Upsizing vs Downsizing – What’s Best for Your Salon?
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Whether you are looking to expand your burgeoning business or want to minimise your salon portfolio, either way it has to be a business decision that’s right for you. Two salon owners share their journeys of scaling up and scaling down their businesses.
Jamie Stevens owns four salons in Clapham, Ripley, Kensington and Somerset. He shares his insights into the benefits of opening in new salon locations…
Why did you decide to expand your business?
I always have grand five-year and 10-year plans, but I also love being spontaneous – it’s in my nature. Luckily, I always find opportunities at the right time.
How do you choose a new location?
I’m an entrepreneur so I evaluate everything based on its merits. I ask questions like – ‘is it in keeping with the brand?’, ‘is it already a profitable business?’ and ‘what are the pros and cons?’ I’m led by opportunities that come up rather than picking a location and looking for a suitable salon in that area.
Can you tell us about the decision-making process behind your Ripley salon in Surrey?
My cousin owned a two-storey beauty salon in Ripley and the opportunity arose to take the downstairs and transform it into a hair salon. It’s a beautiful area, there’s parking outside, which is something I always look out for and the shops cater to a similar demographic to my other salons.
How did your newest branch in Clapham come about?
Clapham is somewhere I’ve always had my eye on. It’s a lovely part of London, full of cool young families that like to look after themselves. Our new salon is situated on the buzzy Abbeville Road and I couldn’t have asked for a better location.
Have all of your salon openings run smoothly?
There’s always hiccups – building work is unpredictable and getting new teams in place and trained to
our high standards takes time. You try to learn from each new venture but there’s still the inevitable curve ball. With Kensington for example, I let the team go early on the last day of building work as we didn’t have clients. However, at the end of the day we realised the whole place needed to be cleaned, so myself and my wife Megan cleaned on our own until gone midnight. Plus, the Clapham deal came together right after my son Rudi was born, which wasn’t ideal timing.
What are the challenges of owning a salon chain?
I’ve had to look at the operations side of the business and recognise there are new positions I need to fill to make managing a larger salon group viable. When you’re a business owner you just get on with it – as well as cutting hair and managing the team I’ve been putting up shelves and mucking in with the building work. It’s non-stop.
What’s the next step for your business?
We’re launching advanced beauty services in our Clapham, Ripley and Kensington salons, which is a new move for us. Sharon Hilditch MBE and owner of Crystal Clear Skincare will train the team to offer the brand’s most popular treatments such as the COMCIT H20 Glow treatment, COMCIT Frozen Facial and Oxygen Therapy.
Phil Smith is the former owner of 28 global Toni & Guy salons. Here he reveals why he decided to sell up and focus on his own brand closer to home…
What has downsizing allowed you to achieve?
A feeling of contentment. You never stop learning as a business owner but being 100% in control has allowed me to take the time to stop and analyse the business needs for one salon. There are economic advantages to running 28 salons, but today I can focus all my energy on one successful salon, which gives me a slightly better work/life balance.
What are the main points to consider when downsizing?
I’d have to say your own ego. I had a sizeable ego – I am proud to say that
I had a huge turnover and a massive team. I had to overcome how I thought others would perceive me for downsizing to one salon. Also, when you have a large turnover it allows you to take larger projects to banks. The banks take you more seriously when there’s a substantial amount of money involved.
Has downsizing allowed you to invest in other areas?
Yes, when I sold the salons I invested in my own product range – Phil Smith Be Gorgeous. I’ve also committed to running Smith England as a not-for-profit salon. The walls of our salon are attached to the historic Salisbury Cathedral, so any profit which is made is put back into the restoration of the building. The salon does not operate on a target-driven incentive scheme. My team are paid well and know what
their wages are each month. I’ve found this leads to a happier customer experience, a more contented team that work together and increased loyalty from both the team and our clients.
What are the benefits of having one flagship salon?
Having just one flagship salon is not necessarily an easier ride, but it has given me more time and space to assess what is important to me. Today I believe more in a work/life balance for all. I spend the majority of my time in one country now and have the energy to focus on pushing my own brand.
What are the challenges facing smaller businesses at the moment?
Business rates. These are making it very difficult for small businesses and I would rather see the rates reinvested in apprenticeship schemes, where we are able to pay the younger people coming into the industry a higher amount and train them to shop floor standards more quickly.
Are there any downsides to downsizing?
When you own 28 salons you have a team around you that deals with specific aspects of the business such as recruitment, HR, maintenance, accounts and marketing. When you have only one salon you become the go-to person. As well as being a hairdresser, I’m also the handyman, the bookkeeper and agony uncle!
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Hairdressers Journal. To subscribe click below