Forty years ago most, if not all, salons closed up shop after a busy Saturday and stayed closed until Tuesday morning. Sunday and Monday were the beauty industry’s weekend. That was what our competition did when my wife, Elaine, and I pushed open the doors of our first Hairzoo salon in New York in 1975. For us, that ‘weekend’ meant opportunity.
Our competitors were closed on Mondays, so we opened up. And as the only salon in the area open, we were able to pick up clients who wanted their hair done that day. Within months we were open on Sundays too.
But it wasn’t just the extra days we opened that gave Hairzoo the edge. From day one we bucked the trend when it came to opening hours. We had people on site from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm on Saturday and, when the salon started opening on Sundays, it was open from 10am until 5pm. Our aim was to fit around our clients, rather than have them fit around us.
I’ve never understood why more salons don’t open longer and more often. We still have to pay the rent, whether we are open or closed.
Forty-two years later we now have 12 salons – 10 in New York and two in California, and Hairzoo employs 110 people. A haircut costs just $15 but extensive and ongoing training means the team are highly skilled at turning that $15 into a $110 ticket by upselling color and services. More than 60% of our clients have color.
The long opening hours definitely help put us on more people’s radar, those who also work long hours themselves. And, of course, it gives us longer to make more money. But it has another plus that we thought, originally, might work against us. Those longer hours mean greater flexibility for our team, and we’ve found people want to work with us because of the flexible working hours. Our team doesn’t have to work 9 to 5 or 10 to six. They can start early at 9am and work a normal day or start late at 1pm and stay until 9pm, plus there is a short shift 3pm until 9pm. They can have Saturdays and Sundays off; whatever suits their lifestyle.
Obviously, if they work full days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday they will make more money. We also sweeten the deal with full medical and dental and we pay off their student loan.
I’m not saying we don’t struggle to recruit great stylists, but it is easier than I thought it would be.
The other challenge was how to make sure we have enough clients to justify opening for all that time. Education keeps our team working at a high standard, which sustains client loyalty, but we also invest heavily on a 52-week marketing program. Part of this includes driving loyalty to the brand rather than the stylists, our way of protecting our business should stylists leave. We use our POS software to track our busy periods and organize our roster accordingly.
To sustain demand, we’ve also focused all our salons in high traffic areas and we have prioritized parking where possible. At our original salon in New York, I bought the property next door, not to expand, but to grab the parking. We now have spaces for 100 cars. Of course, we get lulls, but that’s why there is a 3pm to 9pm shift.
More than four decades after opening the first Hairzoo, we are no longer the exception. We are surrounded by salons that open late seven days a week, but we’ve got the brand reputation now, continuously supported by an excellent service and strong marketing. I also have the satisfaction of knowing I’m getting the most from my real estate, rather than paying for it to be closed half the time.