I was talking to a New York City-based beauty editor the other day and realized her experience of the nail salon is very different from the one I’ve come to know through the salon owners and techs I talk to every day. For her nail salons are a little like 7-Elevens. When you have a yen for a treat, you find the nearest one and plunk down a few dollars with little regard for who serves you. Simply put, for her, nails are a commodity.
Looking back, this commoditization of nails started years ago, with the proliferation of discount salons. I’m not saying this was a bad thing — it brought nails into the mainstream. But it certainly made it difficult to compete on price alone. The good news is the salons I know — that offer a sense of community and a personal, caring touch in an immaculate setting — still manage to prosper. And those adorable boutique salons with their tempting offerings at modest, but not cut-rate, prices also appear to be holding their own.
If there’s a silver lining to the recent economic turmoil it’s that the salons where it’s all about price and nothing more, where profit margins are razor thin, are likely to be the first casualties. On the other hand, the salons that are well run, that cultivate a spirit of partnership with their clients and staff members, are better positioned to weather any storms and ultimately the industry will be stronger for it.