We Know What Boys Like

While women comprise a majority of salon clientele, getting men into the styling chair can really increase a salon's bottom line. According to ACNielsen, sales from men's grooming products and services grew almost 70 percent between 2002 and 2005, compared with only a 6 percent increase in the women's market. Still, many salons aren't capitalizing on these potential cash cows.

New TIGI Bed Head for Men plays it cool.
New TIGI Bed Head for Men plays it cool.

"Salons are losing money by not focusing on men, who represent a new frontier in growth," says men's grooming pioneer John Allan. "They're missing out on a market that's right in their own backyard." Allan, who operates three men's clubs in New York City and will soon open one in Chicago, has seen almost a 20 percent increase in business this year alone. "There's been a major education push from the big companies in the past 10 years," he says, "but salons are still not catching on."

David Raccuglia, founder of American Crew, has also noticed this increase. "When I launched American Crew in 1994, the men's category was a wide open market, but today every major manufacturer in the professional salon business has a men's brand," he says. Still, he looks at the competition as a positive thing. "It has created an awareness toward the category and solidified its importance." Statistics show that men are now spending more than $4 billion each year on grooming products. "Modern men's attitudes have changed immensely toward grooming," Raccuglia says. "They are now interested in a wide variety of products, where at one point a bar of soap would have been all they had."

Mike Gilman, co-founder of Grooming Lounge, which has men-only shops in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Atlanta and an online portal for products and advice, agrees. "Guys today are more aware and more willing to try new things," says Gilman, who started Grooming Lounge with Pirooz Sarshar after seeing how embarrassed friends were to buy products in stores and salons. "Once they dip their toe in, they always want more."

So how can salons tap into this booming business? Create a male-friendly environment, for one thing. "The retail area should be segregated and the reception area needs to offer male-specific style books and grooming guides," Raccuglia advises. Allan suggests taking some dead space in the salon and turning it into a separate area for men. "You need to create a place only for them and train stylists specifically for the men's business."

Another way to get men into the styling chair is to let the women in their lives know that the salon offers services for men. Gilman says that gift certificates from women got a lot of his first-time clients in the chair. Once the men are in, "focus on the solution aspect of the service or product and give them simple results and easy-to-use formulas," Gilman says.

Allan stresses the importance of the men's market, but says that it's not all that hard to turn men into loyal and profit-generating customers. "It's really as simple as a handshake, a smile, a scissor and a comb." —LORI MORRIS >