bySuzette Hill | November 1, 2002

It’s that time of year again, when most salon professionals feel too busy to take a breath, much less plot ways to build their books and service tickets. But the most successful salon and spa owners know you can never be too busy to seek opportunities to heat up service and retail sales.

“Look at your resources to see what services aren’t being upgraded or what departments aren’t busy during this time,” advises John Stefanick, production manager at Noelle Spa for Beauty & Wellness, in Stamford, Conn. Even the fullest appointment book can accommodate service add-ons – think paraffin foot treatments coupled with a fill or a moisturizing hand massage with a pedicure – that grow revenues with little added time.

Stefanick also favors even the smallest salons hiring seasonal help to take the load off service providers by answering phones, checking out clients, and assisting with retail selections. Where state board regulations allow, you may also be able to hire a student nail technician to remove polish, prep pedicure baths, and perform foot and hand facials.

It’s also the ideal time to build up newer techs’ appointment books. Gear your winter service menu toward building a clientele by enticing potential clients with professional nail care services that fulfill a seasonal need. The trick is to identify your clientele’s emotional and physical needs and to respond with customized service solutions. For example, salons in colder climates may find that clients clamor for services that warm inside and out with hot beverages, heated elements (hot towel wraps, paraffin dips, etc.), and spicy scents (i.e., orange, clove, cinnamon).

As NAILS’ editors scoured the service menus of salons across the country, we found a blend of winter-themed signature services that fell into four broader “needs” categories. Specifically, clients seek out services that warm and moisturize their skin and cuticles, provide the finishing touches for the holiday celebrations, stimulate their senses of smell and taste, and relieve their stresses.

Take a sneak peek at what other salons and spas are doing below as a way to get your own creative juices flowing. You may find that all you really need is a more descriptive service description. “A spa-style manicure may have stress-relieving or comforting properties,” explains Bonnie Canavino, spa manager at Maxine Ltd. in Chicago, “but when they hear ‘White Chocolate Mint Pedicure’ or ‘Honey Cram Wrap,’ they get a visual picture.”

Warm Up, Stress Down

Chase away winter’s chill – and the dry, rough skin it leaves in its wake – with services designed to warm and moisturize. “The main problem people come to us for in the winter is dryness,” says Lizzette Gonzalez, a nail technician at Noelle. “They want to know how to make their feet softer and how to deal with cracking skin.”

Don’t let a full appointment book hold you back: Fashion add-ons that build service tickets in little time. For example, woo manicure and fill clients with a “warm foot wrap” or “hydrating hot towel treatment.” Before starting the manicure, slather her feet in warm lotion, and then wrap them in plastic wrap and cover with heated booties or hot towels.

Noelle’s tried-and-true hot winter nail add-ons include paraffin dips and foot facials. And feel free to dress up thee straightforward services. At The Spa at Norwich Inn in Norwich, Conn., clients warm up to the Cozy Rosey Toes foot wrap every winter. Promoted as “super-hydrating” and softening to rough, dry feet, the foot treatment includes exfoliation and callus removal followed by warm booties and a foot massage.

Be sure to add at least one main attraction Paul Conzo Day Spa in Worcester, Mass, fans waning interest in winter pedicures with a Hot Stone Pedicure, complete with a warm aromatherapy Jacuzzi foot bath and a massage with warm oil and hot, smooth lava stones.

Soothe Stressed Souls

Don’t underestimate the power of small-but-nurturing touches before and after the holiday rush. Soothe emotions and the musculature with massage, music, and essential oils. “We use chamomile and lavender to calm the senses,” says Tara Oolie, co-owner of Just Calm Down in New York.

A perennial client favorite, massage makes an ideal main attraction in any nail service. You might be surprised at how many clients would willingly pay an extra $5 for a 10-minute extension of their foot and calf massage. Remember that manicure and fill clients love their foot massages, as well: Consider addition the option of a 10-minute foot massage while their polish dries.

Stimulate the Senses

The traditional holiday season scents present ample opportunities to pack a punch to your service menu with smells and tastes that trigger happy memories and good feelings. Think cinnamon and spice, and then follow you nose to pine, baked apples, pumpkin, sandalwood, frankincense, and myrrh. Just a few drops of essential oil in a soak can transform any service into a sensory delight.

But why stop there? A little imagination and a few extra products can give clients an out-of-this-world sensory experience. Clients eat up the Oatmeal & Apple Pedicure at A Signature Day Spa in Carmel, Calif., which makes liberal use of an oatmeal exfoliant and apple and lavender essential oils. And at The Klinic in Old City (Philadelphia), client feast on the Cranberry Manicure (topped off with hand reflexology).

Essential oils present almost unlimited opportunities to celebrate the winter solstice. For example, you can welcome the first nip of fall with a pine pedicure by borrowing a page from the service menu of The Spa at The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. While the spa’s West Coast Pedicure celebrates the region’s towering pines rater than the first frost with a “pine-infused pedicure,” you can celebrate the arrival of fall simply by adding a pine oil extract to the foot soak and to sea salts for exfoliation. Pumpkin enzyme peels and vanilla nut scents also have proved perennial favorites, says Canavino. Let your imagination take the lead: A favorite treat inspired Janeen Jesse of Dillard’s Your Salon in Colorado Springs, Colo., to create a Snickerdoodle manicure. “Put a slice of lemon in the soak and add a little bit of cinnamon and vanilla oils to the service, then serve it with Snickerdoodles [cookies].”


“Clients love to try new things,” Oolie agrees. “When people read about our pedicures they get very excited.” Just Calm Down’s clients prove particularly nostalgic near the holidays. “People in New York generally don’t get to see everyone they want to see at the holidays, and these types of services help to fill the void by conjuring up past memories,” she explains.

By the same token, don’t get too stuck on the traditional winter images for inspiration. For example, Canavino believes Maxine’s hottest nail service this winter will be Baby Power Pedicure. “Baby powder is a comfort smell,” she explains. “Every woman has a mom, is a mom, or will be a mom, and the smell of baby lotion is a comfort haven.”

Anyone who’s withstood New York’s bitter cold can understand the appeal of Just Calm Down’s Lady Godiva pedicure. Filled with chocolate, vanilla, milk, Hershey’s Kisses and cinnamon, the service helps clients resist the temptation to put their lips – rather than their feet – to the bowl with a serving of the real thing in a large mug.

Any warm beverage gives clients a real taste of full-service while complementing your services. Have fun by matching drink choices to service twists – eggnog for cinnamon-y service, hot chocolate with chocolate, apple cider with oatmeal and apple, orange tea with orange – or provide a full bar. When support staff is at a premium, keep things simple with instant-flavored coffee mixes and individually packaged tea bags and single-serving apple cider packets.

Overwhelmed by the possibilities – and all the work creating such services might entail? Relax. “Start simple and work with your distributor,” Canavino advises. “Essential oils are a good way to get started, and there are a few distributors that work with aromatherapy companies.”

Celebrate the Season

Why is it that so few salons make the most of the ultimate party season? From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, even the most antisocial people find themselves whirling from office parties to neighborhood get-togethers, and from cocktail parties to family gatherings.

Channing’s Day Spa is one of the few we found that celebrates nail art as an integral service element. The Chicago spa’s Rhinestone Pedicure description urges clients to, “Go all-out glam with a line of tiny sparklers twinkling across your big toes. This pedicure is sure to dress up even the most sedate of shoes. Shine on.”

Change is good for salons, as well. Look for new ways to introduce even your most conservative clients to nail art. This winter, Just Calm Down will add “scrapbook” nail art to its service menu. Clients are invited to peruse the spa’s scrapbook filled with nail-size images and words culled from magazines and other sources. “They could pick a picture of St. Nick or a menorah,” Oolie says. “We’ll put the image into the gel and buff the surface.”

Nor do you have to spend a lot of time to perk up nails for a party. Jesse recommends keeping your sanity by simplifying your designs for this time of year. “If someone wants a snowman or snowflakes, I’ll do it,” she says. “But the holidays are my busiest time, so I focus on dressing up the nails with glitter top coat, rhinestones, and perhaps a gold polish. With those three things, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes a gold French tip or a rhinestone is the deal finishing touch.”

For techs still building a book, however, this is the time to go all-out to attract the party-going crowds. “The holidays are the time of year when women will try extensions as a new thing,” Jesse says. “I’ve found that perhaps a third of them continue as clients, so it’s a big time to promote yourself.”

Make sure your “Walk-ins Welcome” sign is highly visible to passers-by and spread the word to coworkers and their clients that you have openings. Finally, remembers that where the feet lead, the rest of the body will follow. Examine your service menu for party-oriented and knees. Just Calm Down, for example, has great success around the holidays with manicure and pedicure addons such as its Prima Donna eyebrow plucking service.

Plan Christmas in July

Start planning your next winter holiday service menu in the summer, when you still have plenty of time to test ideas and seek out and sample products. Calling up some Christmas spirit in July isn’t always easy, which is why Canavino recommends saving this year’s winter issues of your favorite magazines. “They’ll help to put you in the mood and get your creative juices flowing,” she says.

She constantly asks herself what people want in their homes and from their futures. She seeks out their goals by reading everything from Modern Maturity to Better Homes & Gardens to keep her finger on the pulse of society’s needs and wants.

And don’t just listen passively to clients’ needs this winter. Note the problems they’re discussing now so you can design solutions for next year. “We listen to what clients bring in their experiences,” Canavino says. “If clients love the smell or texture of something, that’s a clue.”


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