As the Blizzaster of 2011 swept through the country, it left salon closings, client cancellations, staff absenteeism and even broken water pipes in its wake. While salon and spa sales are typically sluggish in January and February anyway, this wintery hiccup is causing a ripple of panic as owners study their monthly sales projections. But we've found many owners won't take it while sitting buried in the snow, and they're actively communicating with clients and extending hours and days to keep guests on schedule, developing special winter promotions and even helping guests dig out their car. Follow this running blog, as owners share their stories, and owners and salon coaches offer suggestions for recouping lost sales:
Ginny Eramo, Interlocks Salon and Day Spa, Newburyport, MA: "On February 2, we were forced to close the salon/spa until 3 p.m.-it was the first closing due to a storm in our 22 year history! Typically, winter storms drive customers IN. People find themselves with an unexpected âsnow day' and the phones start ringing with inquiries for warm and nurturing spa services. Some clients use the opportunity for lengthy salon services that they have difficulty pre-booking. Our typical challenge with winter storms is getting the staff to work! They too, want a âsnow day,' and that's why I own an SUV. Any staff members who state they cannot get to work is offered a ride by the boss. We've recovered the loss of business due to the shut down last week. Fortunately, Valentine's Day is driving sales in all departments. Our next planned event is a Winter Whiteout Sale to clear out retail inventory that we've grown tired of to replace it with some new, exciting lines. We're going to poke some fun at the snow we've all grown to resent, and turn it into a whimsical theme. We'll be setting up a large display of products, complete with indoor snow banks made of cotton batting, and discounting products at 70 percent off to clear them out."
Angela Pantaleone, VC Salon, Robbinsville, NJ: "If there's one thing that we've found, it's that for every snow-day cancellation, there's a âsnow warrior' who has an unexpected day off and is looking to fill their time. We only close if the state declares a 'state of emergency', although we may declare a delayed opening. The first line of defense is to communicate with the guests. We start posting any delayed openings the evening before on our Facebook page. We insure that we change our phone messages after hours to alert guests to the fact that we plan to be open. As soon as we come in, we start Facebook postings to alert guests to the fact that we are ready for business with last minute openings available. We've found that an appointment book can quickly fill with reservations once guests know you're available, and often they look at it as an opportunity to experience new services. We advertise massage specials for people tired of shoveling snow, last minute opportunities for Keratin Blow Outs (which due to time constraints can be difficult to book last minute), and manis and pedis for chapped hands and feet. And finally, we invite our friends with âcabin fever' to just stop in and join us for coffee or hot chocolate if they just want to get out of the house! While not every technician is able to make it to work during a snow day, we find that our guests are very willing to be accommodated by another technician, and trust the talent of the staff to know any of our technicians can provide the services they need. And for the guests who see our postings and can't make it in, our specials often provide ideas for services that they would like to book when they are finally mobile again."
Marian Sang, Manager, Omagi Salon, Louisville, KY: "For everyone who had to cancel due to snow, we offered them a mini, complimentary express manicure or complimentary paraffin dip for chapped, dry hands from the weather. This was offered to any guest who canceled as an incentive if they re-booked within the next seven days of their missed appointment. The vast majority of guests who had to cancel took advantage of this offer so we were able to recapture those lost appointments quickly. Clearing snow off cars and sidewalks takes a toll on one's hands, and our guests really appreciated this opportunity to pamper and care for their hands at no cost to them. In many instances, guests upgraded to full manicures and pedicures. It was truly a win-win proposition."
Deb Hunt, Salon and Spa Coaching, a part of IEmpower Consulting (salonspacoaching.com): "In this crazy weather, we need to be focused on doing what we can to service our guests to the best of our abilities, as well as keeping the income flowing into your business. Here are a few tips that will support your success: 1. Reschedule your guests into your schedule this week if possible. If you can keep the revenue in the week it was originally scheduled, you will have less financial long-term loss. 2. Add additional hours this week to cover your ability to serve ALL guests who had appointments. This will allow you to serve anyone who had appointments this week but had to reschedule. 3. Keep your guests posted on salon updates and activities via e-marketing. Let them know you are extending hours. 4. Give a small, inexpensive add-on service complimentary for coming in the same week. (Think conditioning service for hair, skin or nails or a paraffin dip.) 5. Make sure you are managing your retail and backbar budgets. Now is not the time to be overspending. 6. Create a pre-booking promotion and get all your guests to pre-book their next appointment to be in the drawing for a free product or service. It will help you in the long run if you have more guaranteed clients in your future books to recover from the financial loss of being closed. Create a STRONG gift certificate special and send it out via e-mail to all your guests. This will help generate cash flow.
Cindy Landa, Estilo Salon and Day Spa, West Des Moines, IA: "When the city shuts down, I find it's a perfect time to be open. Last week we had such a day and all staff members were in by noon, once the roads were plowed, and our books were full. The phone was ringing off the hook to see if we could get kids in that were out of school. Mothers were home and decided to use their time wisely by bringing the kids in with their service. Teachers were off and wanted in to save their weekends and were moving up. I even got a thank you note from a client thanking us for being open. In the 35 years I have been doing hair, I can think of only one time I could not make it to the salon. I would not expect anyone to risk their life to come to work, but when you live in the Midwest, we have great snow plowing crews throughout city and state. By the way, we had a huge day, as others were closed."
Rusty Phillips, Belle Epoque An Atelier Salon, Kansas City, MO: We were definitely impacted by the blizzaster. We had to shut down on the day of the storm it was so bad, and we've never had to close due to weather before. The day after, we had all of four clients who kept their appointments. My salon coordinator (he's definitely OCD) came to the salon Tuesday prepared to spend the night knowing he would get snowed in answering the phone and rescheduling appointments for that day. He did spend the night in the salon, as the streets were too bad to drive on. On Wednesday, he awoke to the phone ringing off the hook. Most of that day got rescheduled as well. The stylists had consented to work late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to make up for cancelled appointments. However, we had no idea that on Thursday morning we would come to the salon with a small river running down our street from a water main break due to the frigid temperatures. We had no water, so Thursday and Friday were a âwash' for us as well. By the time Saturday came, all of us were ansiously awaiting being able to come to work. We had a record day in service sales, as well as retail sales. The other good thing to come out of this was that I got interviewed, as well as my salon coordinator by two different TV stations. It was GREAT free publicity!
Eric Fisher, Eric Fisher Salons, Wichita, KS: "We are thanking our clients with a product offer for âweathering the weather!' Our stylists are offering guests the opportunity to rebook with extended hours the rest of the week. Our assistants offer clients help with stuck cars! Two of our assistants stayed busy all day for client who chose to come in for their appointments."
Sara Cruncleton, Spa Director, Ihloff Salon and Day Spa with locations in Tulsa and Norman, OK, and Kansas City, Kansas: "All of our locations have been affected by the weather conditions. In our entire 30 years, we have only had to close our business twice due to weather. Once in 2007 when all of Tulsa was hit with an ice storm and power was out all over the city, and the second time this past week when all of our locations were hit by blizzard conditions and we made the difficult decision to close in order to assure the safety of our guests and team members. The weather has had a devastating impact on our business and on the incomes of our staff, as well as so many of our industry friends in other states! We don't necessarily need to offer discounts to get our guests in the salons and spas, we just need clear roads! Last Saturday when the roads had cleared, our guests were booking like crazy and were all so happy to get in to us. Sadly, that was short lived at our Utica location due to a water pipe break on 21st that forced us to close our doors again. That closing was such a disappointment to our team and to our guests. In order to make up for these lost days, we are putting all of our focus on our Valentine's Day gift sales. The great thing about our gift sales for this upcoming holiday is that even if people are snowbound and can't get out, we can still help them with their gifting needs through our website gift wish lists, gift card sales and phone gift card sales. Then when the sun comes back out and the streets are cleared, we will all be ready to take care of all of our guests' beauty and wellness needs!"
Jim Powell, Natural Concepts, Greenwood, IN: "We were closed two days due to ice and snow. We made up for some of the business loss by opening extending hours the latter part of the week and Saturday to work in clients who were unable to make their appointments. We are also starting our Valentine's Day specials early and continuing them longer to help lost revenue. We are serving wine and chocolates at our bar to pacify guests, while they wait for their services. We are hoping the worst weather is past, and Spring is around the corner."
Barri Allen, A Signature Hollywood Salon, O'Fallon, IL: We have been hit hard this winter with the Blizzaster 2011. We have had to be closed 2 days and have been impacted on several other days by reschedules. As soon as we get to the salon after a snow day, our salon coordinator starts making calls to reschedule the guests we missed. Fortunately she is diligent about getting in touch with them and getting them rescheduled. We have been extremely busy, once the guests can get into the salon. They are excited to be out of their houses. We have been doing e-mail blasts reminding guests of the Spring things we have planned and what is happening in the salon right now, trying to keep up the momentum. I believe we have lost about $3,000 but we are going to make it up."
Lisa Martin, Operation Spa (operationspa.com): "Here's a few promotional ideas to boost winter weather-related sales: 1. Have a âSnow Day Celebration!' Staff could wear personalized T-shirts saying âWe Survived Blizzard 2011!' or just plain white Ts. Offer snowflake cookies and hot chocolate with peppermint sticks, white chocolate chips, etcâ¦Offer special services that day, special discounts or an add-on upgrade special to each service. 2. On the flip side, do a beach-themed Staycation for those who can't escape to somewhere warm. You could offer a special package, including a hot-stone massage, pedicure and facial with a warming mask or steam. Play music that has a surfing-Hawaiian theme or just the sound of water crashing on the beach. For added atmosphere, get the candle or spray fragrance from Yankee Candle called âSun & Sand.'"
Denise DeAngelis, Pittsburg, PA: "I listened to the forecast and had people come in a day early or a day later. I didn't lose an appointment, because I planned ahead."
Dawn Blom, Dawn's Pizzazz, Danbury, CT: "We had to close for a few days. We posted our delays or closings on Facebook and through local TV stations, and we called clients to reschedule. Our policy has been to have clients cancel on us, but the way our part of the country has been affected by Ole Man Winter this year, we wanted our team and clients to be safe! We have extended our hours to accommodate everyone, and it's been as busy as the holidays."
Joseph Golshani, Joseph and Friends, Atlanta, GA: "We used email and texting to inform our clients and staff of closings. We also created extended hours, plus opened on Sunday and Monday."
Vivian Moore, Mitchell's Salons and Pump Salon in Cincinnati, OH: "Due to the weather, we've had late openings and have let staff go early if books wipe out. With nearly 400 staff to notify, with some living over an hour's drive from work, it's crucial we have a notification system in order to have minimal number of staff on the roads in the mornings before finding out. We make a decision by 7 a.m. I notify TV stations and start calling my side of the âsnow tree', while my partner posts on our Facebook and Twitter employee page and starts calling his side. Within minutes, between social media, a good plan and an incredible staff, word is out. Within another few minutes, the 9 a.m. clients for seven locations have been notified, and the others are being worked on. Other than a few unavoidable hiccups (wrong telephone number in our system or clients electric out/no access to the media) it pretty much works like a charmâ¦well, as long as we don't count me crying in the corner over lost business. LOL"
Inez Gray, Habitude, Seattle, WA: "Our culture at Habitude is that we SHOW UP snow or no snow. If you do miss work, because of weather we require that you trade for another day within the pay period to accommodate your guests. We send out an email in the morning that we are warm and toasty and open for business and we are always busy. For every client that cancels, we have another within walking distance eager to escape cabin fever! We LOVE snow days!"
Jason Hall, RED 7 Salons, Chicago and Evanston, IL: "Both locations had to close early this past Tuesday and all day Wednesday. We did open again our normal hours on Thursday, but had to deal with numerous re-scheduled appointments. Bottomline, so much snow really freaked people out and they didn't want to leave the house. Our team members have been real troopers and have all had great attitudes, even when their commutes home were monsters. They know it was nothing we could control. The loss of revenue has not been huge, but noticeable. The test will be to review the numbers in a couple of weeks and compare with previous incidents like this. With the difficult weather and the Super Bowl on the weekend, it's not been the greatest for biz, but all will turn around. It always does if you focus on the right things."
Donna Watkins, Hairy's Salon, Lebanon, MO: "Inclement weather is always a challenge for our industry. If we close, we lose business. If we open, we may not have any guests, and being a team based salon, I have paid each member an hourly wage for nothing. I have an amazing team and that is why last Monday (our day off) when the forecast was sounding ominous, I called the team and explained that we would need the revenue for the week and that I thought we should call Tuesday's guests to come in that day. They dropped what they were doing and came in to take care of our guests. The guests were thankful and excited that they didn't have to worry about re-scheduling their hair appointments. We missed one day, but everyone stayed late to make up. I believe it takes a cohesive group of people going in the same direction, to make anything possible!"
Jenna Rabideau, Halo Salon and Color Lab, Fort Worth, TX: "Blizzaster! What a perfect description. My salon was impacted by the horrible weather for a week. My staff could not get into work, and the entire city was essentially closed for an entire week. The first day was okay, but by the fourth I was nearly hysterical with fear over the lost revenue. I pay my stylists salary so I was conflicted as to whether to pay them for the time they were unable to work. Ultimately each one of my team members reached out to me and told me not to worry about the snow day pay. They are all so awesome. We did open up on a day we are traditionally closed (Monday) to makeup for lost revenue. During the storm my anxiety was so high partially because I could not reach out to those who had made appointments. The database was at the salon and it is quite a distance from our house. Finally on the 4th day, my husband drove to the salon (it took him over and hour its usually 20 min) and got a copy of the database so we could make calls from our home. Knowing that my clients would not recognize the phone number from my home, I sent out a constant contact email asking them to answer a phone call from our number. The clients were so appreciative that I was trying to get them in as soon as possible. I ended up making payroll but had to put off paying other bills for a week or so. My stylists know that we have been hit hard and we really come together as a team so they have really been working hard on upgrading services and product sales. It will definitely take several weeks to recover. I am considering buying business interruption insurance to cover such instances. I have factored in the temporary loss of some of my staff members (including myself) but I never anticipated having the salon closed for a week. One of the most difficult times of my being a salon owner."
Pat Helmandollar, Savvy Salon and Day Spa, Cornelius, NC: "I was stranded in Hartfort, CT in the airport, but was lucky enough to get a room at the Sheraton/airport, which is pretty cozy, actually. Via e-mail and phone, I coordinated with my assistant systems administrator, my daughter, Lauren. (She has a self-appointed title.) Thank goodness for technology. Additionally, my graphic artist created an e-blast that we sent out each day to over 5,000 clients regarding our status. The first day we decided to close was Monday, Jan. 10 with 14 service providers scheduled for appointments. The e-blast went out early that morning informing them that we would be closed that day and to contact Lauren and gave her e-mail address. She linked into Salonbiz via GoToMyPC and was able to access the appointments remotely and to respond to every client, reschedule them and contacted all of the service providers as well. Then came Tuesday. Out went another e-blast. We would try to open at from 1:00 PM â 8:00 PM that day. We had about ten service providers show up that day with 32 clients. At the end of business we closed the day with a rather low revenue amount, but not bad for such inclement weather. Our actual âcash' portion of our deposit that day was $2.00! We rallied the troops and most agreed to pick up extra hours and days. When our month ended, we finished with revenues above projections, even if we hadn't been closed! There was great jubilation and celebration amongst the team. They did it! What I think the clients liked the best were the e-blasts that we sent out. We use Constant Contact for that and it is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to connect with a large amount of people at the same time. All of this was going on and I was most comfortable in my hotel room reading my book and ordering room service!"
Joseph Cartagena, Genacelli Salon, Chicago, IL: "We did have to shut down for two days and are taking care of all the guests that we had to cancel. Lost sales are lost sales. You can try to recoup, but if you have high productivity you are not gaining that much. The Jan-Feb lull is just about over and the books are getting busier already. We have a newsletter that is sent to guests on a regular basis to keep up on ALL that we do and have done. It sparks interest in the sense of âWow, look what they are doing!' New services, and slow services if need be, are put out there and our commitment to education shows that we are consistent with âquality.' Our latest e-blast is entitled âShrug off Your Winter Blues.'"
Angela Justice, Payton Place Salon, North Little Rock, AR: "We post our weather status on our Facebook page, and we also change our voicemail to reflect it. If we know ahead of time, we will try to move appointments up and get them in before the bad weather. If that is not possible, and the weather hits, we get back to work the soonest possible, even if it is a Sunday. We do whatever it takes. We call everyone and let them know, and get them back on the book asap!"
Mary and Scott Randolph, Randolph's Salon, White Lake, MI: "We Michiganders are very resourceful when it comes to snow. In our 20 years, we have never closed the salon for inclement weather, and it's amazing how many guests dig their way to an appointment. In order to accommodate the less hearty souls, it is our policy for stylists to add hours to their week to accommodate canceled guests. Our philosophical approach to customer service is ingrained in every stylist to do whatever it take to exceed guest's expectations, including comeing in early, adding a day, etc."
Terrence McKee, Nuovo Salon Group, Sarasota, FL: "I thought I was so clever flying to NYC on Christmas Day to have some time away and get my fashion fix. To make a long story short, because I was stuck with a full, full book waiting for me (most of my guests book the entire year in advance), it was a tribute to my team as we pulled together to do whatever it took to get me home and reschedule guests!"
Kendall Ong, Mane Attraction Salon, Phoenix, AZ (Yes, Phoenix): "Our strategy for the Blizzaster of 2011 (love the name) was to recommend the Aveda Sun Care Protective Veil, a wonderful sun screen for hair with UVA and UVB protection. Phoenix was a balmy 65-75 degrees for most of the storms. We did have a âcold snap' however, where our temperatures were in the upper 20s, that was above zero. Fortunately, the blizzaster didn't really affect our business."
Steve Schaaf, Tranquility Salon and Spa, Hainesport, NJ: "WE HATE SNOW! OK, I feel better now. We have a standard procedure we follow in the event snow is coming. If we kind of know it's coming overnight, we will block out the morning and call clients to reschedule them (and let employees know) the day before. Clients and staff appreciate that they don't have to worry or call in the morning and can concentrate on digging out. Also, with time, we can carefully re-schedule clients without doing it in a rush. In order to minimize loss of business, we will ask staff to add some hours outside of their normal schedule. They will do it as it means additional money to them. We do find that we get many add-ons on a snow day as clients home from work have some free time."