Business Management

Are Discount Salons a Threat?

When NAILS polled its readers about their top salon challenges, competition from discount salons ranked second on the list, just behind attracting and retaining new clients. But for every tech feeling the sting of low-priced competitors popping up on nearly every street corner, there are many who have made peace with the problem; some have even used the competition to spur them to adopt higher levels of customer service and more stringent sanitation standards.

We asked three salon owners who’ve dealt with this issue personally to share their experiences and conclusions.


There’s been an influx of deep discount shops into my small town over the past few years. Two years ago, one opened up directly across the street from my salon. Was I afraid this place would affect my business? No. Has it? No. Will it? No.

What I have to offer will not be found in a discount salon. Topshelf products, no Dremels to burn the nails, implements washed and sanitized for each client, and a friendly environment are just a few of the niceties I offer all my clients. Did I mention I also take classes a few times a year? This is education that those who patronize discount salons will not ever get the benefit of. And my clients are willing to pay more for it — even with a discount salon within a stone’s throw from my salon.

Many calls I receive are from price shoppers. Recently a woman called to find out how much my fills are. When I told her, she got quite nasty and told me my prices were “disgusting.” I then explained to her the difference between where she goes and my salon. I added that she must not be happy with her current tech or she would not be calling me.

Of course, we all have limits on what we want to spend on services. Still, I have a full book of clients, most with standing appointments. This tells me my clients are happy with my services, and they are willing to pay more to come to my salon.

I do not feel that nails are just a commodity. Many women want their nails to look beautiful because they are working with the public. Some use their hands to demonstrate products. They want nails that don’t look like they are right off an assembly line. They want a service that does not hurt. They want nails that don’t look like Chiclets gum.

My prices are more than double the cost of the local discount salons in my area. I am making a nice profit and am not pushing the clients in and out as fast as I can to make money. Although our bottom line is to make a nice income, my clients do not suffer from shortcuts or questionable products.

The bad press surrounding our industry has not affected my business. I try to educate all my clients. Most are ignorant to the many ways they can be harmed in this industry, though quite a few have seen the news about the pedicure lesions in Northern California and the MMA issue. When they ask me about it, I am able to explain to them the dangers of not being aware of what is being done and what products are being used.

What has happened is I have picked up many clients who had become discouraged by their experiences at discount salons. They have come to me with nails ripped from the nail bed, bacterial infections that have not been taken care of, and rings of fire that hurt just to look at. I explain to them that I will not hurt them even though I do use an electric file. The difference is I am trained and proficient in the use of the e-file. The bottom line — you get what you pay for.

If you feel that you have to compete with the discount salons, then you need to set yourself apart from them. First and most importantly, continue with your education. This alone will make you stand out. You can never learn too much. The products and the industry are forever changing. Offer a service they don’t. Be sure to advertise that you have the cleanest salon in town, then be sure it is. Perfect your skills. Offer pink-and-whites that will wow anyone who looks at them.    – Lynnette Madden has been a nail tech for 10 years and is also licensed in esthetics. For the past seven years she has been the owner of Salon 29 in East Greenville, Pa.


Like it or not discount nail salons are here to stay. The question more and more nail techs and salon owners are asking themselves is whether discount salons are making it too hard to compete and succeed in their market. While it is true that the emergence of the discount salon certainly poses challenges to the more traditional nail tech and salon owner, these challenges are by no means insurmountable. I would like to suggest that there is room and indeed even a need for both types of salons and that we, as traditional nail techs and salon owners, can succeed and even flourish in this new marketplace. The key to our success can be found by defining for ourselves just who our target markets are.

For discount nail salons, the target consumer is someone whose priorities in a nail salon are (in order of importance):

1. Price

2. Speed and availability

3. Quality and craftsmanship

4. Cleanliness and sanitation

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