Expert Advice

Handling the Holidays

Web Editor | July 10, 2011 | 6:15 PM
Express Yourself

How well prepared are you to handle the holiday rush? Start by aligning the to-do list with your financial goals. Here, helpful suggestions from well-seasoned pros.

Make a List
April Poster, a trainer and Coaching Club pro at Salon Training International in Carlsbad, California, says many salon owners’ approach to the holidays is simply to get through them. She offers a more attractive alternative.

“Take advantage of the biggest money making season of the year by talking to clients about upcoming parties and events,” says Poster. Then schedule salon visits accordingly. To be sure appointments are on mark, treat holiday scheduling the same as you would pre-wedding planning.

Though the best time to start holiday planning is October, it’s never too late. Choose a day to arrive at the salon early, lay out your tools and products and go over the books with an assistant. Poster says this is a good way to gauge which additional services you can provide without adding time to the client’s appointment.

Look to your service menu to generate ideas. Flash foils and nail polish changes are obvious add-ons, but why not also suggest a paraffin dip while hair color processes? Clients will leave with softer hands, and you'll reap the profits.

The point, Poster emphasizes, is to maintain your regular service menu while strengthening it. Once you're ready to maximize your earning potential, investigate what other salons are doing to simplify services and increase productivity.

Speed Up Services
If you like to pamper clients, remember that time is the ultimate luxury. Most salons offer truncated manicures and pedicures, skipping the massage and treatment aspects of the services and focusing on the nails. For quick stress-relief, they might also add chair massages, charging by the minute.

Understanding that clients don't want to be caught at the office party with roots, Micki Stirsman, owner of Salon 01 in Carmel, Indiana, offers an express service that relies on a unique “clear/ permanent” product that matches the artificial pigment, lifting to blend the line of demarcation. “The product is used at the new growth only, works with the scalp’s natural heat and takes only 10 minutes,” says Stirsman.

At D.S. Parada Color Cafe in Raleigh, North Carolina, owner Don Stacy offers two forms of express color which involve partial or strategic highlights and take just 30 minutes. “We can schedule walk-ins during the color processing time,” he says.

Another time-saver is an ionic color processor or steam machine, which reduces processing time from 45 to 15 minutes. And also consider the abbreviated “express updo” when booking time for a special-occasion style, says Stirsman. She suggests that the client come in with dry hair that has product worked through it. An assistant then uses curling and flatirons, fingers and a few pins to coif the hair. “We also sell hair jewelry, which makes the less-contrived look that’s popular now easier to achieve,” she says.

Adding Assistance—and Assistants
Most salons add desk staff during the holidays, but consider another option: a call center to free the desk and allow you to focus on in-salon clients. To determine whether a call center matches your needs, arrange for phones to ring first in a back room or office before bouncing back to the desk. If this system saves time, you may want to add a second phone number and make it a permanent addition.

Like many salon owners, Stirsman encourages password-protected on-line booking, and to avoid last-minute cancellations, she employs an automatic reminder service that puts out a call to clients two days in advance of their appointments.

“We used to do this physically, which took three and a half hours,” says Stirsman. “The reminder service has been hugely successful in cutting down on no-shows and costs only 15 cents per call. That’s less than $300 a month for both of our locations.”

Holidays are a time for family and friends, and out-of-town visitors mean more walk-ins. To prepare for them at the John Robert’s Spas in Mayfield Heights and Chagrin Falls, Ohio, executive corporate director Denise Thompson created large signs for display outside the salons. The signs post available appointments that day, such as a 1 p.m. manicure, and are updated immediately in the event of a cancellation.

Thompson says the salons also tap schools for students who want to experience a fast-paced work environment first-hand. Salons that can't afford to hire assistants can contact nearby schools and offer the same opportunity. But don't be tempted to use students or assistants as gophers; the first priority is for them to learn.

That’s why Eric Fisher, owner of the Eric Fisher Salons in Wichita, Kansas, hires outside help to do the laundry, clean the salon and wash color bowls. Non-stylist employees can even fill out names of the day’s clients on retail prescription pads in advance as another simple time-saver. “We usually prebook everyone. But during the holidays, we focus on that less to allow for walk-ins,” adds Fisher.

Wrapping Up Retail
Holiday gift purchases will jump off the shelves if you employ smart marketing strategies. For examples, retail items tend to sell more quickly if you have one “demo” on display, surrounded by festively pre-wrapped packages with cards already attached.

Denise Thompson recommends using colorful shrink wrap and a blow-dryer to build custom baskets on-site. In-salon advisors offer to create the customized baskets which are then packed, wrapped and ready to go by the time the client leaves. Stirsman also makes up gift baskets in advance for her clients, with prices that range from $20 (for babysitters and teachers) to $100.

To move gift certificates, Jill Krahn, co-owner of Hair Success in Fargo, North Dakota, set up an outdoor tent one year that lured drive-by sales. It was highly succe

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