In the past few years, I’ve grown fond of nicknaming the SALON TODAY 200 our Love Letter to the industry. And, while I haven’t tallied the actual hours our team puts into judging and tabulating the applications, then writing and designing the ST200 issue, digital edition, website content and eblasts, I do know the competition is on the top of our minds year round.
Before we put the application out in late summer, we take a close look at global economic trends, how they are impacting the beauty and grooming world, and how we might want to shape the contest around those issues. For example, growth percentages based on year-over-year gross sales has been the backbone of the competition since its first year, but when The Great Recession struck in 2007, we worried that we wouldn’t get 200 salons that could post growth, so we added best practice categories. When the pandemic forced salons to close from six weeks to more than nine months in 2020, we abandoned asking about sales growth altogether and set aside best practices to tap into what salons were doing to keep their doors open and how they were rebuilding.
For this year, we brought back Growth and Best Practices, but with a twist. To simplify the process for both the owners entering and our team judging, this year’s applicants could compete in Growth and then choose one of 10 best business practices in which to compete. That forced their hand to pick the one category in which they truly excelled in, giving us a higher quality of ideas to share. (This year we adjusted the number of honorees in each category to reflect the number of overall applicants that category received.)
But this industry love letter works both ways—while we compile the data and ideas into the SALON TODAY 200, the applicants give us excellent ideas for future content—not only for this issue, but for a series of stories on salontoday.com where we dive into some of these innovative best practices in-depth.
This year, the application asked a two-pronged question about the opportunities and challenges each salon currently faced. The opportunities question went hand-in-hand with their sales data, giving applicants an opportunity to showcase three areas which currently drives their growth. The challenges question (which was not judged) simply helped give SALON TODAY a roadmap of the kind of content we needed to be producing in our pages, on our site and within our live event, Data-Driven Salon Summit, which will be held in Nashville, April 23-24. (For more info, visit datadrivensalon.com.)
For example, last year’s essays spoke to a need for help with mental wellness for team members, so we launched a number of short stories on the issue, including Rosanne Ullman’s comprehensive feature, “Mental Wellness in the Salon: How Salon Pros are Coping Post Pandemic,” in our last issue and online.
This year, the three challenges that topped the list: 1) staff recruitment and retention; 2) how to tackle schedule flexibility and pricing, and 3) how to prepare for and weather economic insecurity.
We officially have our marching orders, and you can count on more stories on each of these topics in the year ahead.