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Top-of-Mind Challenges for 2017

One of the biggest benefits of belonging to a professional organization like ISBN is that you are never alone. You can learn how to approach your trickiest challenges with the wisdom and help from colleagues who have done it before. These are their top-of-mind challenges for 2017.

  1. Recruiting talented, serious and motivated talent. Says Logan,Major challenges will continue to be finding and retaining the best stylists and managers to deliver our championship client experience. School closures will continue, further decreasing the supply of new professionals into our industry. Some estimate that as many as 30% of beauty schools could close over the next few years—200 closed in 2016. Competition for people will be a critical issue for all of us—competition not only with one another but with the alternative business models that are widely available to stylists. In order to retain stylists who might be considering leaving to lease a salon suite, salons must focus on providing more rewarding career opportunities.”

Adds Reed, “The new generation has forced us to communicate with new professionals differently as we market our brand. It’s a challenge to educate them how to maintain professionalism, ethics and normal business operations and to keeping them accountable. We also focus on the experience of our team members, as much as our guests. We educate them to ask how they can make it better for the team every day. The guest notices and rewards that.”

“Since we hire barbers, we have an even more difficult time locating them and employing them,” says Valenzuela. “To help, we are hiring corporate barbers who travel around the country and help our franchisees find the top talent in their territories.”

He adds, “As more and more jobs get automated or shipped offshore, there are fewer and fewer people of any age who can duplicate those salaries easily. You can do that in our industry with very little risk of getting knocked off online. We can train them, so they can continue to enjoy the quality of life they had before they were displaced.

Says Horvath, “The greatest challenge the industry faces today, which is having enough quality salon professionals, has reached a level of urgency like no time before! We need to work together as an industry to streamline the cosmetology curriculum to lower the barriers to entry and to help promote the industry as a great career path. The efforts that ISBN is making to partner with the other industry groups to make this happen is critical to the future of the industry and we plan to help support this effort!”

  1. Retailing. “Online” has become the new “diversion.” “Retail will continue to decline because of price transparency, competition from Amazon and other online retailers, significant discounting and promotions on one end and enhanced assortments in non-salon beauty environments on the other,” says Neville.

Concurs Missad, “Unfortunately, our industry has blurred the lines significantly between professional brands and mass brands. By expanding distribution on Amazon, in Blue Mercury, etc. the retail space is more challenging than ever. At the same time, as an industry, we’re doing what we’ve always done and expecting better results. At Gene Juarez, we plan on continuing more value-added promotional activity to offset the market challenges. We’re also creating sensory displays to encourage our guests to experience our products.”

Adds Horvath, “The continued explosion in online professional product sales and the expansion of distribution channels is not growing the overall market; rather, it is dividing up the pie. We need to be smarter and better at brand selection and focus, promotional strategies and, most importantly, ensure our salon professionals are educated even more in how to recommend a home hair care regimen of products. In addition, we are creating a loyalty program, which will be important to our future success in guest engagement and retail sales.”

  1. Consumer confusion over what “professional” means today and the loss of the “professional mystique.” Says Neville, “Consumers continue to be confused over what’s professional and what’s not. As a professional industry, we used to have limited distribution, limited availability and consistent pricing. Today, we have extreme distribution, extreme availability and tremendous price competition and transparency.”

He adds, “The fundamentals of our industry are good education, people improving their craft, getting better at what they do and working toward that common goal. To that end, we cannot allow for ‘good enough’ to be ‘good enough’ any longer when it comes to education, products, services and results/income. We need to strive for the higher level or how can we call ourselves professional? Consumers need to know that professional equals excellence. We need to preserve the professional industry as professional or it will devolve into mediocrity.”

Adds Missad, “My biggest concern is that our industry is commoditizing. The only way to change that perception is to re-energize consumers by doing something outside of what’s normal and expected. We must offer an experience that is unique, magical, fresh and more interesting. We’re reaching out to different groups of clients through unique email message segmentation. We can’t continue to follow the same routine. The same holds true for our vendor partners. A line extension is not the solution. They must help us compete with retail experts with sampling, interactive experiences, and gift-with purchase and purchase-with-purchase promotions—which create client excitement.”

  1. Staying fresh, especially for legacy brands like Charles Penzone Salons. Explain the Penzones, “We are a 47-year-old company. We are focused on keeping our facilities looking current. To that end, we are replacing our flagship day spa with a new facility this year. Our team and clients are so excited!”
  1. Competing with app-based, mobile salons offering on-demand beauty services. Says Missad, “Mobile beauty stylists are competing against our salons on an unequal playing field. They don’t have to work under any of the regulations that we have to live under.”
  1. Speaking with one voice to our legislators. The next few years will be the most critical for our industry in decades. “The industry is under attack on several fronts,” says Logan, who leads ISBN’s government relations initiatives. “The Department of Education continues to raise roadblocks for schools to continue to receive federal funding, seriously eroding their financial viability. (It remains to be seen if this will change under the new administration.) Well-funded licensing deregulation efforts are continuing at an increased intensity in multiple states. It is imperative that all elements of our industry come together to standardize hours for licensure at a more defensible level (1,000 hours has been demonstrated to create outcomes equal to longer programs, with lower student debt and less time in school), improve license mobility, make licensure effective upon graduation from school and reduce student debt.”

Concludes Logan, “ISBN is a leader in this important effort to reform how our industry is regulated. Chuck Penzone is leading the charge in Ohio, and we are also working on reform legislation in Texas this year. I have never in my 38 years in this industry seen as much agreement that something has to be done to protect the professionalism of our industry. We now have quantitative data to back up our positions to legislators. The Professional Beauty Association and ISBN are working closely together on these efforts. Unfortunately, some want to cling to the way they have done business in the past, being unwilling to come to grips with the threat of deregulation, which would create chaos in our industry. Reform of occupational licensing is not a Democratic or Republican issue; it has the attention of a wide spectrum of political views. By working together, I believe we will be successful in these efforts over the next few years, ensuring the long term viability of us all.”

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