Let’s talk about pricing | Pocketmags.com

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Let’s talk about pricing

National Nail Tech Price Increase Day saw the industry unite to up its prices to allow nail techs to earn more than minimum wage. Kezia Parkins speaks to some UK nail experts about its impact and the wider issues it has raised

April 8, 2024, marked the first ‘National Nail Tech Price Increase Day’, an initiative created by training and community platform The Nail Tech Org to help nail pros grow and scale.

From a study conducted among its community, The Nail Tech Org found that most nail techs are charging around £30-40 for a set of nails but, once you deduct costs, that often equates to only around £7 an hour profit, which is less than minimum wage. Meanwhile, salon’s utility and product costs are rising, as are other bills. “Inflation is all around us and the price of a set of nails has not increased for many years. It’s not sustainable,” says Amy Guy, the organisation’s founder. “As we come together to raise our prices simultaneously, [we are] sending a resounding message about the value of our skills and the dedication we bring to our clients, thus eliminating the fear of doing it alone.

She adds, “If we all raise our prices at the same time, we create a new normal, a normal that pays us a fair wage for the work that we do and the services that we provide. This isn’t just a campaign; it’s a movement towards empowering nail technicians to run not just a successful, but also a sustainable business.”

Uniting the industry

The movement was received positively, with a wave of nail techs pledging to put up their prices on April 8 in an act of solidarity. “I think we have needed a price increase day for a long time, so it’s incredible that The Nail Tech Org has come forward and created such a movement,” says Chantelle Vermont, co-founder of nail community Clawgasmic Nail Network. “It’s really united the industry so we all make a step at the same time, which is fantastic.” Olga Clapcott, owner of the Tigerlilly nail salons in Bournemouth and three-time winner of Nail Salon of the Year at the Professional Beauty Awards, adds, “The price increase day was much needed for the industry to support nail technicians because it is a skill that does need to be recognised.”

Price Increase Day came after years of discussion about the issue of pricing in the UK, and in the weeks prior, thanks to the initiative, nail techs of all levels were joining the conversation, pushing the issue to the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Highlighting industry needs

“I think it points to a deeper issue than pricing, which is education and the need for more training,” says Clapcott.

“Training should not just be about gel polish, pedicures, manicures and extensions; there’s not enough business training available for nail technicians to actually help them price their treatments, how to work out the cost of opening their salon doors every day, the cost of products, their wage, the margins, electricity insurance, and so on.

“There should be more training available for nail technicians as to how to price their treatments correctly. Without standardised pricing across the industry, nail salons on the high street can feel the need to compete with each other and undercut their competitors to keep their clients.

“At the moment, I believe the majority of salons on the high street build up their pricing by just looking at the other salons in their area. But every salon will have different pricing and different costs,” adds Clapcott. “Training should help technicians analyse their pricing on a yearly basis, taking into account what’s happening with the economy and the cost of living.”

Recognition of skill

Nathan Taylor, multi-competition winner and owner of home salon Buff Bar Bristol, agrees, adding, “Pricing well is a problem we’ve had for a long time and there are issues around how quickly you can become a nail tech and how little you have to do to actually become qualified.

“The industry is oversaturated with people not charging their worth and I think that has a lot to do with how easy it is to get into it.

“Comparing the UK to the US and a lot of other countries, it’s kind of crazy what we charge. I think that has a lot to do with licensing and being qualified, because in the US it’s a lot more difficult and there are more rules around what you can and can’t do within the salon space, depending on which state you’re in. I also feel like there is more respect and more opportunities for creative people outside of the UK.” 

Clapcott points to the issue of non-standard salons. “People expect to pay less when salons are not working to standard. Salons that do work to National Occupational Standards should reflect that in their price also,” she says.

Backing Taylor’s sentiments on the speedy pipeline to becoming a nail tech, she says that a technician’s experience should be reflected in pricing and this is an element she uses to price her services at all three of her salons: “I would encourage technicians to demonstrate their experience and their training and investment into their development because that should be reflected in the cost of treatments.

“If you’ve got very experienced technicians, look at the training they’ve done – if they are at the top, they should be charging top rates. It doesn’t take them 20-30 minutes to do a treatment – they look at the details so it takes them longer and that’s how it should be.

“If someone is spending one-to-two hours to do a great job, they should not be earning minimum wage. This is how we do pricing at our salons and those charging the most are busiest, so it shows that clients should welcome that experience and should be happy to pay for it.”

Setting boundaries

Low average treatment prices are also exacerbated by the issues many techs face when it comes to setting boundaries with their clients.

“I think the issue of pricing traditionally comes with a lot of barriers, like having the confidence to feel that we can charge more,” says Vermont. “Also, that line between nail techs and clients can get blurred – we become friends and you feel bad charging more. There is also a whole narrative of nails being just a side business. I think the sooner we realise that we are entrepreneurs and business owners, the better.”

Setting the right price

While there’s no doubt Price Increase Day has made an impact, it is still hard to determine a baseline price for a set of nails. With all of the different systems and add-ons, and with such disparities in experience and artistry, it perhaps wouldn’t be right.

In fact, regarding Price Increase Day, the Competition and Markets Authority told the BBC that it was not investigating the issue, but had written an open letter to nail businesses reminding them to comply with competition law which states that businesses must set their prices independently and that competitors should not discuss or coordinate the timing or amount of any price increases.

However, guidelines can be helpful. That’s why Guy, as part of the movement, released a free pricing calculator to help techs calculate their individual prices.

“I’ve always priced my treatments quite well and that’s because I used a pricing calculator,” adds Taylor. These should help you work out the cost of running a nail business whether as a salon owner, home salon or mobile technician.

For more guidance on how to set prices, check out our pricing advice feature on page 64.

This article appears in May 2024

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May 2024
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