Russell Ross-Smith, who opened his first nail bar a little over a year ago, now has three TEN locations in London, with plans to open more this year. He was in the British army, stationed in Germany 10 years ago, when he first got the idea to open a nail salon.
Salon Name: TEN Nailbar
Locations: 3 in London
Owner: Russell Ross-Smith
Square Footage: 500
Years of Ownership: one
Number of Nail Techs: 34 (called tenders)
Specialties: natural nails
Other Services: pedicures, enhancements .
Compensation Structure: employees are paid a salary plus commission
"Quick" and "quality" aren't two words that you normally hear in the same sentence. But Russell Ross-Smith has come up with a way to offer his clients both — serving up quality nails in a quick timeframe at his London-based nail bars.
Get Them In And Out: Professional nail services aren't as popular in the United Kingdom as they are in the United States, so Russell Ross-Smith has set out to make getting your nails done in London a bit more common. "We are trying to make having your nails done as easy as possible for the approximately 75% of British women who have never had a manicure " says Ross-Smith, who was in the British army when he first started thinking about opening up a nail salon. "The idea for TEN is to be open long hours and cater predominantly to walk-ins."
TEN, which is open five days a week (six in one location), 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., has also developed a clear menu that uses non-technical vocabulary for its clients who may be new to professional nail services. And the menu, which uses clever names like the Purrfect Ten, the Finger Tingler, and Touch and Go, gives a brief description of each step of the service with a time approximation and cost. For example, if a client comes in looking for just a polish change, she can order the Colour Me Crazy, where for £5 and 10 minutes of her time, she will receive base coat, two coats of polish (color of choice), and a quick dry top coat.
TEN is a nail bar, designed in such a way that it promotes a friendly atmosphere. "The heart of the shop is a curved glass and steel bar where the manicures are performed," says Ross-Smith. "Each of the shops has seven or eight stations, which we call pods, and two pedicure setups, which we call peds. We have lots of lights and mirrors." The space inside is gender-neutral, well lit with bright colors, and designed to bring people into the salon.
One of the main things that attract clients to TEN is that they can come in, sit down at the nail bar, and know that they will leave in 30 minutes with a high-quality manicure. "We have mid-market prices and offer a progressive menu that goes from a simple, quick paint job to a full manicure," says Ross-Smith. "Time is important to most of our customers, and all of our natural manicures can be performed in 30 minutes or less."
"We've actually just completed some customer research and our clients have told us that they are first enticed by the look of the salon, but come back because of the quality of our work and the friendliness of our tenders," he boasts.
A Universal Situation
And just like salons in the United States, TEN has had its own challenges with finding and hiring trained nail professionals, which the salon refers to as tenders. "Recruiting, training, and correctly rostering staff is one of our main challenges," he says. "We really pride ourselves on doing the best, longest lasting manicures in London, and that means being very selective in terms of our staff.
"For that reason, we have employees instead of booth renters so that we can control the standard of work," adds Ross-Smith, who offers his employees a basic hourly rate, plus several commissions on top of that. "People come to TEN for a manicure. They aren't coming to see a particular individual."
He also stresses that tenders at TEN don't get many requests for artificial work, so the type of people he is looking for have a "good eye for shape and can paint well. They don't necessarily need to have artificial skills." Regardless, new tenders will be trained on all of the services offered at the salon.
At TEN, training is an important part of the mix. "We have a full time Chief Nail Officer, named Clare Walford, who is one of the most experienced and best trainers in the country. She is in charge of assessing and training all of our potential and existing tenders," continues Ross-Smith.
While the clients Ross-Smith sees at TEN are mainly women, he does see a small percentage of male clients as well. And that can be credited to their special men's menu, which features the Quickie, a 15-minute nail shaping and buffing service with cuticle treatment, and the Man-i-cure, a 30-minute intensive hand treatment that includes massage.
The salon prides itself on its professional atmosphere and use of high-quality products, which are all offered to clients to take home. "One of my goals for the future is to improve our retail training, so that customers can find everything they need for their hands at TEN," says Ross-Smith. So what's in store for the future of TEN Nailbar? "We have more locations lined up to open in Britain, and hopefully into Europe as well. We're also looking at a possibility of U.S. concessions if we can find a management team with appropriate financial backing and expertise."