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Choose the Best Location for Your Hair Salon and Day Spa If you've never owned a retail business before, these tips will help choose the best location and type of building in which to situate your new business.

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In Start Your Own Hair Salon and Day Spa, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Eileen Figure Sandlin explain how you can launch a successful full-service hair salon and day spa, a business that can be personally rewarding, makes a lot of people happy and can be very lucrative. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer tips on how to select a location that's a good fit and the right size for your new business.

Choosing a location for your salon/spa is one of those 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-lit, and safe. There should also be other retail businesses nearby (as opposed to parks or a regional airport) because they can generate business for you as they attract customers through their own doors.

Typically, salons operate out of three types of establishments: freestanding 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's 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.

Your choice of location will be driven not only by the amount of startup funding you have but by the size of the facility you want to have, the availability of space in the city where you want to do business, the local competition, and your tolerance for building/renovating and wrestling with local zoning requirements.

Free-standing buildings are the choice of many salon owners because of their high visibility in the community. Buying or leasing such a facility can be a good choice because you'll have more latitude when it comes to renovating and decorating. You control the fixed costs like overhead, utilities, and (within reason) the terms of the mortgage. You also don't have to pay common-area charges, like for snow removal, advertising costs, and security that are incurred when you're in a strip mall. Finally, you'll have the tax advantages of owning the building. Leasing a free-standing building gives you some of the same advantages as buying, although you'll have a landlord to deal with.

If you don't want the responsibility of a free-standing building, consider leasing space in a shopping center or a strip mall. These are choice locations because of the exposure they offer, and leasing agreements usually have provisions that limit the number of similar businesses in the same mall.

One common complaint from strip mall tenants is that hefty marketing and maintenance fees are built into the leases. So inquire about them carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Storefront properties are also popular, particularly in communities with historical or renovated downtown areas. Like a strip mall, these facilities are part of a string of stores with common walls on either side. The difference is that strip malls can spring up anywhere, including in residential areas, while storefront properties generally are part of a business district that stretches for blocks or even miles. If you can find a storefront property to lease in a bustling downtown area, grab it immediately, especially if it's in a resort town with year-round activities.

There's one other type of property that deserves serious consideration -- a facility that once served as a hair salon. The good news is, a lot of the infrastructure you'll need may already be onsite and available for purchase with the building. The bad news is, there might be a good reason why the salon closed, like there's too much competition in the area or the location is crummy. If you're seriously interested in taking over a now-defunct shop, find out why the shop is on the selling block.Also consider remodeling costs vs. the expense of starting with a blank slate in a different facility.

All this talk about finding a building to buy or lease is fine, but unless the space is the right size, it won't be a good fit for you. Salons usually range from 1,200 to 2,000 square feet, although some are considerably smaller (fewer than 1,000 square feet). If you're planning to offer spa services, you'll need even more room.

You'll need four separate areas in your hair salon: reception and retail, shampoo, cutting/service, and storage. The largest of these should be your salon services area, which should take up about 50 percent of the space. About 20 percent should be allotted to retail/reception, which should have enough room for one or two stools for employees, as well as seating for five to 10 clients. Space permitting, a coffee table where you can display hairstyling books and magazines is a nice touch. Ten percent should go to the shampoo area, and the remaining 20 percent to storage, an employee break room and a restroom.

Written by business writer Eileen Figure Sandlin and edited by the experts at Entrepreneur, each Start Your Own title delivers industry-specific information for starting a business supported by expert interviews, lessons learned, and success secrets from practicing business owners in the industry.

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