With 10 locations in the Seattle area, Gene Juarez Salons & Spas boasts a long history as one of the predominant upscale salon and spa businesses in North America. Hair color is its strongest business segment, but President and CEO Scott Missad felt it was becoming more of a challenge to maintain the company’s leadership position in the hair-design arena.
“We wanted to go above and beyond being a luxury brand and continue to carve out a point of difference by re-energizing our expertise in hair design,” Missad says.
At the same time, the company’s leadership team identified the curly hair category as untapped potential.
“It’s an extensive category—much more than a one-off,” Missad says. “So we examined the product companies that were the market leaders in the category, but we wanted to do more than buy and sell their products; we really wanted to own the category in our market.”
Gene Juarez decided to partner with Ouidad, not only in carrying the line and educating guests on the specific products, but also by committing to put a number of their team members through Ouidad’s certification program. Missad started by surveying his staff to see how many would be interested in becoming certified in curls and was blown away that more than 100 showed interest.
With a mission of spreading the education throughout the salon company, Missad started by selecting a representation of the interested team members from each location to go through the first wave of the two-day certification program. With a large number of new students at Gene Juarez, Ouidad was happy to bring the training on site.
“There’s been a dynamic change in trends in the last few years, and younger women are embracing their natural curl,” says Ouidad CEO Pierre Lampert. “We take a double approach to curly hair. We’re not just a hair care brand, but also a professional haircutting education brand, and it all starts at the salon level.”
Carving & Slicing is Ouidad’s trademarked, curl-specific cutting technique that removes the bulk that causes pyramids. The technique enhances the natural curl pattern to achieve ringlets that fit gently into each other. Once a stylist has been trained in the certification program, she can analyze a client’s unique curl pattern and texture, factor in her history and customize a tailored plan to optimize the client’s curls.
“Curls need constant hydration,” Lampert says. “Our products back up the haircuts by replenishing lost moisture and nutrients to maintain the weight necessary for curl formation and definition.”
With another certification class scheduled later this year, Gene Juarez is delving into the category and backing it up with advertising, promotion and social media programs in each location.
“We came up with the theme, Gene Juarez Curly Hair Expert, and organized a curly hair photoshoot,” Missad says. “Through the shoot, we had images for banners throughout the salon, large window displays and glorifiers to be used on the station and on product shelves. We created brochures that can be given to clients at each location, identifying the different curl patterns and what they mean.”
Radio ads were also produced, and email newsletters were sent out to clients to inform them of the company’s new curly hair expertise. Clients could click on links in the email that led them to pictures and bios of the curly hair experts at the location nearest them.
In addition, the newly certified stylists are added to Ouidad’s geo-targeted website as curly hair experts, which will drive new clients seeking this expertise into Gene Juarez locations.
“For a client with curly hair, it can be a very long journey to finding a stylist who can best cut and treat their unique texture,” Lampert says. “When they do find one, they tend to be extremely loyal.”
For Gene Juarez, the newly developed expertise paid off in more ways than one. In the first four months, the salon company sold more than $180,000 in curly hair products—outpacing former sales in the category 10 to one.
“More importantly, though, it solidified our leadership position in that category in our marketplace and the marketing push behind it helped take us to another level—we made the message that our team members are curly hair experts as big and as unique as possible,” Missad says. “But it’s also given our team a new cutting edge and a sense of pride in their design capabilities.”
“Scott’s team is a well-oiled machine, and this partnership really demonstrated how salons can leverage the potential with the curly hair market,” Lampert says.