Something Old, Something New... Is the Bridal Market Right for You?

City Salon BrideBy Diana Gilliard of CitySalon of Huntington Beach, California

Spring is here and with it comes the bridal season. If you’re already providing exceptional service to your current clients, that is where most of your bridal clientele originates.

If you have stylists in your salon who are creative, patient with their clients, and have the ability to help them achieve their hair goals on a month-to-month basis, then developing your bridal business is the next logical step.

Something Old: Evaluating Your Readiness

First things first – how are your stylists handling the day in and day out business? On a week-to-week basis, how many redos for typical hairdressing are being done in your salon?

How often do you have to deal with an unhappy client? How truly strong do you feel your staff is? If you feel like they have a ways to go to develop and reach their potential, wait on pumping up the bridal business. Pushing your stylists too fast can undermine any efforts you have made to build their confidence. And worse, it can damage the brand and image of your salon.

If you’re not sure that your team is ready, go back to the basics of customer service: invite in effective education opportunities, and have weekly one-on-one meetings to help develop your staff. Visit hair and beauty shows to get ideas and stay up-to-date on current wedding trends, and subscribe to bridal magazines so that you have inspiration all around you.

Finally, consider holding a bridal beauty photo shoot – a chance for your stylists to bring their creativity to life without the pressure of the “big day.” Enlist customers as models, find a photographer who is looking to fill his or her portfolio, and spend a day styling and shooting everything from romance to rocker to Hollywood glam. In the end, you’ll have a great Look Book of inspirational images, and your stylists will have gained some great experience.

Once you’re ready, stock up on your tiaras, bring in the bridal magazines, fill the fridge with strawberries and champagne, and get ready to take on bridal business and make some serious money!

Something New: Bring on the Brides

Start with a clear bridal policy and contract. Having everything spelled out in black and white will make all parties involved more comfortable. You might require all services for brides and their attendants to be prepaid. This protects the staff and keeps them loving the bridal aspect of our business. Brides may unintentionally be harsh on their big day -- run late, be strung out, stressed, and take it out on their stylists. The last thing you want at your front desk is a bride, with her hair done, full veil and tiara, angry arguing over the price. You’re not going to win that argument even if you’re right. And, if you get her to pay, other patrons are going to side with the bride; it’s a visual argument you can’t win so it’s best to hash all this out ahead of time.

It’s important to talk to your brides in a positive manner first (weeks ahead of time), and let them know you’ve set aside a specific amount of time for them so they can experience the full royal treatment, and not feel rushed on their special day. So remind them to show up on time and make sure the bridal party is on time, too.

It is the staff’s job to ensure the bride’s experience in your salon is a success and results in great hair; but it’s not your staff’s fault if she’s late or stressed. Since the large majority of bridal work is done on a Saturday (one of a typical salon’s busiest business days), it’s important to protect yourself from losing money as a result of a bridal appointment running over. If these issues are addressed initially in a contract, brides are happy, and the staff is making great money and they’re happy too.

Another incentive for your staff is the opportunity to gain new clientele through bridal bookings. Remind your stylists to stay in that consultative mode as they service the bridal party on the big day, and to follow up afterwards with a personal call, note or email.

Inspiring Bridal Beauty

Last but not least, make sure you’re charging what you’re worth. Underselling your services can negatively affect the staff (brides and their bridesmaids can be a lot of work!), and make potential brides nervous, leaving them wondering, “are they actually good at this?” Shop other salons in your area to help determine what you should charge. Review your pricing structure at least once or twice during the year and allow for flexibility.

Finally, always practice and hone your skills for delivering bridal hair with a run-through a few days or weeks ahead of time. Once the right look is achieved and everyone is satisfied, take pictures for reference so that the big day is flawless. This helps to ensure there won’t be an unhappy bride on her wedding day. And, if your space allows, have a table or space where the bridal party can hang out while waiting for their turn. A fun idea is to bring in bagels, breakfast, mimosas, etc.

Wedding season is a great opportunity for those of us in the beauty business to really flex our creative muscles and make bridal fantasies come to life. If you’re organized and ready to begin booking bridal parties, you’re on your way to making dreams come true.

Diana Gilliard, owner and stylist of CitySalon of Huntington Beach can be reached at dianaleegilliard@gmail.com.

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