Salon business gone quiet? Are your clients STRETCHING OUT their appointments?

There's a lot going on in the world right now.  You're feeling it and your clients are feeling it too.  Inflation is on the rise and the press doing a terrific job of eroding customer confidence.  That means some clients may be looking to cut back on what they see as non-essential spend.

There are, of course, those amazing customers who would sell their children and crawl over hot coals before they missed their regular salon appointment.  There used to be a lot more of these, but the pandemic and accompanying lockdowns changed customer perceptions hugely.  In short, we can't pitch what we do as 'essential' so much because customers had to manage without us for so long.

I've also been asking you for quite some time to start moving your salon business to the higher end of the market.  Generally top-end customers feel less of a squeeze in a financial downturn, so may be more likely to keep their pattern of spend the same.

I am very old

It's hard to believe given my natural (ahem) youthful looks, but I have been in the industry long enough to have steered my salon through more than one financial crisis.  In 2007/2008 we saw similar customer behaviour - and it wasn't quite what I expected.  In fact, our average bill remained consistent.  The big change was in the frequency of visit, which for a time fell through the floor.  Our average return rate fell from 4 weeks to over 6 weeks - over time that means a customer goes from coming to the salon 13 times a year to making less than 9 visits per year.  That wipes a scary 30% off your turnover.

But there are things you can build into your salon strategy.

5 ways you can keep frequency high

1.  Packages and bundles

Packages and bundles can help keep your customers in a great routine.  Let's say you're trying to presuade your customers to keep up the great habit of monthly facials.  Instead of selling facials on pay-as-you-go basis, you could try selling three a package of three facials over three months, maybe as part of your Face the Fall or Get Set for Summer promotion.  Not only is it great for cash flow, the package trains your customer in good habits too.

Times of uncertainty are also prime times to develop your salon membership program - let me convince you here:  Salon Memberships: 5 Reasons WHY

2.  Ask for re-bookings and target your team

The number one reason customers don't buy professional retail products?  They're simply not asked.  And I'll bet a lot of potential re-bookings are lost that way as well.

Clients who re-book on the day tend to be back in the salon sooner.  Make sure every client is asked on every visit and make rebooking on of your team performance measures (though it should be already!)

Use your salon software to automatically follow-up on non-bookers a day or two after their appointment - DON'T wait until their next appointment is due

3.  Market for new clients

It might just be that you need to accept that drop in frequency.  That means you're going to need to keep takings up some other way.

I wouldn't necessarily lean too heavily into upsells - it's a great habit but if your customers are stretching appointments because they are trying to save, making the bill a lot higher might be counter-productive.

There are salons closing every day - that means more clients around looking for a new place to spend.  My favourite marketing for an influx of new clients?  Recommmend-a-friend.  Keep it short term, and generous for the best results.

4.  Book multiple appointments ahead

Try and encourage customer to book two or even three appointments as they leave.  Use the busy festive season, summer holidays, staff vacations or other legitimate reasons why demand may be high and they should book ahead.  I even have a handful of dream clients who book a whole year of appointments every January.

I appreciate, however, that that you might need to use a bit of creativity if you ordinarily ask for a booking fee with each appointment.

5.  Tell them when you need to see them - don't ask them when they want to come back

DON'T ask a customer when they would like to rebook for.  Use your expertise to tell them when you'd need to see them again.  "To keep this haircut looking great, I'll need to see you in 5 weeks" or "For the best results, you'll need a maintenance visit in a month."  Make this part of your consultation at the beginning of your appointment rather than a last-minute conversation at reception.

BONUS TIP - ONLY if all else fails - Rebooking discount

I'm not wholly against discounts (see my blog on discounting here) - I believe it's OK to offer a discount when (and ONLY when) we are changing client behaviour.  In my own salon, to weather the 2007/08 storm we offered a rebooking discount if a client made their next appointment within a certain timeframe.  This helped keep frequency high - but it did involve some manual checking as our salon software didn't offer this as standard.

What are YOU doing to keep clients coming back regularly?  Let me know