We're all looking for signs that economic times are improving, and service industries are a good bellwether of how confident consumers feel about the state of the economy. This month we asked leaders from the salon industry if they see a light at the end of the tunnel:

"What signs do you see that we are emerging from the recession?"

Perspectives: Signs We Are Emerging From The RecessionRocco Altobelli
Founder, Rocco Altobelli Salons and Spas

I BELIEVE THE ECONOMY has come back, but it is a new economic reality and probably won't ever return to what we remember. With our salons, we are not focusing so much on growth, but on working within the new reality by renegotiating leases and making the best use of smaller spaces.

The one "benefit" of the recession was that we focused even more on customer service and letting our clients know we care. We offered complimentary bang trims and adjusted our hours to accommodate clients' needs.

Some clients who visited lower priced salons during the recession, out of financial need, are now returning to us. They are feeling more secure and are willing to pay more for results with less concern about lower prices.

Clients are starting to again pamper themselves, and the facial business in our spas is better than ever. Waxing services are also up.

I have a large private label product business in addition to the salons and spas, and am encouraged enough by business that our company is launching a new natural hair care line, a new prescription facial system and a new men's line.

Perspectives: Signs We Are Emerging From The RecessionSydney Berry
President/Owner of Salon Services & Supplies

OUR SALON CUSTOMERS at Salon Services have moved from a survival mode to a renewal mode. They have survived the bad economy and are now developing new options to strengthen their business.

Salons are re-positioning themselves and investing in more staff training as part of building their clientele. We are seeing a stronger internal focus on building a salon infrastructure that is designed to support the retention of clients and tap into the new clients that are re-appearing from the economic doldrums.

Our salon customers are also venturing into new marketing strategies like social media and Groupon and LivingSocial promotions. A lot of salons are also investing in in-salon events that focus on various services and new retail opportunities for clients. Again, the emphasis in no longer on surviving, but on renewing the business to fit the new economy.

Perspectives: Signs We Are Emerging From The RecessionTom Porter
President and CEO of Malibu Wellness

FOR US AT MALIBU WELLNESS, the most significant signs that indicate our nation is moving from the depths of the recession is the increase in inquiries that we are receiving from salons and spas about expanding their mini-treatment category.

This is a special service category and indicates to me that consumers have more disposable income and are spending money on services that don't just improve appearance, but improve the health and feel of their hair, as well.

Two years ago, the salons that we were hearing from were using our products for "trouble shooting" to fix a problem. It was more of a reaction to something that had to be "fixed." Now, more and more professionals are asking how to incorporate our products into their "natural treatments" menu. They are offering treatments as an extension of salon services, and not just to solve a problem, once it has occurred. We see a general growth trend at both the regional and national level in treatment categories. This demonstrates that clients are ready to spend money beyond the basics and indulge in conditioning and healing treatment products and services.

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