Profiles

Londoners Love The American Touch

For another, people associate Los Angeles with the latest crazes, and SuperNail of Los Angeles brings the latest nail trends and techniques to the British public.

SuperNail of Los Angeles isn’t in California, but its name is a perfect fit. For one thing, this London salon does super nails. For another, people associate Los Angeles with the latest crazes, and SuperNail of Los Angeles brings the latest nail trends and techniques to the British public.

Salon director Carolyn Sears watched the emergence of nail can-in the United States and elsewhere, and saw its potential in England. As quoted in the Evening Standard, a newspaper in England, her salon “overturned a deep-seated British tradition of messy-looking women. Success now means grooming.”

A friend who had run a successful nail salon in Johannesburg, South Africa, persuaded Sears to start her own salon. The business grew, and now she owns a 14-station nails-only salon and training center on upscale Crawford Street in London.

While working as an actress in South Africa, Sears traveled extensively, and on her visits to the States she watched the nail care industry there grow by leaps and bounds. SuperNail of Los Angeles struck a deal with her in 1979 to be its exclusive distributor in the United Kingdom. Since then, she and SuperNail have parted, but she kept the name for her salon.

Sears is now a distributor for other major United States-based nail product manufacturers. Dramatic increases in demand for the salon’s products led to Carolyn and her husband, Ivor Sears, opening a separate office and warehouse. From there they began to distribute a wide range of exclusive nail care products plus tools, accessories, and retail products.

Nail Care Grows In The U.K.

Scars says her salon is the largest and longest-established nail salon in the U.K. That’s not difficult to believe since nail care is a relatively new industry there compared with the United States, and since her salon was one of the first nail salons in England, her business grew and grew. At the time. Sears was not sure that her idea of opening a nail salon would work. But taking the risk at that time was a stroke of genius.

There are quite a few salons in England that offer nail services, but nails are not nearly as popular a service as they are in the United States. Sears says, “You can count on one hand the number of nails-only salons. Because there are so few of them, they all do really well.”

The salon is able to charge a hefty price for artificial nails. Nail services in England, though on the uprise, are still considered to be unusual and exclusive. According to Sears, a typical set of artificial nails costs around $95 (U.S.) in the city of London and $50 (U.S.) in the suburbs.

Fiberglass and acrylics are equally popular with clients in Great Britain, according to Sears, because fiberglass systems were fully developed by the time nail services began to really take off in England. Technicians and clients were learning about both at the same time, as opposed to in the United States where acrylics was the sole artificial nail service for years before other systems evolved.

An Excellent Saleswoman

Her prime business location and a sales-oriented approach to service assured Sears of clients and profits. These reasons would be enough to make anyone a success, but she doesn’t stop there. Other business strategies include an exclusive product distributorship contract, a serious commitment to continuing education, and the pursuit of a clientele made up of celebrities and trendy, upscale women.

Sears is an excellent salesperson. When you meet her for the first time, it isn’t long before you hear about the superiority of the salon’s products, its long list of famous clients, the fresh and clean salon air, and the professionalism of the technicians and the high quality of their training.

SuperNail of Los Angeles most popular service is fiberglass nails. Manicures come in second. The salon does acrylics, but it’s best known for its fiberglass. Sears is quick to point out the benefits of fiberglass: “I have tried every type of system and dealt with every type of problem, and I believe that fiberglass is the best system. When a client wears fiber-glass extensions, she doesn’t feel like she’s wearing nails.”

The Clients

Sears says her background in the show business and fashion industry attracts models, society hostesses, and show-business stars as well as businesswomen. As a British newspaper puts it, “Her clients are as likely to be in Hello! [a British magazine that’s across between People and Time] as to read it. The clients here have portable phones, not poodles.”

The location of Sears’ salon has a lot to do with its clientele profile. “I’m on Crawford Street, parallel to Oxford Street, in the middle of London — near Selfridge’s and Marks & Spencers” (similar to Saks Fifth Avenue or Macy’s), says Sears. Sears originally opened near Harrod’s department store in Knightsbridge, an upscale area, but the space was too small and the rent was too expensive for her. She moved to a 2,000-square-foot space on Crawford Street in 1981 and has been content ever since.

The salon boasts a long list of actor clients, mainly British, that includes former model Twiggy, Joan Collins, Faye Dunaway, Diana Ross, Julie Andrews, Liza Minelli, Tina Turner, and Patti LuPone (she stars in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard).

Sears says the clients love the salon’s jolly atmosphere. “WOM” (word of mouth) is the primary source of the salon’s new clients, says Sears. “We don’t advertise. Our best customers send more customers.”

A Cozy Salon Interior

A gray and pink color scheme, tempting display racks full of jewelry and accessories, and plenty of take-home retail nail care products greet clients. Photographs of famous clients and original prints line the walls.

Fourteen permanent workstations and 20 rotating full-time nail technicians are kept fully booked.

Hygiene and air quality is important in the salon. An air exchange system filters and changes the air five times per hour and a complete salon disinfection system is in use.

The manicuring tables adjoin one another so that clients can chat with each other. “They love it. They gossip. You can be good at your job, but your clients have to enjoy coming to come back,” Sears notes.

Twelve to 14 of the nail technicians work at any one time, depending on how busy the salon is. The nail technicians stay a long time at the salon, party due to the pleasant working atmosphere and Sears’ recognition of their professionalism and worth, and partly due to the good pay. Says Sears, “Our nail technicians can choose to be paid by salary or percentage, whichever is higher. They are willing to work 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.”

Tip To Toe Services

In addition to individual nail services, the salon offers a full-day treatment called “Top to Toe.” This treatment includes a pedicure, a manicure, a sunbed session, waxing, a facial, and a healthy, light lunch. Two beauticians provide these “personal beauty services.”

Most of the salon’s clients come in for a subtle look, except when a client with a theater or film part needs a special look. Lesley Joseph, an actress in a British soap opera, plays a Cruella de Ville-like character created through heeds and long nails. SuperNail introduced her to her super-long red nails and taught her how to care for them. The salon was there to create false toenails for characters in the new film The Flintstones.

At the salon, short nails are more popular than long nails, and a natural-looking manicure is more popular than the French manicure. An ordinary manicure takes about an hour because it includes a long massage. Paraffin wax is an optional add-on. “Our clients get pampered. We keep a hot box, which is a container full of hot, damp towels like the kind you get on airplanes to wash your hands after you eat. We wrap lemon-scented flannels around the feet as part of the pedicure,” says Sears.

Dedication To Education

SuperNail of Los Angeles now encompasses a separate distribution warehouse, offices, a reception area, the nail studio, and a training center. A public relations agency took over the salon’s image-making tasks once Sears became a distributor of products.

The training center has become more than just a place for continuing education. Its basic function is to provide refresher training courses in the salon’s system free of charge to the salon s nail technicians each year. On top of that, nail technicians train there to become educators. These educators are required to spend half of their work week doing services upstairs in the nail studio. Says Sears, “To be a good educator, you need the hands-on experience of working in a nail studio. That is how you find out what clients are looking for in a nail technician, how best to ensure that your products are working for those clients, and how to address problems with maintenance and follow-up care.”

Sears wants to continue with her educational policy and is presently studying new government guidelines that are being introduced in England to standardize vocational training programs. These qualifications are known as National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) and students are being advised to obtain these qualifications via a test in order to further their careers.

Clare- Walford, national education director for the products the salon uses, tracks, guides, and supports a network of 16 regional education directors who give education classes throughout the United Kingdom. The salon is the main teaching center and is NVQ-registered. Nail technicians are taught application techniques in the same system used in the salon. Nail technicians are then motivated to buy her products — “which obviously helps my product sales!” says Sears.

All the trainers in the United Kingdom will have the NVQ qualifications in 1994, and Sears hopes that this will make the nail industry better.

Technique perfection, safes excellence, continuing education, public relations, contributing to the overall professionalism of nail care, and the glamourizing of nails — Sears practices it all. If your salon employs any one of Sears’ strategies, you probably are ahead of the game already.

 

Keywords:   international     salon profiles  



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