World View on the Nail Industry in England

Full-service beauty salons are the most typical salon environment in England, but a growing number of nail bars have been popping up in the larger metro areas in recent years.

The thought of England evokes images of Victorian architecture, medieval castle and cathedrals, and villages and rolling hills. While the country does have all these things, modern England - especially London - is a thriving metropolitan destination. Once the world’s largest trading nation, England (London specifically) today remains at the center of the world’s commercial and financial stage, and still plays host to a centuries-old monarchy.

It seems natural, then that you find the majority of salons in the metropolitan areas as well. Full-service beauty salons are the most typical salon environment in England, but a growing number of nail bars have been popping up in the larger metro areas in recent years.

Nail professionals seem to be fighting an uphill battle in order to have their profession recognize. “In the beauty industry nails techs are still secondary to hair and beauty,” says Alex Fox, editor of the British nail magazine, Scratch. “But it is really beginning to emerge and make a name for itself as a profession. I think it has a lot to do with the emergence of session techs,’ which are nail professionals who work alongside hairstylists and makeup artists at top consumer magazine photo shoots. In addition to elevating the level of the nail tech in the eyes of other beauty professionals, it also helps top make consumers aware of the nail tech’s importance.”

While licensing is not a requirement in England, nail techs in London have to jump through a few legal hoops before they can operate. In the 32 London boroughs, techs must receive a national vocational qualification (NVQ) certificate, which is policed by Health & Safety Executive (H&SE) branch.

“It used to take anywhere from three months to a year to get the NVQ,” says Fox. “You do it on your own time and get assessed regularly.” But recent changes, including the creation of two nails-only NVQs, show that the nail industry is being recognized by the government as its own industry.

“The career of the nail tech in the U.K. is pretty amazing for mothers who want to go back to work and make their own hours, people who want to work from home, or someone who wants to make great money and be her own boss,” notes Fox. “So being a nail tech is emerging as a great new career path.”

Professional products are sold through distributors who will only sell professional products if you show proof of passing a course that shows you are skilled enough to use the products.

While there are many British ladies who enjoy manicures, women aged 30-40 are beginning to take interest in nail enhancements. And Fox notes that teenagers today, with more money, are anxious to wear enhancements.

Prices in London are higher, in part because the cost of running a business in London is higher, but also because of what Fox calls London-Weighting. (The terms is used because of London employees earn more than the rest of the country because it costs more live and work there,)

Manicures are the most popular service, but due to media attention, pedicures and enhancements are also gaining in popularity. “More and more people are concerned about the way their nails looks” says Fox.

England Nail Industry at a Glance

Population: 50 million

Area: 50,336 square miles

Government: Constitutional Monarchy with a parliamentary government

Estimated number of nail techs: 25,000

Estimated number of salons: N/A

Licensing required: No; although in London you must show that you have received a national vocational qualification (NVQ) certificate

Average service prices:

Manicure   $35-$45 (US); in London: $75-$150 (US)

Pedicure                $35-$45 (US); in London: $75-$150 (US)

Full Set                  $55-745 (US); in London: $80-$250 (US)

Popular services: manicures and pedicures

While full-service salons are still most common environment where you will find nails in England, nail bars like this one have been emerging more often in recent years.

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