Business

Rethinking the Nail Salon by Glancing at the Starbucks Model

Miniluxe in Boston's Newton Center
Miniluxe in Boston’s Newton Center

(New York Times) – John Hamel doesn’t look like someone who would go to a nail salon, let alone tell you what nail colors are in vogue or when women are most likely to book a pedicure. Yet over the last seven years, Mr. Hamel and his business partners have learned a lot about the industry — maybe too much.

“Turns out the jets are the worst,” said Mr. Hamel, a general partner at Cue Ball, a Boston-based investment firm, referring to the foot tubs used in pedicures. “There is no way to really clean those things.” Other offenses include reusing tools that aren’t properly sterilized and double-dipping swabs used to wax, well, just about anywhere.

Anyone who frequents the typical neighborhood nail salon may conclude that the industry needs a makeover. Such things as scheduling (“Wait five minutes”), fluorescent lighting, smelly acrylics and questionable hygiene can undermine the experience. Still, demand for quick and inexpensive nail and beauty treatments is strong.

Enter an unlikely team of management specialists, who in 2007 began to reinvent the nail salon by applying best practices borrowed from other industries. They have trademarked names and applications for nail shapes, developed a line of polish and adopted hospital-grade hygiene practices. They use sophisticated point-of-sales systems and even have a full-time data scientist to better predict how the weather, time of day and other variables affect demand.

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