According to TheWeddingReport.com, the average American wedding costs between $22,000 and $26,000. Is your salon getting its piece of the wedding cake, er, pie? It takes targeted advertising, smart scheduling and retailing, superior service, and a referral program, and you’ll be on your way to salon-wedded bliss.
Everyone knows that June is the most popular month for weddings, but the next most popular wedding months are August, September, and October, according to TheWeddingReport.com. Is your salon ready for the fall wedding rush? Serving bridal parties is easier than it sounds and by taking a few simple steps your salon can be known as the area’s premiere salon for bridal parties, which ultimately means increased profits for you.
The first step to success with bridal parties is publicizing that bridal parties are welcome and can be accommodated in your salon. More than once during my career as a nail tech, I’ve heard the question, “Do you guys do bridal parties here?” Of course, every salon I worked at was more than happy to accommodate bridal party customers, but many were not doing a good job of letting the brides know what services the salon could provide them with.
One easy way to let brides know about your salon is to participate in bridal fairs — most shopping malls or convention centers have at least one each year, and fees usually run around $50–$100. You can participate by offering complimentary hand massages and providing brides-to-be with salon service menus and business cards. Although the bridal fairs may not bring every bride in town to your salon, consider this: If one bride books all of her party’s nail services with you, you could easily see $200 or more in profit from her bridal party alone — not to mention the income potential that could come from selling the bridesmaids retail items or the future profits you could see when some party members become long-term clients. Another way to get the bride’s attention is to simply add a line to your newspaper ad, flier, or direct mailer that says, “Bridal parties welcome.”
If your budget simply does not allow you to do much advertising or to participate in bridal fairs, fear not. There are less expensive, creative ways to advertise. For example, ask area florists, caterers, bridal boutiques, and other wedding-based businesses if you can leave your cards at their front desks — and of course extend them the same courtesy. Creating a network with other wedding-based businesses is completely free and, in the long run, priceless.
At your own salon, an elegant printed sign that says bridal parties are welcome can be framed and set in your retail or reception area before and during the bridal season. A silk bouquet or inexpensive bridal veil placed near the sign will add a festive attention-grabbing touch.
Getting on Schedule
Once you get the brides to book their bridal services with you, do some planning. Encourage the bride-to-be to book her appointments as far in advance as possible. “The earlier brides book their appointments, the better. They can always change it later,” says Matthew Ochs, manager of Pileggi on the Square, a full-service salon in Philadelphia. When you schedule the bridal party, mark yourself or your salon coordinator off of the book for 30-45 minutes before they arrive so you have time to prepare (more on that later). Then, discuss what type of schedule the bridal party will be on. For example, will they want the majority of their services on the day of the rehearsal dinner, with just an hour or two of time scheduled for minor touch-ups on the wedding day? Or will the wedding be an evening ceremony, which gives the bridal party several free hours during the day for services?
During the scheduling be sure to cross-market all of the services your salon can offer brides. It’s the whole “Would you like fries with that?” strategy, but this time you or your salon coordinator will be asking if the bridal party members would like updos or makeup applications along with their nail and pedicure services.
If the bridal party is a large group that is booking several services, you may want to consider asking the bride to sign a cancellation agreement or have her hold her reservation with a credit card. Many upscale salons, such as the Mario Tricoci Hair Salons and Day Spas in the Chicago area, have policies like these in place not only for bridal parties, but for large groups in general.
“We make it easy for bridal parties to reserve and pay for services,” says Larry Silvestri, senior vice president of operations for Mario Tricoci. “Guests are able to reserve bridal party appointments by providing a credit card number, although any form of payment can be used at the time of the appointment. The card used to reserve the party is not automatically charged.” However, if the appointment is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice, the salon charges 50% of the service cost to the card.
Train your salon coordinator or receptionist the proper way to schedule bridal parties and what questions to ask. Occasionally, the salon owner should still go through the appointment book (especially during bridal season) and personally make sure that bridal parties are being properly booked. Know when bridal parties are coming to you for their services and write them in your own personal Day Runner or put them into your Blackberry.
Once the big day finally arrives, use the extra 30-45 minutes you marked off the book in preparation. First, make sure you have enough seating for the bridal party and a few extra guests. (Often family members and friends of the bride will tag along to the salon to watch the wedding festivities.) You may want to consider bringing in folding chairs or even cleaning up the break room and making it accessible to members of the bridal party.
Chances are, everyone in the bridal party will be too busy that day to grab a real meal, so you can help by setting out refreshments. Some salons provide deli trays from local restaurants; others provide dressed-up trays of fruit and cookies from their local supermarkets. “We provide any type of food that the bride wants to make her feel special on her special day,” Ochs says.
If getting catered food from an area restaurant is not an option, consider bringing in your own “catered” snacks. Take an elegant serving tray from your own home (or borrow one) and line it with a paper doily. On it, place fruit, crackers, and pre-sliced cheeses. Summer sausages or bakery-style cookies can also be added, depending on the size of bridal party.
For less than $20, you will be providing your bridal party with what could be their only nourishment until the reception buffet. It’s up to you whether to charge for bringing in food. I never charge my long-term clients for the refreshments — and my tips almost always reflect my extra effort. If you plan on charging for the refreshments, inform the bride when you call to confirm the appointments. Make sure you have her approval as to what food you will be offering and what you will be charging for it before tacking an extra charge on her bill. Chances are she will be grateful for your thoughtfulness.
Consider ahead of time what you plan on charging your bridal party customers. As a thank you to the bride, you may want to give her a reduced or free service on her wedding day. After all, she is bringing hundreds of dollars of income to your salon. Donna Sandvig, owner of Per Donna in Mt. Vernon, Wash., doesn’t charge brides for the cost of their wedding hairstyle if five or more members of the party book services at her salon. Some salons offer the entire party a 10%-15% discount to make the wedding experience more affordable for everyone. Others charge full price, citing the time and extra personnel needed.
And don’t forget to sell retail products to the bridal party! Chances are the same shade of polish you are using on them won’t be available at their local drug store. Super-hold hair sprays or the same shade of lipstick your salon’s makeup artist used are also smart items to retail to brides. Items like tanning products can be sold for the honeymoon. Because techs may be too busy to handle retailing these items, make sure that your receptionist mentions them to the bride — it could eliminate a frenzied bridesmaid’s last-minute trip back to the salon.
Don’t let the demands of a large party stress you out. You must still provide them with the highest level of service while they are at your salon. “I make sure that I am well organized and that everything runs smoothly,” says Barb Crane, owner of the Powder Room in St. Peters, Mo. “I really enjoy working with bridal parties — and one bridal party always leads to the next.”
Crane has the right idea when it comes to retaining bridal parties as clients. More often than not, one or more members of the party is engaged and is planning her own wedding. Why not get this bride-to-be to book her wedding services with you? Working with bridal parties is an excellent time to implement your salon’s referral program. If your salon does not have a referral program, try doing what Sandvig does at her salon. She sends every new client a thank-you card and a coupon for five dollars off of her next service when she refers a new customer to the salon. The new customer also receives five dollars off.
“We tell our customers that any friend of theirs is a friend of ours. We’ve had clients who receive as much as $20 off of their services because of their referrals,” Sandvig says. Ochs has also seen successes with bridal parties and estimates that his salon works with 30 or more bridal parties each year. Crane estimates that her salon retains 60% or more of the bridal party clients that come into her salon. And, with some smart advertising, thoughtful scheduling, superior service, intelligent retailing, and referrals, you can easily make any bride’s day even more special than it will already be — which of course will lead to a fuller appointment book, increased profits, and an outstanding reputation for you and your salon.
Brandy Pecor is a licensed nail technician and writer based in St. Peters, Mo.