The ‘black salon’ branding problem

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In order to attract and retain upscale clientele, you may have to address the “black salon” branding problem head on. Let’s face it together to help you meet your sales goals.

Recently, a client told me about a Philly.com post about the increase in multicultural salons. Under pressure from the economy, many black salons have been forced to close their doors, according to the article. This is not news, right?  The overall industry showed a decrease in salons last year.  What may be more interesting is where these former salon owners are going to work. Many have rejoined the employee ranks as stylists within larger salons like Saks Fifth Avenue and JCPenney. Even this is not really CNN-worthy.  African-American stylists have hung up their shears in traditional white salons for years.

The article talks about trade-offs in “atmosphere” and service that many clients who historically only supported black salons make when they switch to a salon that is sprinkled with more diverse faces. I argue that the comparison isn’t between black vs. white salons. Focusing purely on the ethnicity of the salon owner or the clients is a smoke screen. It’s the equivalent of telling single black women that there are no good men out there. We are really talking about operating a hair hustle vs. a professionally run hair salon establishment.

What I have learned by talking to many women about their salon experiences is that all of us, black, white, Asian, and Latina, share some common expectations. All want: #1) a capable hair stylist that can manage their particular hair type, #2) courteous service with respect, #3) reasonable pricing (worthy of the value of #1 and #2).  The problem is that many target clients assume that black salons are lacking in all three areas before they even walk through the door.

I know that my blog readers do not fall into this category.  But some of your potential clients have been burnt (no pun intended)  too many times. This has sparked the trend of salons boldly branding themselves as “Dominican,” multicultural or the “not your typical” black salon. This reality conveys a sad message about the state of black business. I will stop there to focus on some tips to reclaim your brand.

Here are a few suggestions to ensure that your salons stand out as professionally run:

1. Up your customer service level. I know, I know you are a slave to your clients. But how well would you pass a customer service checklist? Be honest. Is your salon in need of a good cleaning? Are your towels five years old? Are your clients greeted by only a head nod when they arrive?

2. Give the shoe lady the boot and add more retail space. Conventional salon wisdom says that retail should be 25% of total sales. Where do you stand? Get feedback from your clients about what types of products they would consider buying from you to expand your current options. Get creative. Some salons even sell candy. Try retailing newer product lines where you may be able to negotiate better margins.

3. Invest in more training for you and your staff. Well-run companies invest in the development of their people. Don’t leave training up to the whim of your staff. On the business side, if you don’t feel computer literate enough, invest in taking a course at a local community college.  Being more tech savvy will save you money by allowing you to work smarter.

4. Expand your services. Many top-producing salons can service a wide-range of health and beauty needs for their clients. If you don’t want to invest in too much too fast, think about adding mobile contractors. Perhaps adding a massage therapist or nail technician on certain days of the week to add to the salon experience that you offer. Again, get feedback from your clients about other services that they would consider buying while they are at your salon.

The final scoop: If you continue to strive to get better in these areas, your clients won’t think of you as only a black salon owner. You will be considered just as a good business owner that can appeal to all types of clients.

  1. This is all so true. I remember a time when other Stylist that I worked at laughed at me saying “look at her she being professional”. I knew that day what kind of clientele I wanted to attracted and where I was headed. That is what most of my clients love about me is the professionalism and no gossip shop. We are Salon where we uplift and network as sisters. Thanks for getting this information out to the public. Still looking forward to hearing from you.

  2. V. Woods says:

    I am glad this post rang true for you!

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