September 2012

Clive Lamb

Food for Thought | by Clive Lamb


Research Before Building New Salon

Choosing the right location for your salon can be the most important business decision you'll ever make. As the saying goes "There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location..."

When looking for a new location, remember new construction is a lot more expensive than existing space. New construction must comply with the most current building codes as well as ADA (handicap access), fire and air conditioning/heating codes and other city, state and federal ordinances.

Meeting these current standards can add extra cost, time and aggravation. If you choose to refinish an older space, most of the code work is usually grandfathered in, and this can save you thousands of dollars.

If you decide to go into a new center, always check to see what other businesses are going in there as well. The tenant mix is very important. You also need to know who is coming to the center, when are they coming and how long are they staying.

This information will tell you how parking spaces are effected and it gives you an idea of the amount of walk-by traffic you'll receive. The tenant mix is also important because you want to be in a centre whose customer demographics best match your target customer.

Visit the location at different times and days. Sit and watch who is coming and going. They only way you'll get absolutely accurate information is if you see it yourself.

Working directly with retail developers and landlords can be challenging. Remember, their job is not to look after your best interests, their job is to sell the space. Sometimes they will present site plans with high profile tenants that they may be in negotiation with, but haven't actually signed. Be careful about landlord promises. Do your homework and be sure the other tenants have signed the leases, and are not just in negotiation.

Unless you have experience in real estate, negotiating with developers and landlords can be daunting. In my experience, a good broker is worth using. They do cost you money on the back-end of your lease, but they know their stuff. They can protect you from landlord and developer scams and know the ins and outs of what can be negotiated on your lease.

In the end, they may save you attorney fees, build-out costs and even rent. That being said, anything involving a new lease should be reviewed by a real estate attorney. Never sign a lease without doing so.

Once you have decided on a location, consult with an architect or space planner on the design. Salon design is extremely important as you are paying for every inch of space and want to use it wisely.

If you have a contractor, they may tell you that they can also design your space. While they may have some experience in design, their expertise is to build, not design. Using the services of an architect or space planner sounds expensive, but it doesn't have to be. There are many resources available that can fit within your budget.

If there is an architectural program at a college near you, meet with them and ask if they'd like to use your salon design for a student project. The real world experience of design, engineering, space planning and building code compliance would be priceless to a group of students.

Additionally, some salon furniture companies offer design and space planning as a free service. Get creative. However you do it, get professional advice on how to design your space wisely.

Think about how you want the space to flow, the mood you want to create and how it will effect the experience of your client from the minute they walk in the door until they leave. Here's an example:

Don't forget the little things- like where will the customer put their purse or coat?

Where will stylists keep their tools? Where will towels be kept? Where will the client put their used smock?

Think about every aspect of the customer's experience. Walk through it. Be careful not to overcrowd your space. It should flow so that clients can be moved through in a system that makes them feel relaxed without being herded like cattle.

Choosing the right location, negotiating good lease terms and smart design and space planning can make or break your business regardless of how talented you or your team are. Do your homework. Get as much professional help as you can and always remember that your space is your image which reflects your brand.

Clive Lamb owns and operates Clive and Co., a modern, thriving salon based in Dallas, Texas. In addition, Clive was appointed Chairman of the Texas Cosmetology Advisory Board in 2006, a position he held for five years. Clive has over 30 years of international exposure to the vast and constantly evolving hairdressing industry.