”

While some salons charge extra for using TCA, Segro bundles the nominal cost of it into the color service. The extra time clients save alone keeps them coming back. And, Segro declares, their color will look amazing too. Since TCA causes the color molecules to completely dilate in the hair, you get more vibrant and longer lasting results. “When clients come back 4-5 weeks later, they have color like the day they left, minus the regrowth,” he says.

Express Baliage. Baliage, a freeform color painting technique popular with Hollywood stars and supermodels, is even faster and a third less expensive with the express version. Maxine Salon, a top beauty destination in Chicago, developed this service that “breaks the base color and adds softness and dimension” on any hair color.

Even color-shy clients are more tempted to try it. Because of the brush technique, baliage color tends to look more natural than foils and grows out beautifully too, with no lines of demarcation. That means there’s no expensive or time-consuming maintenance. Maxine’s front desk coordinator Esther Flores says their express version is the same process as regular baliage, with the only difference the amount and placement of the highlights. The express paints on up to 10 highlights, mostly around the face, takes 75 minutes and starts at $120. (To make it truly efficient, color can even be painted on at the shampoo bowl.) Compare that to partial baliage, which places more highlights around the crown of the head, takes an hour and 45 minutes and starts at $150; or even full baliage, which can take up to two hours and starts at $180.

As baliage itself becomes more popular, the express service continues to capitalize on client interest. “It’s an introduction to the process of baliage, and a good way for a guest to try it out,” says Flores. “When it’s this efficient, you might just gain a color client for life.”

The Blowout Bunch

By Karie Z. Bennett

CLIENT DEMAND for a finished look whenever they want drives a bi-coastal launch of a whole new kind of salon business. There’s a new breed of salon that doesn’t offer cutting or coloring services, and they don’t want to. The “blow dry only” concept is picking up speed, especially on both coasts, and everyone is curious about what’s behind this fast-growing phenomenon.

SALON TODAY turns the spotlight on two companies in this niche market: Drybar, which opened on the East Coast in February 2010, and Halo Blow Dry Bar, which opened on the West Coast in September 2010.

The New Target MarketsDrybar was created out of personal necessity by Alli Webb, a naturally curly girl, who was living in the humid climate of New York City. Webb dreamed of having the luxury of a weekly blowout, but wasn’t crazy about her choices: spend $70 at her upscale cut-and-color salon, or drop into a budget chain salon where the experience was anything but luxurious. An experienced stylist herself, Webb focused mainly on hair cutting but found her true passion in the styling of hair. After moving to New York City in her mid-20s to work for the late John Sahag, she got married, had two sons, and opened a mobile blow dry business that quickly took off, inspiring her to open Drybar.

Webb describes her business as a blow dry bar that focuses on blowouts with a $35 price tag. No variable pricing, no matter the length or thickness of the hair. She believes Drybar’s uniqueness comes from their “anti-salon” approach. “We don’t look, feel or smell like a salon. Drybar is set up like a bar where you can watch a chick flick, charge your iPhone, or chat with your girlfriends all while getting an amazing blowout in about 30-45 minutes. It’s all about the experience.”

The New Target MarketsHalo Blow Dry Bar opened its first location in Palo Alto, California. After working in the corporate world for 22 years, and raising her son, Rosemary Camposano was looking for a way to build a business from scratch, and retain the independence she had grown used to. A self-made woman who dropped out of college and was a part of the infancy of the technology boom, Camposano describes her business this way: “Halo is a unique hair salon that provides a wonderful shampoo with a fabulous blow dry. We create ‘that special day’ beauty at a reasonable price.” Camposano’s vision for Halo was to create an environment that is as hip and cool for the 45-year-old mom as it is for her teenage daughter. 

Many long-time salon owners wonder why a customer would choose to have a blow dry at a salon where they can’t have so much as a bang trim or a color touchup. Don’t we love the “one-stop shopping” experience?

Camposano responds, “I think the hair industry is evolving into three defined segments: Cut, Color, Style and Blow Dry. Some salons are going to choose to do them all in one location. Others will specialize. Women spend hundreds—even thousands—of dollars a year on the cut and color of their hair. But often they wear it un-dried and in a ponytail, because they can’t recreate the blown-out look their stylist gives them. It simply costs too much to go to a cut-and-color salon for regular blow dry services because their unique proposition is excellent cut and color at a higher price point. Styling doesn’t work in that business model.”

Marketing

And what seems to work very well for both businesses are their membership promotions.

Drybar offers the aptly named Barfly package:

For $125 per month a client receives:

• 4 Blowouts + 2 free Floaters (head/neck massage)

• 10% off all products

• At a savings of $30 a month

Halo takes it a step further and offers Annual Memberships for $1,400:

• 52 Fabulous Blowouts & Annual Savings of $420

• Their “Frequent Dryer tickets” are flying out the door as well, offering a discount for a package of 12 blowouts.

Sales for styling packages are brisk, and the marketing team is working on new ones all the time. Whether through Facebook, the websites or their main form of new client exposure— word of mouth—finding new clients doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Recruitment

Who are these stylists who just want to blow dry hair all day? Don’t licensed cosmetologists want to color and cut hair? Don’t they miss the artistry of the complete craft? Not really. Neither salon seems to have a problem finding stylists who just want to focus on styling. Their teams include newly licensed stylists who are brand new to the industry and just want to get their hands into hair, or stylists who left the industry and are looking to get back in, or even, on Halo’s team—stylists with just a couple of years experience who work part-time at another salon cutting and coloring, and make extra money at the busy Halo salon.

When asked if the part-time color/cut stylists ever discuss their other jobs while behind the chair at Halo, Camposano replies, “It’s all based on trust, and if a stylist poaches clients for another business—they do not work with us any longer. This has only happened once and was quickly resolved.”

Stylists are generally paid an hourly wage, plus they receive tips and some receive product sales bonuses, as well as increased hourly wages for special occasion off-site and bridal services. The hourly wage helps the business predict and budget for expenses. Blowouts are scheduled in 45-minute time slots, which allows for shampoo, blow dry and any necessary hot tool work. Stylists go through an “all-star training” at Halo, where they learn basic round-brush techniques as well as hot tool use and updos. Compared to longer hair cut and color training programs, which can be up to two years, this is a quick solution to get stylists on the floor and blow dryers in their hands.

Texture Tamers

By Stacey Soble

AS AMERICA’S MELTING POT CONTINUES TO BLEND AND THE DRIVE TO EMBRACE NATURAL CURL GROWS, CURLY CLIENTS SEEK OUT THE CURL PROS AT ANY COST.

BEFORE Stacy Hill launched her salon DyeVERcity in Augusta, Georgia, she dreamed of a place that welcomed all hair types, which let’s face it, meant a place that welcomed all ethnicities and the curl patterns that go with them. “Not that long ago, many things around here were segregated and mixed couples were taboo, but all that is changing,” she says. “But until recently, at least around here, salons were still segregated.”

“I’m not sure who started breaking that trend,” continues Hill. “But I saw people like Ted Gibson break that tradition, and I followed my love for all things hair, learning to work with any hair texture.”

Today, the dream is a reality, and DyeVERcity serves a population of 55 percent African- American clients, 30 percent Caucasian clients, and 15 percent Hispanic and Asian clients. If there is one thing Hill’s clients do share, it’s the fact that most seek her out because they struggle with their own texture.

Hill is among many salons who are discovering that women with curls, kinks, and whirls are among the most loyal clients—and when they find services and products that address their needs, money isn’t an issue. Specializing in curly hair not only brings a salon more clients, it can keep chairs full during down seasons and the accompanying wealth of new curl products and tools can add a welcome boost to the retail business.

Here are some strategies for breaking into the texture niche and keeping curl business booming:

Education is Key

The first step in developing a curl expertise is to seek the professional education that will give you the know-how. Classes can be found across the country, the most prominent coming from New York’s Deva Curl certification classes, which can last anywhere from one to three days and train stylists in the art of dry cutting, curl coloring and styling methods. In addition, Ouidad has a New York certifi- cation program, and aids in promoting newly certified stylists through its extensive e-mail database of curlies.

If you don’t want to commit to just one brand, there are several ways to gain more knowledge on the art of curly hair. NaturallyCurly and MODERN SALON Media host “Texture!” annually at America’s Beauty Show in Chicago, drawing hundreds of stylists who have the opportunity to ask questions and watch demonstrations from the biggest names in textured tresses. Additionally, attending beauty trade shows can offer the biggest bang for your education buck with curl-friendly product lines such as Ouidad, Hair Rules, As I Am, Jane Carter Solution, TIGI and Mizani showcasing the latest techniques for curls and kinks.

Join a Meetup

A Meetup group is a meeting which is attended by people with a shared interest, and they have gained tremendous popularity with women interested in maintaining, enhancing and controlling their curls. Meetups not only offer invaluable education for both consumers and stylists, they repesent an opportunity for stylists who want to help women transition from relaxers to natural hair styles. One of the largest natural hair Meetup groups comes together in the Dallas, Texas, where more than 1,600 curlies look for hair advice at the Nappiology Expo.

Key Martin, owner of Key Essentials Hair Studio in Atlanta, Georgia, is a regular at natural hair events. Earlier this year, she executed a Big Chop, a term used when a woman going natural, publicly cuts off all her relaxed hair. Recently, she hosted her first workshop, called “Key Essentials to Healthy Hair Care,” and she plans to make it a semiannual event. “We talked about what to do with natural hair and what different styles you can use to deal with heat,” she explained.

Tap the Grapevine

“Having curly hair is like a cult,” says Teresa DeLorenzo of Mademoiselle Salon and Spa in Haverford, Pennsylvania. “Two curly-haired women meet and right away they start talking about who does their hair.”

Hill agrees. “I have one client who found me through conversations she had with others at a funeral, and we have military women and wives who relocate here who’ll tell us they first heard when they were stationed overseas.”

More stylists and salon owners are finding unique ways to promote their curl expertise through the grapevine, and today’s grapevine is as much digital as it is face-to-face. With more than 500 million active users on Facebook, companies such as Schedulicity are helping stylists and salon owners fill their appointment books through their business fan pages.

Social media can be an especially powerful way for stylists to get new clients. DeLorenzo says online reviews and word of mouth are her main forms of recruiting business.

Hill takes it an extra step and offers clients a chance at a product giveaway when they write a review online and encourages them to post multiple reviews on different sites, such as Natural Curly, Yelp, Yellow Pages and Google.

Show and Tell

For curly girls, seeing is mandatory for believing. Says Hill, “While I can tell you I do every hair type, I have to show you pictures to break through those color barriers—and I get that from all nationalities. Clients tend to react to photos of women with hair types more like their own.” To capitalize on that, Hill takes lots of images of clients and posts them on her website and on her social media pages.

Make Waves on your Menu

Make sure your salon’s menu reflects your burgeoning curl expertise. “To a curlie, phases like ‘DevaCut,’ ‘Deva-certified,’ ‘Ouidad cut,’ ‘dry cut’ and ‘natural hair styles like braids, twists and weaves’ really mean something,” says Michelle Breyer, founder of the NaturallyCurly network. “Integrate those phrases and appropriate descriptions into your service menu and you’ll draw some attention— people are glad when they find you.”

Make it Live

A great way to spread the waves is by organizing or participating in a live event. Last year, Melanie Higgins-Day, owner of Seasons Salon and Spa in Lexington, Kentucky, organized “You’ve Got Curls,” a workshop which helped women understand the different curl types and the products appropriate for each type. Following the success of her workshop, Higgins-Day set up the website, gotcurls.com, which features videos and photos of her work, plus a blog.