Great Clips

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From a Staggering Decline to a Remarkable Recovery: One Franchisor's Surviving-to-Thriving Story

In March of 2020, Great Clips had 4,501 salons open. One month later that number was 17. How did this franchise organization pivot during a global pandemic to not only survive but thrive?

Great Clips

Early in 2020, Great Clips was having one of the best starts it had ever had in its almost 40-year history. Strong performance from 2019 was carrying over to the next year, setting up the brand for a promising 2020.

In March of 2020, Great Clips had 4,501 salons open. One month later that number was 17, a staggering decline, due to mandated closures across the United States and Canada in response to a worldwide pandemic.

"That's definitely when things got real," said Steve Hockett, CEO of Great Clips, Inc. "We knew what we had to do—support our franchisees and protect our brand. It was hard, unavoidable work, but in the end, we have built an incredible platform to carry us well into the future."

Today, as the economy emerges from the struggles of 2020, the vast majority of Great Clips salons—nearly 4,400—are open and again welcoming customers.

How did this franchise organization pivot during a global pandemic to not only survive but thrive? It leveraged and focused on the key elements that drive its business: dedicated corporate leaders committed to protecting the brand, a quick-to-respond community of franchisees, and loyal customers eager to get a convenient haircut at an affordable price.

Image credit: Great Clips

Focus on the brand.

Since the first salon opened in 1982, Great Clips has always focused on the near term, while planning for the long term. That approach served the brand well during the pandemic when it enhanced its already powerful reputation for creating a comfortable customer experience in the salon.

"We believe our decades-long platform of strong operational practices—including sanitization and cleaning processes—and our unmatched business record was at the foundation of how we survived 2020," said Beth Nilssen, director of franchise development for Great Clips, Inc. "That focus only became more intense during the pandemic to reassure salon owners, their employees, and their customers that we would still be here, stronger than ever, in 2021."

Focus on the franchisee.

Great Clips salons are 100 percent franchisee owned. "That means our corporate focus—all day, every day—is working with our 1,100 franchisees, helping them be as successful as possible," said Nilssen. "They are at the center of this brand's success, so everything we do is with that in mind."

That focus only intensified in 2020 as the corporate office worked closely with franchisees to help ensure the viability of their businesses, as well as the overall brand. Great Clips, Inc. temporarily reduced or removed some fees normally charged to franchisees; the company invested in targeted marketing efforts to reassure customers about the sanitization measures being taken in the salons; and it ramped up its regular communications with franchisees with weekly—even daily—messages about critical next steps for reopening their salons.

Image credit: Great Clips

Focus on the customer.

While its core business is delivering great haircuts, Great Clips has a history of continual innovation in technology to enhance the customer experience. In August of 2020, Great Clips established its GreatCare Promise™, a commitment to customers to keep everyone as safe and comfortable as possible in the salon through the wearing of masks, the use of Online Check-In, increased sanitization, and other measures.

"The professional stylists at Great Clips salons already had extensive training and experience in cleaning and sanitization," Nilssen said. "They know how to do this because they've done it every day, in every salon, for years! During the pandemic, their commitment to customer comfort was simply amped up with the addition of social distancing and masks. We made a promise to every customer, and the salon teams delivered."

Thriving in 2021 and beyond.

Even now, as the economy emerges from the struggles of 2020, Great Clips is looking to expand and grow, specifically along the West Coast, Gulf Coast, East Coast of the U.S. and across Canada.

"The COVID-19 pandemic was challenging for individuals and businesses, and the Great Clips brand was no exception," said Nilssen. "But we came out of it stronger than ever, dedicated to our franchisees and committed to investing in and expanding our brand presence into more markets."

If you want to know more about the value of investing in a franchise organization that's strong on culture and franchisee success, Great Clips wants to hear from you. Fill out the form here.

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