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Seize Opportunities and Overcome Challenges in 2017

With a new year come new opportunities, challenges and plans to make it all work. The International SalonSpa Business Network, with members owning or franchising 2 to more than 7,500 salons across all 50 states with value-priced, family-priced and prestige business models, recently shared their thoughts on the state of the industry in 2017.

“At Great Clips, we believe that 2017 will be a strong year and we anticipate that our business will grow,” says Rhoda Olsen, CEO of Great Clips, Inc. and president of ISBN. “We believe that growth will come from our continued focus from clearly evaluating how we’re serving customers, how they are responding to promotions, how we can create a better experience and how we can build off of that in the salons. We look at all of the data to make sure that we aren’t missing something that might affect our business!”

Gordon Logan, CEO/founder of Sport Clips, is equally bullish on 2017. “We see continued improvements in the economy under the new leadership, which will make the next few years very favorable for increased investments in people, facilities and infrastructure,” he explains. “We believe that the salon industry, and ISBN members in particular, are very well positioned to grow their businesses and increase market share.”

ISBN Members Name Top 10 Salon/Spa/Barbershop Opportunities for 2017

1. Offering unique services, especially add-on services. Unique services and add-ons can set your salon apart in its marketplace and bulk up its bottom line. New services and products like bond builders can kick your expertise up a notch and establish your business as a market leader.

“The consumer is changing, and as a result, our growth will come from offering unique and personal services, especially add-ons like bond builders and hair strengtheners,” explains Pat Neville, president of BeautyFirst, Beauty Studios and Paradigm Advisory Group, and ISBN vice president. “Those open the door to a multi-million dollar business from additional services that are exclusive to salons.”

Adds Phil Horvath, president and chief operating office of Ratner Companies, which include Hair Cuttery, Bubbles and other brands, “Our guests are looking for a place to receive a great service and connect on a human level with a salon professional. We plan to deliver a great experience for our guests with a value proposition. In addition, we see an explosion in hair color trends and plan to focus our efforts in this area, as the consumer demand and growth potential are huge.”

At V’s Barbershops, CEO/Founder Jim Valenzuela, and his team target affluent males and their sons, and create an experience accordingly. “Our DNA is the authentic barbershop, so we are focused on staying authentic and doing what we do really well in an elegant way,” he says.

2. Focusing on the guest experience. “At Gene Juarez, our single biggest opportunity is to increase our existing customers’ visits by one annually,” explains Scott Missad, CEO. “That alone will give us double-digit growth. To that end, our marketing, merchandising and incentive plans are all revolving around creating an experience that attracts one more visit per client per year. One example is our Color to Cut and Cut to Color Referral Cards.”

He adds, “We’re looking at every service and trying to make it magical. Instead of offering ‘a haircut,’ we’re promoting our curly-hair expertise to speak to that unique customer base. We’re marketing to our guests about specific hair color services. We’ve worked with our vendor Ouidad to create the Ouidad Curl Expert campaign.”

Adds Missad, “Clients are coming in less often, especially those wearing long hair with a balayage technique that doesn’t require as much maintenance. We’re finding unique approaches and techniques that bring them back in more frequently. For example, we are currently running a Color Bounceback Promotion Gift With Service with Oribe.”

At Hairzoo, with a goal of attracting 75 new guests per month, President Gary Reed and his team are creating a memorable experience for their guests at every touch point. “We believe that the service walks into the salon, but the overall guest experience walks out of the salon,” he explains. “We focus on the off-the-menu service—the welcome, the greeting, the good-bye—to make the guest experience warmer, more inviting, hospitable and gracious, as well as consistent. We open the door, hang their coats and offer a beverage every time. We train our philosophy weekly, starting with our language,” he explains. “For example, our hosts—their name for their receptionists—ask, ‘May I place you on a brief hold?’ rather than saying, ‘I’m going to place you on hold.’ It’s surprising what a big difference that little twist can make. We never forget that we are working for the guest.”

That training also covers team image. “Our image as professionals is so important,” says Gary. “We want our guests to look up to our team as style leaders.”

3. Maximizing the benefit of technology to improve the stylist and guest experiences. “Our biggest opportunity in 2017 is how we leverage technology to strengthen the relationship with our customers and how we use data to evaluate our customer experiences objectively,” explains Olsen. “Our focus is on doing whatever we can to make the stylists’ jobs easier, because we know the most important aspect of our experience is with our stylists. If we can use technology to make it easier for them, then we can use that same technology to strengthen our relationships with our customers. As we continue to refine our online check-in and the data around customer waits, we know that customers will use our app more. They will learn to trust our app and when they walk into our salons, they will be more satisfied with their service because they have not had to wait. We will also be able to leverage the app for more communication with our customers to maintain contact between the services.”

Says Logan, “We are making major investments in technology, from a new improved POS system that will provide a better client experience and improve our internal reporting, to data mining so we can better understand our clients’ motivations for coming into Sport Clips. We will use this information to better relate to our clients, make the appropriate decisions for our marketing programs and to better identify real estate locations that have the highest probability of success.”

Adds Olsen, “We are evaluating several core metrics to identify numbers that are leading indicators of customer satisfaction and growth. Investing consistently in data and having the ability to link the right measure to every single customer will give us more strength in providing feedback to the salons. It will outline the improvements necessary to create more and better customer experiences in the salon.”

5. Helping clients with textured hair feel at home. With women embracing their natural texture more than ever, this category has the potential to become as dominant as hair color, which is currently the driver of salon profits, including sales of other services.

“There are so many services and products for caring for and styling textured hair, that the opportunities are tremendous,” says Neville. “What’s more, the textured-hair client is more particular about her hair, spends more time at the salon and is willing to spend more money with her hair than other clients. As we create and offer more services and products to satisfy her needs, the category—and the referrals—will grow substantially.”

6. Creating a man-friendly experience. Charles and Debra Penzone, long known for their palatial day spas, are hot on men. “We see gentlemen as a key contributor to our projected 3% growth in 2017, and as a result, we are giving them their own space in our new barbershop, the Royal Rhino Club,” they say.

Adds Valenzuela, “Our biggest opportunity is still to increase same-store sales along the same path as we have for the past 3 to 4 years. As more men head back to the barbershop and want an authentic experience, we concentrate on that metric closely.”

7. Bringing beautiful hair back en vogue. “The pendulum has swung and consumers are returning to beautiful hair in color and style,” says Neville. “The extremes are fun, but retreating to the fringe. The idea is to help our clients look natural, elegant unique, while still polished in cut, color, texture. Marketing the services and products that support elegant hair will result in a strong ROI.”

8. Offering solutions for a healthy hair and scalp. “Consumers are increasingly aware that so many environmental factors, chemicals and lifestyle choices can greatly impact the health of their hair and scalp,” adds Neville. “As a result, they are looking for services and products that will help create a healthier scalp and healthier hair.”

9. Offering a menu of services for women and men experiencing hair loss. Following that same thought, more women and men are experiencing hair loss than ever before, and they aren’t willing to sit back and let nature take its course. “They want solutions and they want them now. Those solutions can range from modern topical and ingestible options to hair extensions, partial hair pieces and wigs,” says Neville. “We must offer a menu of options that work for their lifestyle and their price point.”

10. Promoting salon/spa/barbershop memberships and packages. “We focus on memberships and packages to increase sales, referrals and loyalty,” explains Gary Reed, president of Hairzoo, who with his parents is expanding the company’s footprint on both coasts in 2017. “We start with a haircut or blow-out membership, then build add-on services or amenities to thank guests who purchase a package of multiple services. That allows us to sample new services and reward our best clients. In addition, we’re rolling out a new loyalty program to incentivize our guests to help us increase both our retention and referral numbers. When they refer a friend of family member for a discounted service, they enjoy the same discount on their next service. That encourages them to purchase more than one service from us.”

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