Nicole and Charles Gillick implemented some creative business strategies to keep their team booked and working after the shutdown, and so far the salon has beat their 2019 numbers month after month, despite the fact they are seeing fewer clients because of state restrictions. 
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Nicole and Charles Gillick implemented some creative business strategies to keep their team booked and working after the shutdown, and so far the salon has beat their 2019 numbers month after month, despite the fact they are seeing fewer clients because of state restrictions. 

With the holidays ahead, Blu A Color Salon in Valley Park, Missouri, is striving to make up for lost sales during the shutdown. Not only are they implementing new ideas that deliver what their guests and team members need in this abnormal year, they’re heavily leveraging their suite of technology tools to streamline processes, support their team and tap into new sales opportunities.

Owners Charles and Nicole Gillick admit that their holiday plans recently became more complicated as the rise of new COVID-19 cases spurred their governor to take the threshold for salon capacity back down to 25 percent. Despite the struggle, the Gillicks are proud of their team and their ability to beat 2019 numbers every month since they reopened in early summer, and they have every confidence that this trend will continue through the end of the year.

With the current 25% capacity restrictions from Missouri, Blu can only accommodate four clients at a time. So the Gillicks negotiated a month-to-month lease on a storefront four doors down, allowing them to create a pop-up salon that keeps their entire team working. 
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With the current 25% capacity restrictions from Missouri, Blu can only accommodate four clients at a time. So the Gillicks negotiated a month-to-month lease on a storefront four doors down, allowing them to create a pop-up salon that keeps their entire team working. 

Creating a Pop-Up

In fact, this is the third time the Missouri governor has taken salons to 25% capacity — Blu is prepared. After reopening this summer, the Gillicks approached their landlord about an open space four doors down from the salon. Renting it month-to-month at a reduced rate, they created a pop-up salon by installing a temporary floor, covering the walls in paper and artwork, and adding five appropriately distanced stations.

Nicole explains: “We couldn’t add shampoo bowls, so we use the space for applying color and executing cuts only. We have to walk guests back and forth to use the shampoo bowls, but it’s allowed us to keep our entire team working and that’s important to us.” 

The Gillicks are even creating a little retail area within the pop-up with hand sanitizer and treatment packets —items that are all perfect for stocking stuffers.

Festive decorations with an artistic twist delight clients this season at Blu. 
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Festive decorations with an artistic twist delight clients this season at Blu. 

New Approach to Gift Cards

The salon is planning to put a special twist on their gift card drive for the four days spanning Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. These BIG gift cards, which start at $750 (which would offer the recipient $1,000 worth of credit), are meant for guests to buy them for themselves or to offer to their loved ones, and are ultimately designed to offer loyal guests significant savings into 2021.

“This limited-time offering can really bring in some high numbers,” Charles says. “We plan on saving the revenue that comes in from this drive to help with cash flow should there be a need in the future. An added bonus, these gift cards lock in client loyalty far into the new year.”

Leveraging social media and Phorest Salon Software’s marketing suite, the salon is heavily promoting these in the lead up to Thanksgiving.

Holiday retail displays encourage last-minute sales with clients, who are abstaining from their typical holiday trips to the mall this year. In addition, the Gilllicks expanded their e-commerce offerings through the Online Store feature with Phorest Salon Software.  “Now, it’s much easier for our guests and our team since Phorest’s e-commerce integrates directly with our system,” Charles says.
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Holiday retail displays encourage last-minute sales with clients, who are abstaining from their typical holiday trips to the mall this year. In addition, the Gilllicks expanded their e-commerce offerings through the Online Store feature with Phorest Salon Software.  “Now, it’s much easier for our guests and our team since Phorest’s e-commerce integrates directly with our system,” Charles says.

Embracing E-Commerce

The salon has offered limited e-commerce for a while now, but since using  Phorest’s ‘Online Store’ feature, the Gillicks say the process has become infinitely easier. The salon now offers any type of product along with gift cards through their Online Store, and they’re beginning to market it heavily.

For example, if they post about their energizing line for hair loss on Facebook or Instagram, they’ll include a link to the Online Store where viewers can purchase the line.

“We’ll also be using email marketing and text marketing, but we find videos work much better than lengthy messages,” Nicole says. “We keep them light, fun and engaging. For example, we had the biggest success with an email called ‘Cookies and Updates.’ It featured a big picture of homemade chocolate chip cookies along with the recipe, and showed a video update about what the salon was doing.”

Before Phorest launched their Online Store the Gillicks used PayPal to process payments: “Now, it’s much easier for our guests and our team since Phorest’s e-commerce integrates directly with our system,” Charles says. “Our distributor, Modern Salon Services, fulfills all of our orders. We simply send them on to our sales rep along with the clients’ addresses and they bill us a $5 shipping charge. We usually don’t pass that onto the client, as we have to compete against Amazon who offers free shipping.”

While the Gillicks admit they’re just starting with e-commerce, they know that this year, many shoppers will be doing their holiday shopping online. Charles says they are making it even easier for shoppers by designing a number of product gift packages at different price points.

Strategic Pricing

When the salon reopened, the Gillicks increased their prices by 15% to cover the cost of PPE and the revenue loss incurred by social distancing requirements, and they really didn’t meet any resistance from clients. In fact, the limited capacity mandates have encouraged stylists to spend more time focusing on each guest. On the other hand, the price increase was the main reason the salon could beat 2019 numbers in the last few months, despite seeing fewer clients.

Additionally, since most clients did without hair services during the shutdown, Blu is experiencing some success with selling add-on treatments. Their treatment service combines the scalp massage and treatment with a take-home Circle Chronicle packet from Davines that is good for four at-home treatments.

Phorest's reputation management feature is helping Blu ramp up their customer reviews, and clients are raving about the salon's sanitation protocols, making new guests comfortable about trying the salon. 
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Phorest's reputation management feature is helping Blu ramp up their customer reviews, and clients are raving about the salon's sanitation protocols, making new guests comfortable about trying the salon. 

Developing A Reputation for Cleanliness

When Blu A Color Salon brought on Phorest Salon Software two years ago, they had 15 client reviews on Google.

“We chose Phorest because we studied different software programs with our salon manager, and Phorest was a really fabulous system for driving client reviews,” Charles says.

When clients leave the salon after their appointment,  the salon sends them an email inviting them to review their recent service. If the client gives the salon a five-star review, Phorest’s Online Reputation Manager automatically prompts the client and asks them if they’d like to share the review on Google or Yelp.

 “To date, we have 412 reviews and a 4.9 rating,” Nicole reports. “Those reviews are all the more valuable now because most of the clients are talking about all the sanitation procedures we have in place and how safe they felt during their service. When new clients are searching for a salon today, they are really taking how serious a salon is about sanitation into consideration.”

The reviews serve as a third-party endorsement of not only the salon, but also how they are handling COVID-19. Considering a number of at-risk clients have yet to return, it’s critical that the reviews are ramping up the salon’s online search rankings, allowing them to draw in new clients.

Embracing Contactless Systems

As part of their effort to keep both their team members and their guests as safe as possible, the Gillicks are drawing on many of their software’s new contactless features.

“Phorest quickly developed a COVID-release form that we had clients sign before their first service back, and we also introduced a touch-free payment system. Phorest even designed all sorts of templates that owners can use to communicate to clients all of which you can customize to fit your brand,” Charles says. “Phorest even set up weekly check-ins for salon owners to talk about ways to keep clients in your chair. They’ve really been so supportive during this time.”

The Gillicks estimate that about 40% of their clients use Phorest’s online booking to secure appointments, which has really cut down on the number of incoming phone calls. As for the remaining part of their client base, most of them prebook their next appointment while visiting the salon.

“That’s become a bit more complicated though with our limited availability,” Nicole laughs. “Clients will call us to tell us something is wrong, that they can't book an appointment—it’s not that the system is down, it’s that there aren’t any availabilities because of the reduced capacity restrictions.”

Nicole Gillick says their number one goal is to love on each and every client right now. 
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Nicole Gillick says their number one goal is to love on each and every client right now. 

Making Every Moment Count

While every previously mentioned Phorest feature has greatly helped the Gillicks through this year, they believe appointment confirmations via text or email have become even more valuable. While no shows and cancellations impact the bottom line at any time, when a salon is forced to work at 25% capacity, every minute in the schedule counts.

“Because of the restrictions, we can no longer double book clients— we can’t have more clients in the salon than we have service providers,” Nicole explains. “That means that when someone doesn’t show, their service provider is left with a few hours with nothing to do. They can’t even help other team members, because of the social distancing standards.”

While some salons charge for missed or canceled appointments, the Gillicks feel they can’t adopt that policy in the current context.

“If a client has symptoms or they have been exposed to someone with COVID, you don’t want them in the salon and it doesn’t seem fair to charge them,” Nicole adds.

Getting a tighter control of their inventory, including implementing the Vish color management system, has helped Blu realize big savings this year, 
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Getting a tighter control of their inventory, including implementing the Vish color management system, has helped Blu realize big savings this year, 

Cracking Down on Inventory

Streamlining the business to finish 2020 on a strong note doesn’t just mean adding more sales, and revisiting processes, it’s also about cutting costs where possible.

“We’ve really honed in on our major SKUs, making sure we’re well stocked on those as we go into the holiday season, but we’ve also backed off ordering on the slow sellers. What’s made the biggest impact in savings for Blu A Color Salon has been bringing in the Vish color management system in July. The system not only records the exact formulas for each client, but it helps stylists mix only what they need to perform the service. Since most clients have only had two or three color cycles since we implemented Vish, we’re only starting to see what impact this could make, but we have already reduced color ordering by 50%, and that’s a huge saving,” Charles says.

About Phorest: Phorest Salon Software is the software of choice for over 90,000 salon professionals worldwide. With the best marketing suite in the industry, powerful reporting and intelligent features that increase new and repeat business, it helps salons manage, market and grow, whatever the world throws at them. Click here to learn more. 

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