The New Membership Model For Styling Salons

By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer.

PHILADELPHIA

Brothers Fred and Steve Vicario are blessed with heads of wavy Italian hair, the kind that can look perfect with little effort.

Their business model, however, counts on people who want far more pampering. And it employs a method that more businesses, from spas to job-search networks, have resorted to in recent years to ensure repeat customers: memberships.

Such membership or subscription-based models are proliferating at a time when online coupon networks such as LivingSocial and Groupon have elevated deal-hunting over brand or business loyalty.

“Our main focus is the memberships,” said Steve Vicario, Cherry Blow Dry Bar’s chief operating officer. “Generating that guaranteed revenue a month is what helps you to break even fast. You want to … get that break-even fast, and the rest is gravy.”

The Vicarios took over Cherry Blow Dry Bar, a franchise of just eight U.S. locations, in April, with a plan to grow to 200 salons in five years.

That’s right, 200 storefronts, each lined with swivel chairs and mirrors and offering limited hair-styling services (blow-drys and extensions) but not cuts and color. Average appointment: 40 minutes, starting as early as 7 a.m.

“It’s a hot concept. It’s not a fad,” said Steve Vicario, 42, saying that the Philadelphia-area salon where we met for an interview was booked that particular Friday with 70 appointments.

Despite Cherry Blow Dry’s lackluster growth since 2013, when its Australian founders expanded their 5-year-old company to the United States, the Vicarios say they are confident of their growth goal. Franchisees need about $250,000 for startup costs, including working capital, equipment and build-out.

Of the eight current locations, in California, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia, the Vicarios own just the Philadelphia-area site. It’s also corporate headquarters.

Another Philadelphia-area Cherry Blow Dry is expected to open in February. Three more are soon planned, for Miami and Virginia.

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