Before I talk about the doom of business rate increases, let’s look at a positive development. Many nail brands are seeing a huge upsurge in the gel market, with some reporting that gels represent almost half of their turnover now. Conventional polish is in decline, they say. Professional gels and at-home gel-polish hybrid products, which don’t require UV lamps, are doing huge business for them.
Many customers don’t see the point in having normal polish when they can have longer lasting gels instead. And any service that clients can’t properly do for themselves can only be good for the professional sector. Just look at the recent reports about the dangers that gel-polish kits can pose in the wrong hands (see page 11). While consumers may well attempt an at-home UV manicure, when it all goes wrong, it’s a properly trained nail tech they’ll turn to for help.
However, any one-process application is a potential risk. That’s why we are seeing a surge in box colour in the hair market; people are saving money on the things they can do at home. The quality of the products is good, too, with technologies previously only available in the pro sector now out there on the high street.
The answer? Become a bit more expert – make that colour process a two- or even three-step procedure that only an expert colourist can carry out. In the hair market, that means a root colour plus some balayage, with a stengthening colour-protect treatment too. You can’t get that expertise in a box from Boots.
It’s also the only surefire way we can stem the worrying decline in the frequency of client visits that is affecting us all. Clients are leaving it longer between appointments – in under a decade we’ve lost an average of three visits per customer per year. So, properly needing our expertise is the only way to ensure we keep them coming in often.
The same is true of gels. Although I’m a trained hairdresser, I’ve been in the beauty business since I was 16, so I’m quite self-sufficient when it comes to beauty, including attempting my own gel nails at home. Being long-sighted is not a recipe for doing the perfect painting with gel polish, though, and I invariably muck it up, even though I’m not bad at painting with regular polish.
For all the home kits out there, perfect gels require perfect painting and a proper understanding of the chemistry involved in curing and removal. That’s not something Joe Public can master themselves, however hard they try.
The £10 nail bars don’t cut the mustard either, because more often than not they’re using bad-quality, cheap product and the poorly trained staff they tend to employ can damage the nail with their inferior removal skills. Clients will pay for expertise; all we need to be sure of is that we’re effectively marketing the difference between what a fabulously experienced nail tech can deliver and what you get at a cheap nail bar: pay cheap, pay twice.
So, last month I also promised I’d discuss the business rate increase, which has now kicked in, with many of us receiving our demands for the new fiscal year from April 2017. Our rates have increased by 62%. Quite how we’re supposed to find the extra turnover required to cover this, I don’t know. Coupled with that, we’ve got an increase in our service charge. In a development such as ours, all the tenants have to contribute to the external works and repainting on a square footage basis, and wouldn’t you know, that coincides nicely with the rates rise. It’s hard not to feel defeated.
At least we are in a profession where we can put our prices up to cover costs. But with all the choice out there, upping the game in terms of service has never been so important. We’ll just have to redefine our customer user experience once again, and see where we can surpass even our own high standards.
Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London’s Sloane Square and chair of Trailblazers for the hairdressing sector. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org