Contributed by celebrity stylist Candy Shaw, owner of Jamison Shaw Hairdressers. Originally written on May 21, 2020, reposting with her permission.
Jamison Shaw Hairdressers is located in Atlanta, Georgia.
Georgia was given the go-ahead to open our salons on April 24. A reckless decision I might add, and one I did not follow. I thought it might be interesting to share a quick rundown of what happened in my state in hopes it may help others prepare (only an opinion, of course).
The salons who opened right away struggled to get staff to return. Owners were dealing with morale issues like never before. In fact, many gave employees a window to return, if they did not choose to return within that window they were let go. Most salons were operating at 40-50% capacity, working long hours (in a mask it’s very hard), and abbreviated days. In some cases, salons raised prices and/or added a “Safe Salon Fee” to cover the cost of the newest line item. I did not raise prices but am charging a $5 Safe Salon fee as the expenses are enormous!
Georgia began to open very slowly in fact. Even when given the chance, supplies were in high demand and fear was our biggest enemy as owners managed opinions and attitudes like never before. The mental health of hairdressers has been my toughest obstacle among preparation for opening our doors! We have 3 kinds of team members now:
1. Those who are paralyzed by fear
2. Those who are invincible and couldn’t care less
3. Those that just wait to be told how to react
Yes, it sounds crazy, but I’ve spoken to all top salon owners in Atlanta and they all agree! The way we are doing business with our employees has changed. Because they are scared to not have an income, they react differently to leadership.
I chose to put Health over Hair and press pause. It has turned out to be a great decision for several reasons. The biggest is the perception of our guests (now they really know we are operating safely) and my staff!
100% returned without a blink of an eye because of HOW we reopened.
Let me explain:
After getting our salon prepared, I divided my team and brought them in at three different times, and trained them on protocols, procedures, and sanitation expectations. During this time, we literally built a new way of doing business and we “branded” every aspect! Customized sanitizers, glasses, smocks for us to wear, signage – we even took baby wipes and ZEP chemicals to turn them into disinfectant wipes. With shortages of cleaning supplies, this is important to know as a manufacturer.
After much thought, I decided to allow our first practice day to be on each other. I gave each employee the opportunity to get their own hair done! After all, remember I am managing fear and perception. I felt like the best way to get them into a positive mindset was to help them feel better! I let them color, cut, and get any home use products needed gratis as a gift from us! They were thrilled, and although they were wearing masks, you could actually see their smiles!
Our first practice day on paying guests!
I allowed my staff to choose only two guests at first. We worked a morning shift and an afternoon shift. It was ESSENTIAL to have a dry run. I am hearing now that many are going in and their first day back working 10 hours! Leaving in tears, completely overwhelmed! I recommend you let folks’ practice– they have not touched their salon booking software tools in over two months, and not only are there tons of things to remember to do, but they must also begin to get their stamina back! It’s so tiring working in a mask.
We decided to forego blow-drying for May! Best decision ever. Not one complaint! We explain it’s for timing, appointment duration, and the over 3,000 appointments we have to reschedule, emphasizing hair color, not hairstyling has been very profitable. By the way, we have not discounted our prices because of it either. It’s all in how you explain it to guests. They are happy to have an appointment and willing to sacrifice for us to help us.
We completed week one and let me just say… WOW! We worked six days with shifting scheduling (no stylist worked over seven hours), I removed 25 chairs out of my 50-chair salon– my initial thought was we would do “half” of the revenue, but boy was I wrong! Our salon did as much as the week before Christmas!
Operating at 100% with fewer people and hours might be the new business model. On top of that, even though we had a very healthy retail campaign while our doors were closed ($68,000 worth of retail sold in 8 weeks of closure), much to my amazement our first week back our salon did another $10K in retail sales. Why I tell you this is because how we are offering retail has completely changed!
No longer is the customer experience about walking to the front, touching, smelling, experiencing the product, it’s now happening at the chair as my salon is cashless, and we have eliminated the physical check-out process. All guests are required to have a credit card on file inside the salon management software – now retailing happens “table side” instead of on the way out the door! Placing responsibility on the service provider to fill the order, communicate their needs, and educate on products is different than ever before! Although it’s only the first week back, I’m encouraged by this NEW way of looking at retail. The focus has changed, and guests are listening to their service providers.
Another big change for us has been how we mix color. Due to density rates and six-foot distancing, we decided to have our staff members pull all color formulas (as best they could) at the end of each shift for the following day. The goal was to cut down on the number of stylists concentrated in our dispensary areas. Two points I want to make about this.
First, I was always reluctant to allow this type of model in my salon in the past, fearing it would encourage too much of a “station renting/booth renting” mentality. But actually, what it has created has been remarkable! Not only has it cut down on traffic, noise, movement, and wasting time, it has brought a new sense of consultation and professional nature “table side” to the chair!
Now before you think we are teaching our guests how to mix color, what it has done is show them how intricate the science is, how much education goes into the process, and how they can NEVER do it themselves at home. It’s given me a time to reflect on how we do color services moving forward. And although I don’t have the analytics on waste control at this time, I do think it may even cut down on over mixing. Streamlining overuse of color is music to my ears!
In sum, I just wanted to say that the shift in perception of hairstylists and our guest needs have changed! They are literally throwing money at my stylist. The first guest I did tipped me $1,000, and many of our employees are receiving tips that exceed their overall ticket charge through Venmo. This may not last forever but it sure helps morale to feel essential.
We are all dancing as fast as we can to navigate our new normal!
I hope in some way I’ve given you all some food for thought. I do not claim to have all the answers as I am adjusting every day to better our procedures, but I am encouraged.
As a matter of fact, we are actively hiring, not because we lost anyone but because I see this as a different kind of business moving forward. Our front desk will be shrinking with tableside retailing and touch-less checkouts, but our workforce will need to have more hands to A) keep up with demand and B) keep our salons safe and clean. We have also seen a huge uptick of new guests calling our salon.
Respectfully Sending Love and Light!
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