How to Open a Salon or Day Spa


Choosing a location for your salon is one of the most important decisions you'll make in the early stages of establishing your new business. Obviously, you'll want to locate it in an area that's easily accessible by highway or byway, with plenty of traffic (both foot and the four-wheeled variety) and parking. The surrounding area should be attractive, well-lighted and safe. There should also be other retail businesses nearby (as opposed to commercial areas like industrial parks or a regional airport) because they can generate business for you even as they attract customers through their own doors.

Typically, salons operate out of three types of establishments: Free-standing buildings, storefront properties and shopping centers like strip malls. Occasionally, salons are located in malls, but it's actually more common for them to operate out of a free-standing building located on the perimeter or an "outlot" of the mall property because the rent is so high inside the mall. They're also sometimes found on the ground floor of office buildings in large metropolitan areas where there is a significant amount of foot traffic during the business day. However, such locations may not be optimal if they're in an urban area that doesn't have much traffic in the evenings or on weekends.

There's one other type of property that deserves serious consideration when you're looking for a place to set up shop. A facility that once served as a beauty salon may be a good choice for your new location. The good news is, a lot of the infrastructure you'll need, including extra plumbing, special electrical outlets, and maybe even fixtures like salon stations and the reception desk, may already be onsite and available for purchase with the building. The bad news is, there might be a really good reason why the salon closed, like there's too much competition in the area, the location is crummy, or the previous owner had a poor reputation among clients and in the community. The same goes for a salon that's currently in business but is up for sale.

Size of Your Shop
Salons usually range from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet, although small spaces can be considerably smaller (fewer than 1,000 square feet). You'll need four separate areas in your hair salon: Reception and retail, shampoo, cutting/service, and storage. The largest of these, of course, should be your salon services area, which should take up about 50 percent of the floor space. About 20 percent of the space should be allotted for retail/reception, 10 percent for the shampoo area, and the remaining 20 percent for storage and an employee break/lunch room area. The employee/client restroom and your office also should be located in this area. If space permits, you may wish to provide a one-person changing room for customers who are having treatments like color or perms. Otherwise, the restroom can serve as a changing room. Be sure to put a large hamper in the changing room/bathroom for collecting soiled smocks. Any retail products you sell should be displayed in the reception area and placed near the cash register for easy access.

The shampoo area is usually located toward the back of the salon and is equipped with shampoo sinks (either free-standing or affixed to the wall) and chairs. Each station should also have a "back bar," or cabinet, for storing products used in the salon, like shampoos, conditioners and deep-conditioning treatments. Naturally, these should be the same products you sell in the retail area, and your stylists should be trained to discuss each product used with the client as a way to spur sales.

If you decide to include spa services as part of your salon, then the overall layout of your salon should be created by a professional designer or an architect. That's because unlike a hair salon, which tends to be a large open area with few partitions or walls, a spa needs to be somewhat compartmentalized. However, if you've worked in or visited enough spas in the course of your career, or you have good visualization skills, you may already have a good idea of how you want your spa to look. In that case, it may be possible to work with a draftsperson to draw up plans for the spa, and then hire someone to build the space for you.

Spas are usually divided into a series of rooms that are used as changing and showering facilities, treatment rooms, consultation rooms (for discussing treatment options and post-treatment care), and so on. The consultation room may also be used as an office when not in use by an aesthetician and a client, although we'll assume you will have your main office in the salon area. There also should be a retail area that's separate from the hair salon's retail area (so customers aren't confused or distracted by products that don't relate to spa items). The spa and the salon can share a reception area, however, as long as it's centrally located and easily accessible to both sides of the business. Ideally, the reception area will be in the center, with the salon and the spa radiating out to either side. If possible, incorporate a supply room into your spa area. If that's not possible, spa products can share storage space with salon products, but strive to keep them separate and organized for easy accessibility.

Separate treatment rooms are needed for wet and dry services. While good overhead lighting is needed in treatment rooms both before and after services are rendered, it should be softly diffused. During procedures like massage and hydrotherapy, the overhead lights should be turned off and an alternate, softer light source should be turned on to create an atmosphere of relaxation and peace. Adequate ventilation is also a must, as is hot and cold running water so aestheticians can mix dry products or dampen towels during treatment without leaving the room. Finally, the treatment room should have its own sound system, on which relaxing music or nature's sounds should be played. No rap or heavy metal!

How to Open a Salon or Day Spa

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