I just returned from a trip back east where I attended Premiere Orlando and visited salons in Orlando and Charlotte, N.C. And I walked away feeling great about the nail industry. I always love getting out of the office and seeing what’s going on firsthand. And after the year we had last year, it’s refreshing to see the shape of things turning around.

Here are five reasons why I’m so excited after my recent trip:

1. Nail salons are BUSY. I visited A Totally Unique Nail Boutique in Palm Harbor, Fla., and it was the kind of high-energy nail salon where you want to hang out even when you aren’t getting your nails done. Salon owner Heather Goodwin has created a “Cheers”-like atmosphere where “everybody knows your name.” On the Friday I was there, it was bustling (see my On the Road on page 46). In Charlotte, my mom and I went to Polished Nail Bar & Spa. Owner Sonny Kim and his wife Haley just opened their third location in the Queen City. The newest salon has 24 pedicure chairs — and they planned and opened it in the midst of one of the worst economic years in recent history. All three locations are thriving.

2. People are more OPTIMISTIC. When I talked to people at the show about business (both on the salon side and the manufacturer side), the conversation was more upbeat and positive. The doom and gloom from last year has dissipated and there is a renewed energy about the future of our industry. That coupled with more positive consumer press (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and “The Today Show” have all covered the craze about the new gel-polish hybrid nail colors like CND’s Shellac and Hand & Nail Harmony’s Gelish) is helping to revitalize nail enhancements and allowing nail techs to charge more for services.

3. The show was HUGE. Premiere is always a big show (there were literally more than 50 aisles packed with professional manufacturers), and this year was no exception. All the major hair and nail companies were in attendance, and there were very few “swap meet”-type, non-professional booths. It’s a good show with high-quality products, and it’s proven by the number of companies who exhibit there and the number of salon professionals who travel just to come to the show.

4. Nail tech attendance was GREAT. We sold a ton of new subscriptions, renewed a bunch more, and got to talk to so many nail professionals. Sunday was so busy many of the manufacturers we talked to were selling out of products and having to call local distributors to bring more down. Everywhere demos were being offered, people flocked. Rock star toenails (and fingernails) are still drawing huge crowds. There was a hunger for cool new products and the education to back them up.

5. The BeautyTech Networking BBQ was PACKED. More than 200 people bought tickets to attend the event that was co-produced by BeautyTech and NAILS, and sponsored by Action Bag & Display, China Glaze, Dashing Diva, Green Apple Aprons, Hand & Nail Harmony, Light Elegance, Minx, Nubar, and Orly. Everyone was happy to be there and meet their fellow techs — from the newbies to the 20-year veterans. There were great prizes, great conversations, and great friendships renewed and made. It was fun to actually meet so many of you I’ve only known through e-mail, phone, and Facebook.

All in all, I’d say it was a great trip and we’ve got good things to look forward to in the months to come. I hope you’re all as excited as I am about where the industry is headed, and my goal with the magazine is to bring you that excitement even if you weren’t able to feel it firsthand.

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