October 2012

Steve Sleeper

Beauty Insider| by Amy Brooks


Breaking into the Men's Market

We all know it's true – men and women are different. We communicate differently, respond to media and popular culture differently and, in the salon environment, are expecting a very different kind of experience.

Far from the traditional Barber Shop environment many of us picture when we talk about men's salons, today's man is looking for a space they can be comfortable in; providers who are knowledgeable about their specific needs and service options that, until recent history, they could only find in salons catering primarily to women.

More and more, men are looking for a full-service menu, including coloring, hair and skin services and some that may surprise many, like nose waxing and a good old-fashioned Brazilian wax.

The industry at large has recognized men's demand for style has created a distinct niche in the salon/spa world. Trendy, and very successful, men-only salons have popped up across the U.S. Stylists are seeking out more technical skills to satisfy the demand.

Even the North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) – the industry's competition of competitions in hair and makeup – recently announced a new "Men's Hairstylist of the Year" award for the 2013 competition.

This new and expanding market can be explained by today's popular culture. Jessica Hammel, PBA member and president of American Male Salons, explains that now more than ever, men are influenced by popular fashion trends with more emphasis on health and well-being.

Most interesting she says, and others in the industry agree, is the biggest change in demand isn't coming from the younger generations. "It has a lot to do with baby boomers," she said. "They have disposable income and care about health and wellness. People are working well into their 70s and competing for jobs with much younger people, so it is important for them to look younger, which is where services like haircolor and skin care are so important."

But unlike the salons who've mastered the perfect salon experience for their female clients it's still challenging for the coif-conscious man to find a salon to call home.

"Many men are going to women's salons and are happy with the service but don't like the experience. And others go to barber shops or walk-in type salons because they feel intimidated in the typical salon," explained Hammel. This opens up a big opportunity for salons to break into the male market.

Before you jump right in and start purchasing new artwork and strategizing on your man-centric marketing, it would be a good idea to understand some of the nuances men respond to, especially when it comes to pricing, training service providers and crafting your retailing messages.

When it comes to retail, Hammel goes on, "It is important to use a direct and telling style with men. They respond to that. That is the way they communicate."

"Men are told not sold," agreed Krista Martin, PBA member and owner of Metro FOR MEN in Irvine, California. "I've discovered over the years that men want to know what to buy and why they should buy it. I train my staff to keep it simple and direct."

Pricing for services should be approached differently as well, and this is where a lot of salon owners get hung up. "I believe salon owners overlook and do not put much effort into the men's market because they believe it isn't lucrative -- that there is no money in the men's niche. But, the men's market can be lucrative if strategically priced." Martin explained.

"When comparing similarly priced women's salon to men-only salons, the rate per hour in men's services can be higher. The net profit margin is also higher because less product is used per capita. Lastly, men on average tip a higher percentage than their female counterpart. We also see more male clients in a given day and it's more likely that the tip income to the service provider in this market can be higher. It's a win-win for the salon and service provider."

Whether you want to fill your books with more male clients or are planning to open your own men-only salon, Martin offers this sound advice to consider. "Make sure your team is properly trained in men's services and techniques before beginning marketing efforts. Men have become very sophisticated and know what they are looking for. They will know right away if they are not being catered to and will most likely not return," She added that, "The worst experience for a male client is to be coaxed into a new salon, only to get the service provider who doesn't particularly enjoy working on men." 

The next step, she explained, is to prepare your atmosphere. Be sure there are elements to make the atmosphere neutral, men's magazines and hairstyle books, your retail includes male products, and, most importantly, that your service providers are well versed in popular trends and male-appropriate language. "These two steps are a great beginning for a salon owner to venture into the men's market."

Amy Brooks is the communications manager for the Professionals Beauty Association (PBA), the nation's largest organization of beauty professionals. PBA membership advances our industry. For more information, visit probeauty.org.