Business Management

Scouting Out the Competition

Other salons are great places to get clues about what you’re doing wrong and a better idea of what you’re doing right.

Looking for a fresh perspective on your business? A change of scenery might be just the thing. Other salons are great places to get clues about what you’re doing wrong and a better idea of what you’re doing right.

Scoping out other shops can be eye-opening, even if the ones you visit aren’t anything like your own. When Margo Blue of The Spa at Margo Blue in Charlotte, N.C., checked out a nearby “fast food” salon, she discovered a new technique that left her impressed.

A team of two nail techs did her manicure, and their duties were departmentalized. They started out with both working on her at the same time, one taking either hand. When it was time to apply the acrylic, one of them took charge while the other went to help another client. For the buff, they switched again.

“The technique made the manicuring more efficient but at the same time felt luxurious,” says Blue. “It was great to have two people working on me at once.” Thanks to this experience, she’s considering setting up a similar system at her salon, and says she’ll keep on visiting other shops. “I go to see how things are done and to be pampered,” she says.

Deb Blowars of Artistic Trends Salon in Perkasie, Pa., has had less luck at the salons she’s shopped. Instead of picking up ideas, she’s been more worried about picking up germs. “The lack of sanitation I’ve seen is disgusting,” she says. “I was hoping to get some good ideas and all I’ve found is what they’re doing wrong.”

Her close encounters of the worst kind include workstations covered in dust, cracked and dirty files, unwashed hands, and techs constantly jumping up to answer the phone. She may not have found the ideas she’d hoped for, but Blowars did learn at least one thing: “Now I know why I’m booked for three months,” she says.

Before Nancy Lawrence opened her salon, Savoir Faire in Auburn, Ca., she drove around to all the upscale shops nearby to see their setups. In the process, she gathered good advice on product displays, renting stations, offering commissions, and setting prices.

“At each one of the nine shops I visited I picked up a price list,” says Lawrence, “then I added all the prices and divided by nine. That’s how we set ours.” Averaging out the prices gave her a practical guideline for her own salon, which Lawrence describes as “upscale, but in the middle.

Of course, not all owners are open to having their shops scouted out. So should you identify yourself as a salon owner? Says Shari Finger of Finger’s in West Dundee, Ill., “If I’m on vacation I’ll go in and introduce myself, but in town everyone knows me and I have to be more careful."

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