This story is a part of a series of stories on Glossy about the future of experiential, looking at all the ways face-to-face interactions in beauty and fashion are changing. You can read other stories in this series here.
As people in the U.S. plan for a post-Covid-19 summer full of social gatherings, events and vacations, their preparatory beauty treatments may look a bit different.
Instead of in a salon, there is a general expectation that services like nail and hair treatments will remain inside the home as people permanently adopt an at-home habit they picked up during quarantine. But, when they opt to go to a salon, the environment may be more subdued due to precautionary health measures, while also being more technologically advanced. On June 23, nail-care brand Dashing Diva launched its new Glaze product designed to lure gel salon consumers to Dashing Diva’s at-home gel version, which offers easy application and removal for $12-$14. Dashing Diva saw a 5x increase in sales between 2019 and 2020 between both wholesale and DTC sales, in addition to a 5x increase in its DTC e-commerce sales alone. Meanwhile, Glamsquad introduced hair cuts in June 2020, which has helped bring in male customers. It also saw manicures become the No. 1 service (moving up from No. 3, behind blowouts and makeup applications) in the second half of 2020, said Giovanni Vaccaro, Glamsquad founding member and creative director.
“Salons of all types will have to evolve. All businesses are suffering from a huge [Covid-19] impact. Evolution is critical here,” said Giovanna Coluccio, Dashing Diva senior director of marketing. “Consumers have found the benefits of that self-care treatment moment by doing their nails at home. They’ll also find the cost is less expensive. Typically a gel manicure can run about $40, or more if they do art designs. So there is a huge saving compared to a $12-$14 product like Glaze.”
U.S. salons began reopening in June 2020. According to third-party industry trackers like Kline, there have been signs of recovery, which noted a 98% jump in professional hair-product sales in Oct. 2020, compared to when salons were closed from March 2020-May 2020. In the U.S., the salon and spa industry had more than 1.2 million businesses bringing in more than $62 billion in sales between 2018 and 2019, according to a 2020 Professional Beauty Association report.
From an in-salon perspective, customers are coming back with varying levels of comfort, said Rosi Ajjam, Aveda North America gm and svp. But, she said, they all expect the same Aveda experience, which is based on a holistic approach to wellness. It includes complimentary drinks, complimentary hand and neck massages, and premium hair, face and body treatments. There are over 6,000 Aveda salons in the U.S. and Canada.
“Guests are more concerned about cleanliness and safety. Safety is the new luxury, and clients are holding salons to a higher standard, even as its restrictions are lifting,” said Ajjam. “Meanwhile, the role of data and technology is also at a whole new level. [Covid-19] unlocked new opportunities that we were not even discussing before the pandemic.”
Independently-owned Aveda salons are responding to this in varying ways. One Austin, Texas-based Aveda salon requires masks for both clients and stylists during the shampoo part of a service, given the close contact between people. Additionally, an Atlanta-based salon offers complimentary hand massages when asked for by a client, while another in San Jose, California offers instructions for clients to do it themselves using Aveda hand lotion. Vaccaro said Glamsquad also requires both clients and stylists to wear masks during services, while stylists can choose whether to wear a previously mandated apron.
From the technology standpoint, select Aveda partner salons are adding the option for curbside pickup, contactless check-in and checkout, mobile appointment booking, and Aveda has provided the ability to order products from a specific salon online. Aveda revamped its customer loyalty program in April, which emphasized some of the new technological additions. Between June 2020 and April 2021, 180 independently-owned Aveda salons in the U.S. and Canada permanently closed, while 175 new ones opened. five brand-owned Aveda stores have closed, but another 15 new ones opened, said a brand spokesperson.
Non-Aveda salons have also become more tech-savvy, with the help of white-label services like tech platform Shortcut. Shortcut, founded in 2016, launched a plugin for salons in early 2021 in response to the pandemic, which allows customers to book in-home services online from a specific salon. Similarly, Sally Hershberger salons developed their own at-home service in June 2020. According to Will Newton, Shortcut COO, salon partners have grown revenue by approximately 10% by offering in-home services and have expanded their client reach by about 20 miles. About 70% of Shortcut users are new customers to any particular salon. Shortcut has partners in 20 markets, including New York City, Atlanta and Seattle.
“Shortcut automates the operations, and we do the marketing to drive new clients that want to do in-home services,” said Newton. “Post-Covid-19, the salon industry is going through a real employment shortage. Owners are thinking how to create a more attractive culture to a modern stylist.”
Newton said a third of stylists leave a salon after six months because they can’t build a roster of clients fast enough. Part of Shortcut’s pitch to a salon is that it helps retain talent who want or need more clients. Vaccaro said Glamsquad has not experienced a stylist shortage but did note that, as more events, galas and parties kick off toward the end of 2021, Glamsquad is prepping to build its workforce to address that deluge.
As Coluccio pointed out, salons will have to find ways to differentiate themselves by adding to the experience of a service, rather than focusing on the result. It could be the high-touch and wellness elements of an Aveda service, for example. Salons will also have to look at modifying their pricing structures since at-home alternatives are routinely less expensive. All in all, the dust has not yet settled, and the salon environment, its workforce and the ease of at-home services will continue to rapidly evolve in a post-Covid-19 world.