Imagine yourself, for a moment, sitting in a restaurant. You have just finished a satisfying meal and your plates are being cleared. You feel relaxed and almost celebratory having just eaten a delicious dinner. The waitress offers you coffee, and then mentions a hot apple pie with a flaky crust and a heavenly chocolate cake dripping with raspberry sauce. Although you think you cannot eat another bite, the next thing you know you are sharing two desserts with your friend. The waitress has just made an effortless sale by simply offering and describing menu items to her customers.

Hair removal services are the dessert of the nail industry: a service that most customers want but may not realize it, and an add-on service that means quick, easy money to salon owners and nail technicians. Waxing, sugaring, and other hair removal products require little investment to bring into a salon, but offer steady profits if marketed properly.

Making the Soft Sell

Although most nail technicians don’t like to think of themselves as salespeople because they don’t want to pressure clients, nail salons have an advantage in that their customers are already at their station. What a perfect opportunity, while holding their clients’ hands and feet, to mention the salon’s hair removal services and capture new sales.”Why not grab clients while they are in a beauty mood?” asks Donna Louis, national sales manager for Worldwide Cosmetics (N. Hollywood, Calif.). “Waxing is an impulse buy. It is easy for the client to write her check out for $10 for a quick service that improves her appearance and confidence. Clients can get their toes, arms, or legs waxed while they are waiting for their nails to dry.”

Photo courtesy of American International Industries.

Photo courtesy of American International Industries. 

Many salons find the easiest profit in the smaller waxing services that can be worked into a manicure or pedicure appointment. There are many opportunities to squeeze wax jobs in before or after a regular nail service. “Nail technicians need to be observant,” advises Louis. “Is there hair on your client’s knuckles or toes? Are her eyebrows joined together over the bridge of her nose? Gently call attention to the fact that waxing would improve the appearance of the client quickly.”

Use the time when you are working on her nails to make your observations and then while you are buffing or polishing, ask if she’d like an arm wax or the hair on her fingers removed. Or while giving a pedicure, offer to wax the tops of her toes and feet, or remove the hair on her legs. “Waxing the hair on toes during the pedicure is a perfect opportunity to show how easy and relatively painless hair removal can be. It is a visual presentation,” says Joni Rae Russell of Joni Rae & Associates (Los Angeles), a full-service marketing agency with 35 clients in the beauty industry. “Then you can build your way up with the client to a full leg wax and bikini line.”

Losing Hair, Gaining Revenue

Providing hair removal services to nail clients can be beneficial to a salon for several reasons, the most obvious being an increase in revenue. Waxing and sugaring products are relatively inexpensive and most hair removal processes are quick, especially for simple procedures, so these service charges represent almost pure profit to a salon.

Gabrielle Ophals, co-owner of Dyanna, a 700-square-foot urban retreat salon and day spa in New York City, agrees. “Waxing is the greatest opportunity for profit potential. You can earn a dollar a minute per service,” she says, adding that on a busy day Dyanna, which specializes in nail, skin, and massage, can pull in at least $2,000 from waxing services, but only spends about $75 to offer the services. “And I have some of the least expensive prices in New York,” she adds.

Waxing prices at Dyanna for lower leg ($14) and full leg/bikini ($27) are a bargain for clients. Many salons charge $45-$70 for a full leg/bikini wax. However, remember that the more extensive services can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes and usually need to be booked ahead of time.

Simple waxing services like hands, feet, and even lower legs or forearms take minimal time to perform, typically under 10 minutes, and the nail technician has boosted her ticket by an extra $10, $15, maybe even $40. Yet, she hasn’t raised costs significantly.

“The amount of product used for facial hair waxing [which is comparable to the amount used to wax the hair from the knuckles or toes] is so minute it is hardly even mentionable,” says Janet Weybright of Divi International. She says that investing $100 in one of the company’s waxing kits (which includes a machine, lotion, two types of wax, applicators, and epilating strips) can give back $3,000 in services. “A leg wax from the knee down takes all of five minutes to do, and salons are charging up to $35 for a service that costs them 50¢ in product,” Weybright explains.

There is so much unwanted hair growth beyond the obvious lip, brow, leg, arm, and bikini areas that a salon could almost adopt the motto: so much to wax, so little time. Mention to clients that hair can be removed from their chins, cheeks, necks and foreheads — common trouble spots among older women. Hair removal from backs and chests is popular with men and priced as high as $50-$75. Some salons, like Red Door, are even charging $15 to remove patches of hair on the stomach.

Getting Services Started

Smaller salons require less startup items and can play with their space in order to add waxing services, as did Jo Laki, owner of Jo’s Naughty Nails, a 500-square-foot salon in Hamlin, Pa. When Laki decided to add hair removal services, she simply doubled the use of her reclining pedicure chair to serve leg and bikini waxing clients. For privacy, she partitioned the area off from the nail stations with a shelving unit and a bi-folding door. She purchased an all-inclusive waxing system for $120 and says that her monthly expenses for upkeep are minimal. “I can get $80 worth of service out of a $3 tube,” says Laki, referring to the wax-filled tubes that are heated and then rolled onto the skin. “Waxing makes up almost a quarter of my business profit”

Kirk Marlow, a manager of the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon in San Francisco, says that of an estimated 25 waxing clients the salon sees per day, most come for simple hair removal like upper lip ($14) and eyebrows ($18). With an average waxing charge of $20 per client, the salon brings in about $8,000 a month before expenses, which amount to about $330 not including payroll. Red Door San Francisco offers two types of waxing systems, the house Arden wax, which comes in 50-lb. blocks that Marlow orders every two months, and a depilatory wax, of which he buys about 16 14-oz. cans a month. His monthly expenses include wax table paper, baby powder, soothing gel, soothing lotion, preparation oil, and muslin by the yard (for strips).

Marlow says that Red Door initially invested in one large heating vat, two hot plates, six saucepans, 14 heating units, ladles, and six massage beds, which are also used for facials. Waxing there comprises 540 square feet, with six 9-by-6 foot designated rooms, of the salon’s total 5,700 square feet.

Ophals too says that waxing supplies can be extremely inexpensive, considering the payback. She lists four one-gallon pots ($ 150 each) that each hold 8 lbs. of wax as the major waxing investments at Dyanna. On an average day the salon utilizes a gallon of wax ($40), 200 disposable spatula sticks, and about 500 pellon strips to remove the product and hair from the clients’ skin. She also orders baby powder and a post-wax soothing mixture of oil and a cooling astringent.

In addition to generating sales, you can increase your value to a customer by offering a variety of services for one-stop shopping. “My clients hated going to the hairdresser for a wax because they had to make a special appointment,” says Laki. “Whereas you get your hair done every six weeks, you get your nails done every two weeks, so it is more convenient for them to get a wax every other nail visit.”

You also inevitably strengthen your relationship with a client by offering waxing services because hair removal is often considered a more intimate procedure. “This is a very personal service, so a client is less apt to continue to change operators or salons,” says Kelly Weber, senior vice president of Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Salons and Spas. “The waxing client is a wonderful client because she can be very loyal.” Weber says that approximately 30% of the Red Door Salons’ beauty business, including face and body services, is waxing. To the total business, which also includes nails and hair, it is 10%.

For clients who have never been waxed you can offer a free trial lip or toe wax, or knock 10% - 20% off all hair removal prices, creating coupons on your computer. Manufacturers will often provide point-of-purchase displays and signs for you to display in your salon to advertise hair removal products and services.

“Nail salons need to increase their services to make up for a more price competitive market,” says Louis. “Manicures are a contact service. A manicurist comes in contact with the skin, the hands and feet, so why stop at the wrist or the ankle? Waxing is a natural addon in a nail salon.”

Hair Removal Regulations

As with nails, licensing and other regulations regarding waxing vary from state to state. For instance, nail technicians in Colorado are required to have a cosmetology license in order to perform waxing or other hair removal services. As a result, says Janet Weybright of Divi International, approximately 90 percent of nail technicians can’t do waxing, especially at their own nail stations.

Contact your state board directly for more information about waxing in your state.

Greta Palmer is a freelance writer based in New York City.

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