Opening a salon: Here’s what you need to know
The hair and beauty industry in the UK is growing at a rapid pace. It’s vibrant, creative, at the forefront of fashion and culture, and there’s always demand for it. In fact, there are over 55,000 businesses in the hair and beauty sector in the UK alone, employing over 245,000 individuals
. Together, they have an annual turnover of £6 billion every year which accounts for 1% of the UK’s economy
Clearly, it’s an excellent time to get into the hair and beauty business
. But once you have the capital and the motivation, where do you begin? In this article, we’ll explore some of the key considerations that could make the difference between success and failure.
All good things require planning
Did you know that roughly 1 in 3 businesses fail in their first 2 years? Most of the time, this is down to poor planning. You can have all the drive and ambition in the world but without a solid business plan, you’re unlikely to get very far. There are plenty of business plan templates
out there that can help you get started, with this one
being a particularly good example of an actual business plan for a salon that can be edited to you needs accordingly. In a nutshell, a business plan should set out your goals for the long term and enable you to measure your progress financially. What a lot of people don’t realise, however, is that a business plan is also a great way to help you distil your business idea into one, easy-to-understand proposition. It’ll help you to think about your business clearly and describe it to others in a succinct way. If you’re looking to secure financial support from colleagues, friends or banks a good business plan will go a long way in helping your cause.
Assess all costs and establish funding
This should happen as part of your business plan but it’s worth highlighting separately as it’s so crucial. The National Hairdressers’ Federation (NHF) estimate the cost of opening a salon in the UK to be anywhere between £3,000 and £35,000 depending on location and size
so it’s good to crunch the numbers beforehand and see just how much things are going to cost. There are handy startup calculators
that can help with this, but it’s important to do your own research too.
Be aware of rules and regulations
Here in the UK, you don’t need to have a formal qualification to become a hairdresser or barber, but you can register with the Hair Council or the National Hairdressers’ Federation. The Hair Council is a statutory body that was set up by the Hairdressers’ Act in 1964, but it isn’t very popular with modern salons and is completely optional. The NHF are worth joining, however, as they offer lots of news, events and information on industry trends. They’ll also help you by providing things like employee contract templates and chair-renting agreements.
Aside from joining various bodies and groups, there are a few other things to watch out for. Making sure that your electrical equipment is serviced every 2 years is vital to ensure that your staff and customers are safe and that you’re operating within the law. This must be carried out by an accredited electrician.
If you’re going to offer hair colouring it’s also worth checking the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations which can be found here
, and you’ll to have procedures in place for every customer to be allergy tested before undergoing any treatment involving hair dye.
Tap into the experience of those around you
Many young entrepreneurs entering any industry for the first time are often shy when it comes to asking for help. Don’t be. The chances are, you’re likely to know a few people in the industry if you’re thinking about starting up your own business. Pick someone as a mentor and ask them questions about starting up your business. There’s a lot of business out there and you’d be surprised at how many fellow salon owners are willing to help.
Location, location, location
It’s worth repeating this to yourself. For most first-time business owners, one of their main regrets is not giving this enough thought. You need somewhere that’s easily reachable and has good transport links like a busy town or city and parking facilities, but more crucially you need somewhere that’s highly visible with lots of footfall. Some of the best advertising you can do is simply being in a location where lots of people see you from day to day, particularly locals who are likely to become loyal customers over time.
If you can’t find the right property right away, it may be worth holding off for the right place. Remember, though, just because a property doesn’t have a ‘for sale’ sign doesn’t mean it isn’t available. If you see some vacant looking buildings that fit the bill, it can’t hurt to call the owner or agency in control of the property and enquire.
Get intimate with the area
Picking the right location is one thing, but to be successful you’re going to need to know everything about the place in order to be successful. Just because a nice property has opened up doesn’t mean you should pounce on it and move in. Get to know the area first. Spend some time there, get a feel for the local demographics and the potential competition. Even the kinds of shops, bars and cafes that are in an area can give you a good idea of the kind of people that are likely to live there and whether or not they’ll be likely customers. The internet can help here too - hop online and learn as much as you can about the village, town or city you’re thinking of setting up in.
Design your salon with your clientele in mind
At the early stages, it can be tempting to let your customers shape your salon, taking all the business you can get. However, as part of your business plan and research, you should have identified the kinds of customers you’re targeting and it’s important to stick to the plan. When choosing decorations, furniture and products, think of the customers you’re targeting. What can you do to make them feel at home and comfortable? For example, if your salon is targeting the older generation in a quiet village then bold, vibrant and edgy furnishings with loud music is probably going to be a mistake.
Excel at customer service
Like the design of your salon, the service should be tailored to your target customers too. What do they enjoy? How do they relax? It’s one thing to offer good customer service as standard, but tailoring your service to make your customers feel at home will go a long way to securing repeat business. If you want to become the go-to salon for locals, you’ll need to impress. For example, a salon in a young, hip sector of London might stock beer, wine, and soft drinks, whereas a smaller salon in a quaint town targeting the older generation might do the same with cups of tea. That cup of tea and the promise of a nice conversation could make all the difference and keep those customers coming back.
Don’t rely on footfall. Get online.
For any business to survive these days they need to have some kind of online presence. If you don’t have a website, a Facebook page or a Twitter profile then you’re more likely to miss out on business. The first thing somebody does when they need to book a hair appointment, if they don’t already have a regular, is jump online to do a Google search. They’ll look at reviews, social media activity and click through to your website for things like opening times and information on what you do. They might even want to book online, and if your site doesn’t have that facility and they’re trying to book an appointment on a busy train, they might go with a competitor for the simple ease of not having to make a phone call. The good news is that websites aren’t necessarily expensive and, once built, there’s very little in the way of overheads.
Do some ‘outside of the box’ marketing
Not all marketing has to be prohibitively expensive. There are free things you can do online like setting up social media accounts and such, but it’s difficult to stand out and without some real dedication it’s easy to get lost in the noise. To appeal to locals, try some low-cost alternative approaches to raise awareness. You could host a charity event for example, or sponsor a local school or sporting event. You might also consider doing deals with shops in the area to stock your business cards and vice versa. Anything that gets your name out there is a good thing at this stage. Even if they aren’t a customer now, planting your business in their mind is the first step to eventually gaining their custom.
Have a grand opening
Even the smallest local salons in the world should do this. Send out leaflets and invites to all of the locals, get your friends and family involved and have a great time. Try and create a buzz around your salon and attract attention with bold signage outside. Lay on some food and some drinks and get chatting to people - you may even earn a few new customers.
Don’t get complacent and always look to improve
So, your salon is open and you’re doing some steady business. You have a few regulars and things are starting to even out. While most customers will stay loyal to a salon, it’s important to continuously step up your efforts in both marketing and service to keep the ball rolling.
It’s also a good idea to continuously check for ways to save money too. Even some of the ideas we’ve discussed above require a little bit of splurging and some additional funding, so it’s important to reign things in when your business is in full swing. Check with suppliers, look at different product ranges and think of ways you can streamline your fixed costs. Even looking at things like energy and internet providers can make a significant difference over time.
Above all, enjoy it
Running your own salon isn’t easy, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by some of the challenges that lie ahead when starting your own business, but it’s also extremely rewarding. For all the small annoyances like managing your own tax, dealing with staff turnover and occasional long hours, there are many benefits. You get to be your own boss, provide a highly sought after and respected service, and become a valuable part of the local economy and the people that make it. Small businesses account for 99.3% of all private sector business in the UK, so there are hundreds of thousands out there that have made the step already. Do not be afraid to join them.