Is offering blowout and styling services the key to bringing clients back into the salon? Find out what the experts are saying about the current state (and future) of finishing services.
In so many ways, the pandemic has changed the way a lot of us work. Whether by putting an end to double- booking, limiting offered services or increasing health and safety protocols, today’s in-salon experience is significantly different than it was before March of 2020. Of course, with things slowly returning to normal, client experience is once again moving into focus—especially when it comes to building and maintaining loyalty. With the rise of underground salons and the fact that some clients are choosing to do their own cuts and colour at home, now might be the time to consider expanding your styling and finishing services to create an in- salon experience that clients can’t find anywhere else.
Not Just Hot Air
At Ricci Hair Co. in Edmonton, Alta., Contessa-winning salon owner Tony Ricci offers a blow-dry and braid bar.
“Blow bars were really taking off a few years ago and we decided to jump on it,” he says. “We started offering them when we were starting our academy, so I was looking for students and junior hairstylists to help with blowouts and styling, and offered these services at a lower cost. Now, we offer express blowouts for 30 to 40 minutes, and Happy Hour blowouts from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., which is our slower time. We were offering the Happy Hour blowouts with a glass of wine, but can’t now [due to the pandemic].”
Like many salons, Ricci noticed a decline in blowout and styling services in general since the pandemic began.“It started out really well but then the pandemic arrived. Then it began picking up when we reopened in July—we were getting calls and booked for express blowouts,” he says. “I think they will be back. I keep hearing the Roaring Twenties will be back and I think people are going to want to do more of that and go out when things are more under control.”
While people may be going out less now, offering blowout and styling services might be the key to introducing potential new clients to your salon, especially if they’re considering changing salons. It also provides your junior staff with a first-hand opportunity to work with and interact with clients.
“Sometimes people who are shopping around for a new salon want to get a blowout or a braid just to have a feel for the salon,” says Ricci. “It’s common that they may not want to make the sacrifice of getting a haircut or colour by a new salon, but they’re likely looking for a good blowout. Because a lot of people wear their hair longer now, it can take more than an hour of our regular stylists’ time, but for two or three juniors, it can be a good training opportunity. It’s also a great way to introduce clients to the salon.”
While we’re seeing light at the end of the COVID tunnel, because Alberta has been experiencing a spike in cases, what the next few weeks and the holiday season will look like is still uncertain. “It’s been a hard time to build any kind of business, and in our case, we haven’t been able to hire any new staff because it’s been so up and down,” says Ricci. “We’re doing okay with the regulars but I think we’re going to have to do a price increase soon to generate a little bit more revenue because I don’t know if we’re going to see Christmas parties this year. Are people going to be going out for the holidays? Another consideration is that we need to spend more time with clients in the salon and give them a better customer service experience when they’re here so they don’t feel rushed. I think any kind of add-on you can offer that’s a little extra and makes them feel pampered will go a long way.”
PRO TIP : If a client is unsure of how to style or finish their hair, consider combining blowout and styling options to create a more customized look. Conversely, try changing their hair’s part for a subtle change.
Beyond the Surface
For Audrey Adriné Petrosyan, former salon director at Toni&Guy, the pandemic brought on a new set of challenges for their Blow Dry Club, a discounted, prepaid bundle of six blowouts that include a wash and style, and can be used over the course of a year. “It gave clients a reason to come back to the salon that’s not overly costly,” she says. “It was working really well because people want a little bit of a blowout to feel and look good—not just for an occasion, but for the weekend or a meeting. People want to treat themselves.”
While she recognizes that there hasn’t been an increase in these services since the pandemic began, she also acknowledges that many salons charge extra for a blow-dry for some services, such as colour, or weren’t offering blow-drys at the height of the pandemic last year.
“We had a lot of clients coming to us because we were washing the hair before the haircut and giving them a nice blow- dry,” says Petrosyan. “As a colourist and hairstylist for more than 20 years, I cannot let anyone leave with wet hair. I want to see my work. Plus, dry cutting is a big part of the finishing of the haircut.”
“If a client just spent $300 on her colour, we can’t let her leave with her hair wet. If another client walks in and sees her hair dry, they’ll have more confidence in me rather than if they see her hair while it’s still wet.”
At Sassoon Salon in Toronto, they offer nine different blowout options from their signature straight to beach waves to dishevelled looks, and seven styling options, including braids, twists and ponytails.
“I think you have to almost spell it out for clients since they don’t always know what they want,” says Sassoon Salon’s salon director, Tricia McQuillan. “We’ve laid it out with a variety of different looks/options because not everyone is going to look great with. the same one. It’s all about suitability— you have to have multiple options for the client.”
“Working with different textures of hair and offering a variety to clients will open up a larger clientele,” she adds. “We have to be comfortable and know how to work with all different textures—poker-straight to curly waves to Afro texture—to be able to create a style that suits the client.”
While McQuillan says there hasn’t necessarily been an increased demand for finishing services throughout the pandemic, it continues to be a core part of their business. “Since we’ve returned from lockdown, a good handful of clients are back to doing weekly blowouts again,” she says. “I think people have the extra money from not going away on holiday or spending it elsewhere,
and they want to make themselves look and feel better. Now, people are coming in for blowouts before any events— even if it’s just a small get-together at someone’s house, they’re still coming in to get a blowout so they look good and don’t have to do it themselves at home. They can’t recreate at home what a professional can.”
With Sassoon being famous for their signature styling and finishing techniques, did you know that the secret to getting their perfect blow-dry isn’t a round brush? “In the past, we didn’t typically work with round brushes because we’ve been all about getting the haircut precise,” says McQuillan. “We’re slowly introducing the round brush after colour services, or only for a blow-dry. I think people want a bit more volume in the hair—not the flat, sleek look anymore, but more of a tousled look, where the hair is more effortlessly worn- in but still appears refined.”
“During the lockdown, we’ve really perfected our styling and blowouts with more volume, working with curling and flat irons to create perfect waves—the done/undone look that’s still beachy but a bit more polished,” she adds. “The pandemic gave us more time to focus on and refine our styling, and it’s what people seem to want these days. Hair is longer and clients are generally keeping it longer than they have in the past. They’re coming back and not wanting to cut too much off. We’ve noticed a lot of new clients coming to us who are looking for more volume or fuller looks, so we want to make sure we’re on top of what’s happening out there.”
“For many people, a blowout is an important part of the service. Having that finishing touch makes you feel good about your work.”
— Audrey Adriné Petrosyan, Former Salon Director at Toni&Guy.
PRO TIP : For haircuts, mcquillan says they opt for using a vess brush (a half-circle shaped brush) or a denman brush with a wrapping technique that uses the natural curve at the head to turn the hair under without creating too much lift at the root.
“With more online meetings happening, people are looking at themselves regularly and are wanting to come in to get
their hair styled by a professional. They don’t want to go back to lockdown hair. It’s important for their hair to look good, even if they’re working from home.”
— Tricia Mcquillan, Salon Director at Sassoon Salon, Toronto