The cost of doing business crisis, the talent gap, wellbeing challenges; throw Brexit and the Ukraine war into the mix, and there’s a lot going on in hairdressing and society. Yet, salon owners still made the time to flock in their droves to Salon Smart, Creative HEAD’s business networking event in partnership with L’Oréal Professionnel Paris.
This year’s outing to London’s The Chain and Buoy Stores carried extra significance, considering the ongoing challenges faced by so many. Speakers discussed the shifting role and expectations of the salon owner, enhancing the client experience, ways to work sustainably, and much more. But while 2023 may present a few hefty humps in the road, the Salon Smart vibe was buzzing with positivity and determination. Customers, they agreed, still prioritise hair above other services when push comes to shove, even now.
Here’s what we learned about British hairdressing in 2023…
Remember your responsibility!
Being a salon or barber shop boss isn’t about being a distant entity or micromanagement. Want a happy team that stays? You best learn when to step in and when to back off. Pre-covid, Chop Chop London co-founder Kaye Sotomi didn’t understand what his people wanted; then a culture void took hold, which led to high staff turnover. “I lost 100 per cent of my team over Covid because I failed to build a culture.”
Let staff map out their dream working week and what that looks like, explains Bloggs Salons owner, Joe Hemmings. Just make sure they’re not cancelling booked appointments in order to live it! Darren Fowler of Darren Fowler Hair lets his staff do the recruiting and training, so they have a hand in developing their own teams. But bosses have a responsibility to themselves, too, and this includes managing their mental health. “Your mindset and business are connected,” explains Naomi Brooks. The Hair Sanctuary owner and educator added: “Create healthy habits like not using your phone after 9pm. Work on yourself and don’t blame your team. Take responsibility, try a leadership course.” Setting the right recruitment practices as a boss matters, too; like not hiring based on similarities or only because of an impressive CV.
Tip: Share your mission – that’s how you build culture and get staff caring – Kaye Sotomi
The consultation takes centre-stage
When working as a beauty consultant in department stores like Selfridges and House of Fraser, Nicholas Nicola had only seconds to make a connection with passing customers, and to try to make a sale. As hairdressers, we have so much more time to connect with the client in our chair, but we need to make that time count. “It’s our job to understand and empathise with the client, even if they can’t articulate what their concern is,” said Nicholas, who offers free consultations on every single service offered at his Allertons salons. That’s especially the case in this digital age, where most people are booking in with you online. The consultation is not about idle chit-chat or running through the motions; it’s your new shop window, your chance to wow the client and make even your most loyal clients fall back in love with you.
“Staff often equate the consultation with selling, but understanding someone’s needs is not selling”, adds Nicholas. “And just because something isn’t new to you doesn’t mean it’s not new to your client – the most important thing is to recommend something to your client based on your understanding of them. A good consultation not only reassures a client that they’re in safe hands, but it could also be the reason why they feel differently about their day.”
For stylist and SKH studio owner, Subrina Kidd, who introduced strict guidelines for herself following a near-breakdown due to burn-out, the consultation is an opportunity to filter out ‘dud’ clients – the time-wasters, the drainers, the ones where you simply don’t ‘click’. “Previously in my career I didn’t have a say in who my clients were, and I often had to spend hours with people I didn’t really like”, she says. “Now, I’ve started doing in-person consultations to see if we ‘fit’, and if we don’t, I’ll either tell them I’m fully booked for the next six months, or I’ll recommend them to someone else.”
Tip: Use mystery clients to audit your in-salon consultation – Nicholas Nicola
Go deeper with the customer experience
Sorry guys – a glass of fizz or an extra cup of coffee isn’t enough to create deep, meaningful, customer experiences today. The wellbeing trend shows no sign of abating, making it a key priority for salon and barbershop visits too – and you can give it to clients by offering “moments of joy that surprise and delight,” says Nina Giglio, Fresha’s head of brand and content. But what does that mean? Think rituals that “enrich and calm the mind,” in addition to a typical cut or colour service. Add-ons need to be extra special but keep the vibe joyful and creative. “Engage all the senses,” she adds.
Remember the old marketing adage that wearing lipstick makes women feel better? Well, Monica Teodoro, the general manager of education and professional development at L’Oréal Professional Products, says hair salons are the “lipstick effect” for women who would rather “trade clothes, makeup and luxury items,” to keep coming – even now with inflation at peak levels. An almost essential service for customers today, why wouldn’t savvy hairdressing businesses develop their customer experience and stand out from the competition?
Tip: Adopt multi-sensory services; like using AI for clients to test out colour – Nina Giglio
Get on top of your money
Just switching on the lights these days costs a fortune, so what’s a salon or barber shop owner to do about managing their cashflow? According to Maddi Cook, founder of Boss Your Salon, it’s not about saving money but making more of it. The core of the issue often being a failure to properly price. “Everything should start with pricing”, she says. “Around 80 per cent of salons base their pricing on copying others or guesswork, it’s the blind leading the blind.” Maddi’s been inspired by how salons price in America, where they know their worth and charge more for it. Our British reserve may be at fault here, but we must get over that, she adds. Being a financially viable business also means lining up future talent to fill stylist spots.
The answer to your recruitment woes could be sitting in your chair, explains Edward Hemmings, creative director for Alan d Hairdressing Education – clients may have friends or family members interested in apprenticeships. Sally Montague, founder of Sally Montague Hair Group, is proactive in this area. In the past, she’s invited parents to her salons to discuss career opportunities for their children. She also went on the radio circuit and hosted seminars. The result? A whopping 500 people applying to take part in her apprenticeship programme.
Tip: Supercharge profitability by doing faster service for a higher cost – Maddi Cook