Beyond haircuts: The business of beauty

By Melissa Kossler Dutton
Photos by Tim Johnson

The business of beauty evolves with breakout services, focus on the experience and new technology applications.

Mary Rector-Gable sees a lot of parallels between retail shopping trends and the beauty industry.

A generation ago, Americans bought most of their clothing and household goods at a department store. Today, they visit specialty retailers for everything from jeans to dishes to watches.

“Now, the department store is the store you walk through to get to the store you want to go to,” says Rector-Gable, founder of behindthechair.com, a top website for salon professionals.

Just as stores focusing on one particular item have spun off from the department store, specialty salons have become a key trend in the beauty industry, Rector-Gable and other experts say. Rather than go to one full-service salon, many customers visit different establishments for nail, hair, massage and other services. A growing number of salons also have begun to narrow their focus to certain populations. Salons catering to men and children have become increasingly popular during the last two decades.

The industry has “changed in many ways,” agrees Rowena Yeager, a member of the Professional Beauty Association’s Salon/Spa Council and salon owner in Twinsburg, Ohio. “You’re always going to have evolution from one thing to another.”

Other factors impacting salon operations are technology and growing interest in express and men’s services. Product sales continue to be important although many salons have become frustrated by beauty supply companies increasingly allowing retail stores to carry products that used to be available only in the salon.