Business Management

Is the Nail Industry Really Recession-Proof?

Whether we’re in a true recession is up to who’s doing the reporting, but what are the indicators in the salon?

I was talking to a celebrity manicurist the other day and she mentioned she’s felt a slowdown in house calls to some of her regular celebrity clients. She said they’ve been getting their nails done at the neighborhood salon before a big event instead of paying the $100 plus fee to have her come to their homes. For some reason, this really made me stop and think: If celebrities are cutting back on nail services, are regular clients also cutting back on their salon visits?

For as long as I can remember, we’ve operated under an unofficial rule that the nail industry is recession-proof. And during the time I’ve been at NAILS, that theory really hasn’t been tested. Sure, there may have been some rough patches over the last 10 years, but this time the economic situation feels more serious. Whether we’re in a true recession is up to who’s doing the reporting, but what are the indicators in the salon?

I contacted a group of NAILS readers and asked whether they felt the country’s overall current economic situation has been hurting them. I got a mixed reaction, but the feeling is widespread that things have gotten tighter. Some of you report that clients are doing everything from stretching the time between appointments to some not coming in altogether.

But what was most surprising (and most positive) was the lack of despair I heard. Nail techs and owners are figuring out ways to keep on plugging away, either by taking on new clients, supplementing their incomes, or offering promotions and incentives to current clients.

As Brenda Lee Bollard, owner of Bren’s Nails in Conroe, Texas, eloquently put it, “I always felt that nails were a recession-proof business, but as of last year I am 10 clients lighter. If you do the math, 10 clients who normally would come in twice a month for a $40 fill equals $800 a month in lost revenue.” In order to make up for this lost revenue, Brenda is offering her existing clients a discount on their fills for new client referrals. She’s also offering services she didn’t use to have time to do (like pedicures and acrylic toenails).

Another owner, Lisa Steele at Serendipity Salon in Santa Rosa, Calif., told me, “I read an article that beauty and bars are the last to go. I believe there is something to that. When people are feeling down, they want to do things that will lift them up and make them feel better. Walking out of the salon with a brand new cut and color or a new full set of nails makes them feel fabulous. It helps counteract the bad things that are going on.”

She’s lost a few clients who are cutting back on their spending, but she also has seen a number of new clients walk through her door. In her  estimation, things aren’t looking so bad at her salon.

So if our theory is correct, the nail industry should be just fine. We’ve always said that even if people can’t afford a full day at the spa or extreme luxury services, manicures and pedicures are an affordable luxury for many people who still want to feel pampered.

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