Shooting from the hip

The art of competing with budget salons

15th Jun 2018
The art of competing with budget salons

Samuel Sweet, co-founder and CEO of Sweet Squared is shooting from the hip about budget salons


Working hard to build and maintain a clientele, only to one day discover you’ve lost customers to a new budget salon charging only a fraction of what you do, is nothing short of deflating. But if you compete with others, eventually you become bitter – when you compete with yourself, you become better.


Take Costa and Starbucks. They serve similar products at similar prices to similar clients; the deciding factor between the two usually comes down to convenience. Compare this to Skoda and Mercedes. Both offer products that transport you from A to B in relative safety and comfort, but they have wildly different prices and different consumers with different expectations.


Ultimately, if you don’t provide greater value, in terms of price, convenience or quality, you don’t deserve that customer

Let’s examine three areas that spa and beauty consumers value:

1. Price - Budget salons specialise in volume services at low prices. This approach brings salon offering to a significantly wider consumer base that may otherwise never have been able to afford (or have the desire to pay for) professional treatments. If all budget salons were to vanish tomorrow, their consumers wouldn’t simply switch to their local, much more expensive spa. The vast majority would return to applying Rimmel to their own nails. Ultimately, the more people try beauty services, the more we increase awareness. That can only be great news for our industry!

2. Convenience -For some, there’s nothing more expensive than the cost of time. I am the perfect example of the modern-day time-starved person; my schedule is so volatile I can seldom book hair appointments further ahead than tomorrow without a risk I’ll have to cancel. Budget salons often offer the convenience of last-minute bookings; many don’t even take bookings – there’s value in that for many consumers. Conversely, there are consumers that place greater value on longer, more luxurious services.

3. Quality - As consummate professionals, you know about nails, about sanitation, about what it takes to nurture the nail and about proper design. Some consumers just don’t care about that. Some consumers simply want their nails long and a very specific shade of red. The health of their nails isn’t important to these customers, which means your skill and expertise hold little value to them.

While I’m at it, I should mention that low quality isn’t exclusive to budget salons – I’ve witnessed seriously terrible nails (green, trashed, drilled, you name it…) fresh out of expensive salons and spas. You don’t have to charge low prices to do a bad job.


If you’re losing customers to a budget salon, it’s time to ask yourself a few honest questions. Are you delivering budget but charging for premium? Would your customer have stayed had the budget salon not opened? Was there previously a lack of choice? What’s the customer looking for that they aren’t finding with you? Are your prices very different but the results very similar? Has the customer ever struggled to book in with you?

Never compete on price – someone will always do it for less

Ultimately, if you don’t provide greater value – in terms of price, convenience or quality – you don’t deserve that customer. Here are some ways to increase the value you have on offer.


Education is the great differentiator. Ensure your customer understands unequivocally that they’re purchasing the time and expertise of a true professional. Treat each client as if they’re first-time dinner guests; welcome them with respect and professionalism. Don’t let the Kardashians’ latest misdemeanour  dominate the appointment; always make sure you’ve given your education a little time to shine and remember to make sure your certificates (preferably more current than 1993!) are proudly on display.

Don’t become bitter, become better!

Take a fresh look at the environment; what’s your customer’s first impression of your workspace. Are the shelves littered with bottles of old polish and magazines-a-flutter from 2004? Dress yourself and your salon or spa for the customer you want to attract and maintain.


Lastly, never compete on price – someone will always do it for less. The clientele won over by price alone are the ones that’ll disappear when someone else does it cheaper. Don’t hide your prices and don’t discount your services; clients will make value judgements based on your prices. Encourage that and you will attract the right customer that values your environment and your expertise.

The art of competing with anyone is to stop. Don’t become bitter, become better!


Samuel Sweet is co-founder and CEO of Sweet Squared, the award-winning distributor partner for brands including CND, Wax:One and Lecenté in the UK and Ireland.

Sweet started out in the industry in his home town of Salt Lake City, Utah aged 21, becoming one of the first members of the elite Team CND. He now heads up the 70 strong S2 team, striving to ensure the company stays true to the pro and blazes a trail within the spa and beauty industries.


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