Challenges of Running a Beauty Salon
In my opinion, the biggest challenge in the industry today is the competition. Customers are being spoilt for choice with places to go: salons, spas, mobile therapists, home therapists; even a chair in Debenhams or the middle of a shopping centre whilst doing their shopping! Offers are becoming more and more popular to attract the customers. A lot of customers are very aware of this and will shop around to find deals and discounts for the best price. There are many ways to advertise the offers; websites such as Groupon; social media like Facebook and Twitter and even e mail subscribers. It's very easy for customers to get access to a whole range of offers.
As an owner of a beauty business it is essential to be competitive. With so many amazing offers it can be hard to keep up, some offers that I see I wonder how they can be making any money or even breaking even. It's important to offer a good enough deal or discount to attract customers but you don't want to be running at a loss!
I recently got an e mail from a girl asking me if my salon does packages. She went on to tell me about a deal that she had found offering three treatments and how much it was (about a third of the price of my packages) and said that the salon had offered her and her friend free pedicures on top as it was their birthdays. There was no way I would be able to offer her the treatments at these prices; it wouldn't even begin to cover my costs. I replied letting her know what we offered and she responded saying that it wasn't very helpful, which is a shame as she will have to go elsewhere rather than supporting her local business. I replied back to her saying that I hoped she enjoyed her treatments, giving her our website to keep an eye out for our other offers and wishing her a happy birthday.
What I didn't say was that asking me to do treatments at such low prices, and for free, is far from supportive to a local business. Moreover, why would I give these discounts to a customer that has never been to my salon before, over my regular, loyal customers? Sometimes there is a line to be drawn with offers; they need to be fair and offer a good deal to both your customers and the business.
Customers are also becoming a lot more savvy and knowledgeable when it comes to beauty treatments. The Internet has made it easier for people to research the treatments before they have them, and even watch how they're done on YouTube. Having more treatments, going to different places and trying new things gives them more knowledge as well, so you need to be on the ball and ready for a lot of questioning from the clients! Some customers will try and dictate to you what to do; just remember that you are the professional and you are the one that is trained and qualified in the treatments. It is your job to educate the clients as sometimes they might have been misinformed or be used to something else.
With so many new treatments and products coming out, it's difficult to keep up. Some of them last and become an essential treatment, whilst others are forgotten before they've really taken off.
It's hard to tell which ones will last, and with some treatments needing costly training and equipment, you need to be confident enough that you will recoup your costs and more! You must decide whether to take a risk and become one of the first to introduce the treatment and hope it takes off. If it is successful then being one of the first will give your salon kudos and you will have more experience which will give you the edge over other salons taking on the treatment at a later date. However, if it isn't popular it could leave you out of pocket and your customers confused at an ever changing treatment menu.
You could go the other way, play it safe and wait to see if trends catch on before getting them in to your salon, however then you run the risk of jumping on the bandwagon too late and might have to work a bit harder to get clients to come to you.
Too much choice?
Not only are there many new treatments coming out, but each one has a number of different brands offering versions of the treatment. They are all vying for your attention as a business owner, and with so many e mails and phone calls from companies keen to make you aware of their brand, it can sometimes feel like you're being bombarded. Often there isn't enough time to listen to or read all of them, but at the same time you don't want to ignore people and miss good opportunities. There is a temptation to bury your head in the sand and ignore them all, because there is just too much choice!
Personally, I do try to look at all of them where possible, just so I'm not missing anything. I prefer emails to sales calls, as the calls, more often than not, come at inconvenient times and can end up being irritating and putting you off. An email can be looked at when you have the time and you can gather a lot more information in a much shorter space of time. This way I know instantly if it's something I would be interested in at the present time or if I want to save it, to consider at a later date or maybe not at all. Some people might find an e mail impersonal. and it's probably the worst option for a sales person who would want to build a relationship with you, but time wise, when you're busy with other things, it's much better. There just isn't enough time to talk in length to everyone, and whilst I would not want to be rude to anybody, it would just be impossible to let every sales person do their full pitch.
When I find a treatment that I'm seriously considering introducing to the salon, that's when I'd like to talk to the companies and find out as much information as possible. I look to find out about the quality of the treatments, products, results and training; customer support; cost; marketing and ultimately whether you like dealing with the company. You might end up working with this company for a long time so it's worth taking your time over.
Often there is one leading brand that is the most popular, or was the first to introduce the treatment, and this is the one that every client has heard of. Others may be just as good or better but the name can mean a lot to clients and it's difficult to decide whether to go for the brand that you believe in the most, or the one that everyone asks for. For example I constantly get phone calls asking for Shellac.
At my salon we do OPI gel nail lacquer, essentially the same treatment by a different brand. However this is not always how the clients see it, to them shellac is a treatment on its own and anything else must be completely different.
The treatment menu
With lots of treatments coming out, all promising great results, it can be tempting to introduce them all. However you need to think about whether it fits in with your treatment menu. If you're a clinical salon offering laser micro dermabrasion, then perhaps aesthetics would fit in quite well. You probably have a current client base that would be interested in having these treatments. If you do mainly holistic treatments, it might not fit in quite so easily and your current clients may not be interested, meaning you will need to attract a new client base for the new treatments.
Some salons can offer a very wide range of treatments and branch into lots of different areas of the industry successfully. Just decide if you are one of these salons, or if you have a very clear area of expertise and are more niche.
Keeping your treatment menu consistent is important too. Customers, especially loyal ones, often don't like too much change. For example think of how many people have a favourite nail polish or lipstick colour and are devastated when it gets discontinued. Sometimes when this happens they will change to another colour within the brand, but sometimes they will just switch brand altogether. Changing the treatment menu too often might confuse or unsettle some clients. People like what they like so try to keep your core treatments consistent. Of course everybody gets bored though, and introducing something new will keep interest and add a bit of excitement. Introducing something new every couple of months is great just don't change your whole menu every few weeks!
The increasing demand for beauty has a negative side. Social pressure for clients to look good is increasing; they want to look younger, tans need to be darker and lashes need to be longer. This often attracts some negative media. Ingredients in products are coming under scrutiny with links to health risks and qualifications and training of therapists are being questioned. There are some ethical questions hanging over a salon owners head. Should aesthetics be kept to medical clinics and teeth whitening to dentists or are they OK in a salon? You want to keep up to date with the latest trends but also want to look after your clients and do what is right for them. And you don't want to attract any doubt over your credibility. Of course if the treatment that you introduce is following all the correct regulations and beauty therapists are allowed to be trained and insured for the treatment then that's fine but with so much speculation about safety and what therapists should be allowed to train in you really don't want to attract any negative attention.
So there are many challenges within the current industry however one of the big plus sides is that beauty is growing and becoming more popular which for a business owner is good news!