A steady through-line of the year, amid the havoc of Covid-19, has been the rapid rise of beauty industry players investing in technology.
While beauty brands have had their eye on on-demand delivery and consumer-facing augmented reality, insiders in the salon and spa industry have focused their attention e-commerce, inventory management and booking, more than ever before.
On Wednesday, financial services company Square announced the integration of its Square Appointments software, which manages appointments and inventory, with its Square Register hardware for point-of-sale checkout. Register is often used at independent and small-scale businesses across industries, including food and beverage, as well as salons. Appointments was borne from Square’s 2014 acquisition of Bookfresh.
“What we really want to do is go from serving individuals in the beauty and personal care industry to serving larger and more complex salons,” said Peter Barfield, Square Appointments product marketing manager.
Inventory management, scheduling and appointment booking software and hardware are necessary technological advancements that ultimately will propel the industry’s growth and transformation. In addition to Square’s software and hardware integration, Boulevard, a 4-year-old startup for spa management and payments, announced a new raise of $27 million in funding in late November. And in 2018, Vista Equity Partners took MindBody, another software appointment booker, private in a $1.9 billion acquisition.
According to Square, purchases from beauty and personal care sellers using Register, which launched in 2017, increased 85% year-over-year between January and October. Square declined to say how many beauty and wellness merchants use its services or growth of merchants year over year, which could attribute to year-over-year growth figures. Barfield said Covid-19 also expedited the integration of the software and hardware, due to the need for social distancing and contactless payments. The plan was initially to launch the integration at an undetermined time in 2021.
Meanwhile, Matt Danna, Boulevard CEO, said that revenue for its salon and spa clients is currently 70% of pre-Covid figures. Its clients bring in about $100,000 in sales per month, on average, he said. Clients include Heyday facial spa and Paintbox nail salon. Its biggest markets include metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and Dallas. According to data provided by Boulevard, its clients see, on average, a 16% increase in bookings and an 18% increase in retail revenue in three months after joining the platform. Danna said that clients who began using Boulevard during Covid-19 experienced at least a 50% increase in booking revenue, despite a 40% overall reduction in front desk hours clocked. Additionally, he said Boulevard has seen triple-digit growth in gift card sales and gratuity.
Boulevard will use its funding to improve and expand features for clients and make additional hires to its team of 90 employees. Despite Covid-19 impacts on salon and spa businesses, Boulevard has seen nearly triple the number of clients added to its platform in 2020, bringing its total to nearly 1,000, Danna said. This is because the months of closures gave these businesses ample time to look for better ways to increase their revenue and modernize practices.
Danna said he believes the future of beauty and wellness services could look very different, with opportunities for group booking and opaque booking for timeslots. Opaque booking is more common in the hospitality business, when a person needs a hotel or airfare in a specific area but is less concerned by the specifics of the venue or airline.
“We’re trying to figure out how these businesses operate,” said Danna. “What needs to be rigid [in their operations], and what are things that could be re-envisioned? How do we help businesses be more profitable and then also take them to the next level?”