Do you do nails?” This simple question has hair salons scrambling to answer a demand that nail salons capitalized on years ago. Today’s clients want one-stop beauty service, and salons are competing with each other to capture clients’ total beauty budgets. To go full service, you need commitment and planning.

You can attract new clients and entice old ones back by expanding your services menu to include the services your clients want. “We had a strong request at the front desk for nails,” says Susie Council, co-owner of Van Michael Salon in Atlanta, Georgia. “People wanted to book nail services and were surprised we didn’t offer them.”Van Michael Salon recently added nail care to its service selection.

“Hair salons say they have to do nails to get clients back,” says Walter Siegordner of Salon interiors, a salon furnishings and design company in Hackensack, New Jersey. “But nails need a lot of attention, just like your hair business and your retail business. You can’t branch off if you’re not willing to give it time and devotion.”

You will increase your clients’ dependence on the salon by fulfilling their need for myriad services. Full-service salons can be compared with mini-mart stores: The more needs you can fulfill is not a luxury to time-crunched clients-it’s a necessity.


Your mental commitment to the new service is perhaps the most important aspect of salon expansion. No matter how small the space, or how small the client base initially, each service has its place in the salon or it would not be offered. How you integrate the new service into the salon and support it while it grows will be as important to success as client support.

Nail care cannot be treated as a sideline to your hair services or it will always remain a secondary service-and profit-in your salon. Treated as a service equal to hair, nails will be profitable addition.

“When you see yourself grossing $3,000 on nails with just four technicians, you know it’s important,” says Connie Sullivan in Boston. “If I put another manicurist on tomorrow, she’d be busy.” Nails account for 20% of Sullivan’s three salons profits.

Make each service its own department. Even if you just have one technician, answer her needs and make her feel an essential part of the salon. Her attendance at salon staff meetings is important. Allow her time to update the staff on what is happening in the nail section, and ask for her input in any group projects. If the salon is large, you might also find it practical to hold department meetings to set goals, determine needs and plan promotions unique to each service.

Educate nail technicians about all aspects of the salon. “Be ready to give and take. Let the staff know what you’re planning to do and ask them to work with you,” says Nilsene Privette of With Love B’Anne in Phoenix Arizona. “Each salon is different. Let the technicians know what effect you’re going for.”

New technicians should get the services you offer themselves so they know how each feels and to get the client’s perspective. “You can’t sell what you don’t believe in. We all have to scratch each other’s backs in a full-service salon,” says Privette.

Likewise, encourage all non-nail employees in the salon to get a service from the new technician. Hairstylists and estheticians will be better able to describe the services (and make referrals) if they’ve indulged in them themselves. Also hair clients will want to know where their hairstylists got their nails done.

Before the grand opening of your nail department, make sure front desk personnel is educated about what services will be offered, prices, and booking procedures. Receptionists should mention the new service to everyone who calls and should offer to book an appointment. Make sure the receptionist gets her own nails done.

To see expansion through, you must also possess an enormous amount of patience. Rest assured that the new service will not immediately bolster salon profits, and be ready to support it until it can. Plan in-salon promotions and offer a discount for the new service when it’s booked at the same time as an established service.

Plan a direct mail campaign around the new service by sending clients coupons that can be redeemed at their next visit. For variety, offer a different special than the in-salon promotion-perhaps give a half-price manicure when booked with another service. Or, just invite clients to call and book an appointment and include a discount for all new nail clients.


Before you rush out and buy manicure tables, survey your clientele to determine how many of them already get their nails done. Let your clients tell you themselves how many nail stations you need to add. “

If you’re a hair salon doing mostly family haircuts, you may find that only 10% of your clients get manicures,” says Siegordner. “But if you’re a high-end hair salon you may find that 90% of your clients already are going outside for nail services.”

If 300 of your clients show interest in nail services, you can figure out how many technicians you need. If the typical nail fill takes one hour, you can estimate that one technician will average eight clients per day. That’s 40 clients per week, 160 clients per month. The average client visits the salon every two weeks, so with this scenario you would need at least two technicians, and likely three.

Allocate space for free technicians but only hire two immediately. After you’ve built a steady clientele, consider adding another technician to further increase your client base for all services. Just as you wouldn’t wait to hire another hair hairstylist until others are fully booked, prepare for a second stage of expansion in advance.

Siegordner recommends adding the stations you know you will need, while retaining the option to add more if necessary. If you have space to add four nail stations but only the demand to keep two nail technicians busy, put in two stations and hold back on the other two until the demand justifies the expense.


Some salons have to remodel to incorporate nails into the salon. If you’re remodeling, you can allocate space exactly where it’s needed. At the same time, you can plan your décor so all the elements blend together. And a grand reopening is the ideal time to introduce nails.

 Van Michael Salon didn’t have the space for a nail station until it took over a 1,000-square-foot space next door. “We managed to add a nail station in the retail area,” says Council, “Which worked out great because our nail technician retails a lot of items. You want to put the nail section in an area where people are hanging out. You don’t want to hide it.”

Other salons may not be ready to spend that type of money, or they may have recently remodeled. There may be plenty of space in your current setup that’s not being used to its full potential. According to Siegordner, you need a five foot by six foot area (30 square feet) per technician. That allows space for the technician, client, and table, with enough breathing room to keep everyone comfortable.

If a salon decides to start a nail section with just two technicians, that will mean squeezing 60 square feet out of currently used space. Many small salons fit in just 800 square feet of space, and 60 square feet is just 7.5% of the total floor space in that small salon. For larger salons that small space is even less significant.

Before you dismiss expansion or start ripping out walls, examine your salon arrangement. Is your retail section to roomy or poorly arranged? Does your waiting area have a large empty center with seating around the perimeter? Do you have empty, unused hair stations? Any one of these areas, or a combination of several can be used to create the extra space needed for nails.

Sulivan’s salons, for example, were set up with 12 hairdryers, but they used only six regularly. She removed six dryers, which left plenty of space to add several nail stations.

If you still can’t find space, there are other options. Some areas can do double duty. For example, many salons complain that while waxing services are in high demand in summer months, they sit unused during the winter. If you have separate room for waxing, consider knocking down the walls and putting up screens during nail services, and set them up before waxing clients arrive.

Some salons find they may have enough stations for eight stylists but one always seems to be empty. Or a stylist may not be making any money for the salon. This hair station may make more money and attract more new clients If it’s converted to a nail station. If the empty station is in the middle, move the end stylist to the empty station to a nail area. By examining the salon in terms of profitable space many owners find room they never thought they had.

Some salons find that there really is no more space left. Unfortunately, you have to decide whether it’s worth moving to a larger space to add the new service.


You can plan to spend roughly $800 per station to add one manicure table and two chairs, says Siegordner. It can cost more or less, depending on what equipment you choose. You may also need to update your ventilation system, which can add to the expense. Siegordner says the minimum cost would probably be around $250 for the most basic table and chairs setup.

“In metropolitan areas, obviously a simple chair and table arrangement won’t suffice if the rest of the salon is lavishly furnished. There’s too much competition out there,” he says.

For ready-made furniture, low-end non-vented manicure tables run $140 to $200. Mid-range non-vented tables cost approximately $400, and high-end non-vented stations range from $700 to $1000. Chairs are purchased separately and can range from basic office chairs to contoured orthopedic chairs. Manicure chairs average $250 to $300.

There are companies that specialize in custom building or remodeling salons and they have much experience in retrofitting salons that want to add more stations or new service areas. The expense is reasonable, considering they will make sure stations are placed for convenience, high visibility, and best space use.

Make the area look like it was built with the rest of the salon, not added on hastily. You should be able to buy nail stations that match your salon’s décor. Laminates and upholstery come in almost in any color. It’s well worth spending the extra money to complement the salon’s atmosphere if your salon attracts upscale clients.

Full service is an old song that’s getting more play as salons seek to sharpen their competitive edge. Clients are becoming more aware of their total image and want salons to make them look beautiful and professional. The full-service salon fulfills a need because clients can polish their appearance in just one visit – no more running around town. Just remember: They don’t have a lot time, but they are willing to spend a lot of money.

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