Eliminating Walk-Ins Has Boosted Business for Some Salons


Walk-ins are welcome at many a nail salon, but not at La Petite Nail Shop, a neighborhood salon in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill that offers natural nail services only by appointment. “Our ultimate goal is to provide a hotel spa experience, but in a neighborhood setting,” says cofounder Charlene Yip, who worked in top hotel spas for nearly two decades before opening La Petite Nail Shop with her business partner in 2016. “Having an appointment-based system allows my staff to give each client an equal, quality experience.” It also means clients never have to wait, techs are never sitting idle waiting for walk-ins and the staff is always prepared for every appointment. “We know what our appointments for the day are from the minute we open the shop,” says Yip. “We set up everything from the beginning so that it’s a smooth transition from client to client.”

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Other salons have chosen to utilize an appointment-only structure primarily for logistical reasons, such as improving appointment timing and staff management. That’s certainly the case for Nail Swag, a Los Angeles-based nail salon specializing in intricate Japanese gel nail art manicures. “We decided on an appointment-only business model because, truth be told, gel nail art manicures just take more time than your quick polish change or gel polish manicure,” says founder, co-owner and lead artist Natalie Minerva. “It’s our goal to make sure we set aside enough time for each manicure, and with appointment- only, we can advise the client how long each service will take.” To make this business model successful, it’s imperative to enable clients to book appointments when it’s convenient for them. “Online booking is the best because it allows clients to book after hours,” says Yip. “I get notifications every time we get a booking, and I see most of our bookings—90 percent—come after 9 p.m.” A strict no-show policy is also a must. La Petite Nail Spa keeps a credit card on file for each client and charges the full service price if clients cancel or reschedule within 24 hours of their appointment times. “If they cancel at the last minute, it’s hard for us to fill that spot, and we loose out, so we need that 24-hour policy,” says Yip.

Before you decide to adopt an appointment-only business model at your nail salon, Minerva stresses that it’s important to ask yourself a few key questions. “Think about your salon style,” she says. “Where’s your location? What services do you offer? Are you looking for a high volume of people coming in, or are you more concerned about offering an elevated experience? It all depends on how you want to represent your salon.”

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Opting to go appointment-only may not be the right choice for every salon, but Yip and Minerva have no regrets. “A lot of our clients have standing appointments every week or every other week,” enthuses Yip, who says 50 percent of clients even rebook when checking out. “We get booked out every hour of every day.” Minerva agrees. “For our type of salon, I’ve only seen upsides,” she says. “The reality is, when people seek out this type of manicure, they usually understand the time and planning that goes into it, and I think they appreciate that.”

–by Lotus Abrams


[Image: Getty Images]

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