Bursting the “Too Busy” Bubble: Employees these days aren’t taking their vacation days... or even their lunch breaks. How can nail salons capture this time-strapped clientele?
All over the globe, creative salon owners are finding ways to reach clients who have the disposable income for salon services but might not have the time. The Nail Spa in the United Arab Emirates launched “Deskside Revival Services” in September.
Sad but true statistics: Americans earn less vacation time (14 days, on average) than people in most other countries, but still leave two days unused each year, according to an Expedia.com study. And one-third of employees eat lunch at their desks each day, according to Right Management, while another one-third takes no mid-day meal or only does so occasionally. Are these hard workers doomed to being chained to their desks with chipped polish and callus-heavy heels? Not necessarily. Intrepid nail salon owners are developing inventive ways to loosen the chain just enough to slip in a hand massage or a toenail polish change, while Employee of the Year still types away, takes a phone call, or fuels up with another coffee.
“In a world where your groceries and drugstore items can be ordered on demand, you start to think about a vision of life 2.0 when services and chores are done on your own terms so they become convenient and achievable, freeing up that time for the things that really matter to you,” says Katina Mountanos, who, along with Liz Whitman, founded Manicube (www.manicube.com) in New York City, a quickly growing venture that offers 15-minute manicures to clients in clients’ own offices.
Don’t let busy professionals pass up the chance for a mani-pedi. Laka Manicure Express captures clients with its highly visible and convenient kiosks inside mall walkways.
To snag a time-strapped clientele, there are two emerging strategies. The first is the one Manicube employs — to bring the service to the client with minimal interruption to her day; the second is plop your salon smack in the middle of where the client is running her errands, rendering a quick nail fix a no-brainer.
IT’S YOUR MOVE
Founded in July 2010 with two clients, Manicube’s mobile strategy has opened the doors of so many offices in New York City that it’s expanding to Boston and San Francisco by March 2014. “We are lucky to have great word-of-mouth and press and that has actually meant that most clients reach out to us! This inbound pipeline means we do very little ‘recruiting’ and active sales,” Whitman says. “Corporate client sites are excited to offer a convenient service that increases employee satisfaction and productivity by eliminating one of their weekly chores.”
Manicube brings the manicure to offices and eliminates client wait time by booking all appointments in advance and using quick-dry supplies.
Part of Manicube’s genius is it understands its market — and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. “There are really two types of manicure customers: those who view it as a weekly chore, part of their professional upkeep, and those that view it as an indulgence, or a time to get away with friends at a nail salon. We are catering to the first segment,” Whitman says. “Our signature manicure is designed to keep our busy customers professionally polished for all they do at work, at home, and out on the town.” She characterizes the 15-minute service as a full manicure that includes nail shaping, light cuticle clean-up, a short massage, lotion, and polish. And the client is able to stay focused on her work during the service. “Our nail protocol allows a nail tech to work one hand at a time, so the customer has one hand free to browse magazines, play music, or check her e-mail,” Mountanos says.
The in-office manicure niche isn’t limited to the United States. The Nail Spa, with seven bricksand-mortar locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, launched “Deskside Revival Services” in September to a flurry of media attention. The spa offers a range of mobile offerings at different time and price points, with its most popular being the “Put Your Feet Up” package that includes a manipedi, a head/neck/shoulder massage, and a hand and foot treatment (such as reflexology). It’s an hour and 30 minutes, and The Nail Spa charges 490 dirhams (~$133), which it says is a 30 dirham (~$8) premium of what that same service would cost in-salon. The Nail Spa’s founder and owner Shabana Karim says it’s not difficult to get permission from office managers to allow services in their spaces. “Good health and well-being makes for a happier work environment and a more productive workforce,” Karim says. “The team leaders we have spoken with embrace this, plus we offer ‘Treat the Team’ service for managers and HR departments.” As The Nail Spa expands its physical presence, it plans to grow its mobile office services too.
The clientele of SoHo Nails Waxing Beauty in Johannesburg, South Africa, is comprised of about 34% men, who, like women, value the amenities like free WiFi and laptop tables.
PIT STOP IN THE ERRAND RACE
The other tactic is to have the client come to you — but to make it so convenient that she doesn’t miss a beat. At Executive Car Wash in Suwanee, Ga., the founders incorporated several complementary businesses into their space so clients can get multiple errands done while waiting for their cars to be washed or the oil to be changed. The 13 year-old business boasts a retail boutique, free WiFi, coffee, and popcorn, and you guessed it, a full-service nail salon.
The salon was originally added to the business in 2002 (the car wash was founded in 2001) after a nearby nail salon closed, and the salon employees suggested they simply move into the car wash. “We thought it sounded like a great idea. We’ve had it ever since,” says co-founder Debbie SanFratello.
Salon owner Carolyn Perry learned to do fills in 45 minutes, so clients can come in during their hour lunch breaks.
The nail techs (two currently; they’ve had up to four) rent their space and offer everything from acrylics to gels to natural nails. When asked about downsides of having a salon in her car-focused establishment, SanFratello says, “I can’t think of any. I just got my nails done there yesterday because it’s really convenient.”
New to the United States, Laka Manicure Express operates on a similar philosophy of catering to the busy customer. While there have certainly been salons inside shopping malls for many years, Laka, established in Israel in 2008, isn’t a salon so much as it’s a kiosk — and each location is right in the center of a busy mall walkway. Laka is booming, having grown into a multi-continental operation with more than 20 locations in Israel, Spain, Hong Kong, Sweden, South Africa, Canada, Panama, and the United States (so far it’s in Las Vegas Premium Outlet Mall South and Houston’s Galleria).
“Express services that enable busy women to get a professional look with a little bit of pampering, and the fact that our clients don’t need to make an appointment are great conveniences and something that clearly appeals to all women no matter what part of the world they live in,” says Richard Atkins, vice president of marketing for Laka USA Inc. Laka’s online menu lists services not with prices, but with time allotments. Its most popular service, the “Manicure Express” is a 15-minute service that includes a coat of Laka’s own signature polish. Add-ons such as Quartz Hand Peeling (5 minutes) or Anti-Aging Treatment (10 minutes) are available for clients who can spare more time.
Believe it or not, this serene looking nail salon is inside a bustling car service center. Executive Car Wash in Suwanee, Ga., has been home to a salon for over a decade.
Atkins feels quick convenient services like these are causing a paradigm shift in the minds of clients. He says, “Getting ready for a big night out on the town used to mean advance appointments and a full day at the salon before getting dressed up and then heading out for the evening. Now ladies come to our kiosk as the last stop before they go out for the evening. The hair and make-up are done, the dresses are on, and now they stop at our branch to pick out their nail color to match their hair and outfit. This is a huge cultural shift that we are extremely proud to have had a hand in (pun intended).”
Airport salons, such as XpresSpa and 10 Minute Manicure, and in-store salons, such as the Nail Bar at Walgreens, also fit into this category. These nail businesses are strategically positioned where potential customers have downtime in an otherwise hectic schedule.
At SoHo Nails Waxing Beauty in Johannesburg, South Africa, the location — in a regular store spot in a mall — is traditional, but the timefriendly attitude is not. Owner Getty Gizaw designed retractable tables with outlets for client use. Cell phones and laptops can be plugged in and used during pedicures. The SoHo staff also runs errands for clients, from standing in line at the food court to booking movie tickets to ordering a coffee from a neighboring business. Gizaw says, “I am a busy professional woman who is willing to pay for the services and amenities I need for convenience. I believe that as a service provider, providing convenience and easier/seamless ways to get all the things done on your to-do list is my responsibility. We all lead very busy lives; we as service providers need to be able to make your life easier and hassle free.”
Something in Gizaw’s philosophy is definitely working. Even R&B superstar R. Kelly fit in a manicure at SoHo. He was spotted sipping Hennessy cognac and ignoring paparazzi — in other words, multitasking like the rest of us.
Multi-tasking equipment and furnishings like this Michele Pelafas Furniture PamperMe Pedicure Lounge & Beauty Chair may be a smart investment if you’re trying to get busy clients in and out in a hurry.
NEED FOR SPEED
Want to wiggle your way into busy professionals’ lives? You don’t have to uproot your salon or go mobile. Here are some smaller tweaks to attract this crowd.
- Take a page from the restaurateur’s handbook. If there’s a line for walk-ins, offer a pager so the client can continue to run errands while waiting for her turn. Or ask for her cell number and text her when a spot opens.
- Use high-quality quick-dry products. At Laka Manicure Express, its signature polish requires only one-coat, according to Atkins, who adds that part of Laka’s growth plan is to off er its quick-dry polish to salons across the country.
- Allow for online booking. If an employee works a late night, then decides she is definitely taking her well-earned lunch break the next day, she needs to be able to confirm her appointment right away — even if it’s at midnight.
- Two words: Reserved parking. SoHo worked out a deal with the Sandton Shopping Centre to snag its clients free mall garage parking right outside of the salon’s doors.
- Don’t chat away your time. Carolyn Perry, owner of A Perfect 10 Nail Salon in South Portland, Maine, sticks to a strict 45-minute per person schedule. “If a client wants to chat, she can hang out with the next client. My next client is always waiting, so the current client knows she’s taking up the next person’s time,” Perry says. (This strategy works exceedingly well for her. Perry’s schedule is so full she hasn’t taken new clients in years.)
- Speed up your services. Practice, keep your tools sharp and at the ready, and don’t ever run late — this advice is from Perry as well.
- Select equipment that multi-tasks. Due to demand, Michele Pelafas Furniture recently launched a PamperMe Pedicure Lounge & Beauty Chair, which allows for manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, make-up, lounging, and more all in one seat. Assign two or three techs to one client to have her in and out the door swiftly.
- If you take your salon on the move to client’s locations, use apps like Google Maps and HopStop for planning your route. Manicube has its own app for its nail techs to help them organize their schedules and get from place to place seamlessly.
How do you cater to the busy professionals crowd? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your advice.