Sonya Dove is co-owner of Doves Studio by DNA in Santa Monica, where 30-40 percent of clients...
Sonya Dove is co-owner of Doves Studio by DNA in Santa Monica, where 30-40 percent of clients receive extension services. Here, Dove models Hairdreams' Quikkies which gives her bob extra fullness. Photo by Nicolas Troncin.

In the past five to 10 years, hair extensions have evolved from a fad to a must-have service for many women. Whether they’re fashion-forward ladies who want to add flare to their style or guests seeking a solution to thinning hair, the service has become part of their beauty ritual.  

At The Doves by DNA in Santa Monica, California, Sonya Dove finds many clients just want more density and thickness to their style.

“Thickness is the issue, in addition to length,” says Dove, who is a Hairdreams ambassador. “When people grow their hair out, it ends up thin and so spindly that it breaks.”

Trend-setting cities like Los Angeles and New York were the obvious markets for extensions at first, but now salon owners all over the country are finding the service in high demand.

Michael Willis, owner of Lyndia Willis Hair Spa in Louisville, Kentucky, says his extension clientele is diverse.

“I got into extensions about 10 years ago when I had to refer a client to another salon because we didn’t carry anything to lengthen or thicken hair,” he says. “She had a bad experience, so I partnered up with Hairdreams to carry extensions and get educated on doing the service.”

About eight months ago, Tim and Debbie Callahan, owners of Xpressions Salon Spa & Boutique in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, also started offering extensions. 

“With all the options extensions provide, any client who sits in your chair becomes a potential extension client,” Debbie Callahan says.

To date, the salon has 22 extension clients, which might not seem like a lot, but on average, these clients will spend an additional $1,025 more per year than what they were already spending on services.

“These clients range from those with just a few extensions for a non-chemical highlight or a pop of color to a complete head of extensions,” Debbie Callahan says. “These services not only improve top line growth, but also impact the bottom line, as they can be completed in the same time frame as many existing services but offer as much as four to five times the gross profit in the same amount of time.”

“There is no typical extension client,” says Danny Leclair, co-owner of The Doves by DNA. “The reasons for the need vary from a permanent fix to a chronic problem to temporary use for an event like a wedding, to a solution that bridges the gap from one hair state to another.”

At The Doves by DNA, the decision to add extensions to the menu was made about six years ago. 

“When we did our first education class, we gave models complementary extensions, and clients would then go out and recommend us,” Dove says.

Word-of-mouth continues to be a powerful marketing strategy for Dove.

“Before-and-after pictures on social media and on our website draw a lot of attention, as well as look books scattered around the salon,” she says.

Michael Willis and the team from Lyndia Willis Hair Spa in Louisville, Kentucky.

At Xpressions, the Callahans rely on social media, ads in the newspaper, in-salon advertising and demonstrations at bridal events. However, the most effective advertising was their own staff members wearing extensions.

“After we applied them to our stylists, it sparked client conversation,” Debbie Callahan says. “It also allows clients to see the product up close.”

When Willis started carrying extensions, he didn’t go after new clients; he focused on the ones who were already in his chair.

“People in our salon already needed answers to some of their hair problems,” he says. “Once that was expanded on, word-of-mouth became huge for us.”

Willis likens the service to getting Botox; It’s just another maintenance, anti-aging service for women. However, he does service the fashion market as well, including women participating in beauty pageants and ones looking for something more edgy.

“A shot of pink in the bangs or a piece of hair that lies underneath to give small glimpse of color are a big trend right now,” he says.

Maximizing the Service

The first step in an extensions service is the consultation, Dove says.

“We must establish the client’s lifestyle first,” Dove says. “Does she change her color every five minutes? If so, that presents a challenge. We need the client to stay in the realm of similar shades to match up the color of extensions.”

Next, Dove starts a conversation about the reasons why the client is pursing the service, then narrows it down and chooses the right extension for her—something permanent, a short-term extension or a combo of both.

"Getting extensions is like getting Botox--It's just another maintenance anti-aging service for women."--Michael Willis, owner of Lyndia Willis in Louisville, Kentucky

Once a client has a complete consultation, which takes about 30 minutes, and made the decision to commit to the service, the salon moves quickly to make it happen.

“We match the color, order the hair, and it only takes 24 hours to arrive,” Dove says. “The speed is unbelievable, and there’s a wide range of colors.”

Waiting a couple weeks for extensions to be delivered isn’t an option for Dove—it gives the client too much time to change her mind. The salon asks for 50% of the service to be paid up front, but clients may still try to back out if given too much time to re-think their decision.

Thirty to 40% of clients at The Doves by DNA receive extension services, with some opting for Quikkies, which last six to eight weeks and only take an hour to apply, and others choosing Nanos, which are individual bonds that last five to six months.

A client with thinning hair shows the difference extensions can make. Image by Hairdreams.

“The Nano clients must have them serviced in between appointments,” Dove says. “They come in for a 15-30 minute tidy-up every six to eight weeks, which makes them last longer, and that service costs about half the price of a cut and blowdry.”

In the past, many clients decided against the Nanos due to time—it took six to seven hours to apply the extensions—a long time to sit in the chair.

“But now it only takes about two hours for a full head of permanent extensions,” Dove says. “We have a gun that puts in five of them at a time. You load them in a cartridge, and it’s very easy. The time was cut down and business went up.”

Extension clients also bolster a salon’s revenues by getting regular cut and color services. The hair needs to be maintained on a regular basis to keep the extensions looking their best.

Lyndia Willis has reaped significant additional revenue from extension services. The salon is a small, boutique business with only three stylists (including Michael Willis), and extension services have doubled their profits in the past 10 years.

“About 80% of my clients have extensions,” he says. “In one year, a client can average spending $7,500-8,000 on extensions alone.”

Profitability and Growth

Dove and Leclair have also seen a big revenue boost from extension services.

“Revenue from extensions is about 8-12% at any given time,” Leclair says. “Because the service is a higher ticket item, it only represents about 5% of all services, but it generates higher revenue to the salon (approximately $500-1,500 per client).

Like color, extensions are a service clients must maintain regularly, and Dove says once they’ve tried it, they’re addicted.

“When you have them, you feel bald when they come out,” she says. “Especially if you have thin hair.”

At Blo Out Lounge and Colour Bar in Hamilton, New Jersey, owner Caterina Young has been offering extensions for about a year and a half and already has 25% of her clientele receiving the service, with that number increasing weekly.

“Our extension services are offered two different ways and in two different price brackets,” Young says. “Because we are a full-service hair lounge and a blowdry bar, we have a lounge price for someone who wants hair extensions for volume and length, and we also have a bar price for someone who just wants added volume. Both services are extremely affordable.”

Extension clients prebook appointments to maintain their new look.

“Our extension clientele spends approximately $2,700-3,000 a year on hair and application services,” Young says.

Extensions help clients realize their hair dreams from thicker, longer hair to bold color. Image by Hairdreams.

Leclair adds that extensions and certifying stylists to do them creates a lot of opportunity in your salon.

“It allows us to see a broader sector of the market place and keep them under one roof,” he says. “There is the growth of those service dollars, then there is the reduction of the loss of clients to a salon that offer the service, there is the growth of the supporting services like cut and coloring to help match the extensions, and there are the products that support the service and extensions.”

“If I had to guess, having extensions contributes a good 15% growth in total opportunities per year, which has an equitable impact to our revenue and bottom line.”

Willis advises working it like you’d work chemical or cuts.

“People are coming for answers to problems,” he says. “Numbers-wise, extensions have been tremendous for us. But it’s a phenomenal thing to be a doctor of hair and solve hair issues. To tell a client you have an answer to their problem is huge. Helping them is the biggest profit.”

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