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Mixed Feelings: Salon Leaders Report on State of the Business, Holiday Mindset

How are this month’s numbers? When and where are other salons seeing drop-offs or upticks? What’s going on with staff retention? How are you changing up retail or adjusting strategies for the holidays?

So much has changed these past six months, but one constant is the need for beauty business execs to access peer-to-peer and industry-wide context.

To that end, ISBN and our media partner Salon Today recently launched  a quick Beauty Pulse survey to ask salon, spa and barbershop owners and execs how they were feeling about professional beauty business “right now, in the moment,” along with a check-in on issues and actions impacting salon teams, culture and survival strategies heading into the new year. Nearly 200 owner/execs answered, one-third with multiple locations.

Mixed feelings: In total, one-fourth of beauty business leaders answering the survey remain optimistic, replying as positive (14%) or even extremely positive (11%) about the state of their salon, spa or barber business, the majority (55%) report a mix of positive and negative feelings. Balancing out the almost perfect bell curve are 13% who lean somewhat negative, 4% who feel extremely negative and another 4% who just aren’t sure.

Open doors: One thing certain to impact leaders’ mindset: reopening status. California salons, for instance, were still facing closure mandates when the survey was dispersed, but more than three-fourths were happy to be open and operating. Specifically, the late August 2020 survey found:

  • All locations currently open: 78%
  • All locations currently closed: 12%
  • Some salons or stores closed, some open: 3%
  • Permanently closed: 1%
  • Other/did not answer: 6%

How are the numbers? When asked to assess and compare July 2020 to 2019, not surprisingly, given the pandemic, three of every four beauty businesses say dollars are down. Only 7% reported a flat month and 16% said revenues were actually up year over year for July. Three percent weren’t sure. Those who saw a decline for July 2020 over July 2019 break out estimates as:

  • 1-5% down: 6%
  • 6-20% down: 16%
  • 21-35% down: 19%
  • 36-50% down: 15%
  • more than 50% down: 18%

Staffing status and retention: As salons have reopened (and stayed open), staffing through capacity requirements and protocol management has become an ongoing area where many owners and managers are constantly having to wrangle, reassess and adjust strategies. One pulse point that reinforces the reality:

  • As of late-August, about 4 in 10 salons (39%) have kept all of their original, pre-pandemic staff still working at their respective locations.
  • Another 19% have experienced some attrition for a variety of reasons, but still retain more than 80% or more of the original team.
  • Almost one-quarter  (24%) have retained 61-80% of staff
  • 11% of responding salons, spas and barbershops have 60% or less of staff still on board
  • 7% aren’t sure or didn’t answer

Holiday season like no other: Realizing how difficult it is to forecast what the typically essential  holiday season will mean to beauty businesses this year, ISBN and Salon Today asked our audiences to share any thoughts, strategies or plans to drive success and offer  “comfort and joy” to guests this year.

Some salons are intensifying pre-booking efforts, not only through the holidays but into the new year, too. Others say, “the only thing we can focus on right now is doing all we can to make sure we stay open and survive through the holidays. Still, many are trying to innovate.

“We usually have a big one-day sale to kickoff the holiday season to drive lots of traffic into the salon,” one survey respondent said. “We’re reimagining and rethinking how to execute it,” possibly with curbside pickup and new types of incentives.

Staying in touch with guests about every holiday offer, service promotion and retail gifting solution remains at the core for many who are planning to lock in repeat business.

“Our salon began engaging through social media with our clients when we closed and throughout the pandemic. While July revenue was an average of 76% below 2019, August was  only 36% below and September is already 39% booked. I believe we built a stronger connection and strengthened our guests’ commitment to the salon and staff.”

Many salons reported that they will continue to promote the salon as a place to feel secure, confident in the salon’s safety protocols. One leader wrote, “In a world of chaos the one place you should be able to go and find peace, love and happiness is your local salon. We will continue to be a safe space to come and get a little pampering and feel the love!”

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