Beautiful hair: it’s the crowning glory. No matter what the age, men, women, and children love their locks. Hair salons are big business, and these four concepts are redefining hair design with a fresh, modern take.
The barbershops of days gone by were neighbourhood landmarks, a place to gather, get a haircut, and escape the demands of the day. Sam Ross harnessed that nostalgia, expanding it to make it better.
In July 1974, he opened the first Fantastic Sams unisex salon, a concept serving the whole family while embracing the convenience, affordability, and familiarity of a barbershop. Ross began franchising in 1976, and today, Fantastic Sams is the oldest full-service unisex salon franchise in North America, with more than 1,100 locations.
Though many franchisees start with a single unit, the scalable model offers financial incentives when purchasing more than one salon, and most salons are operated by multi-unit owners. The model also offers clients a myriad of services, allowing franchisees to tap into multiple revenue streams. “We offer a full range of salon services, including haircuts and trend-right styles, colour, and waxing,” says Linda Chadwick, President and CEO. “We believe it’s a safer, higher-ticket, higher-margin, and more stable model than the cut-only models.”
Unlike the traditional franchise model, where royalties are based on a percentage of gross sales, each Fantastic Sams location pays a weekly flat fee royalty, and as sales increase, franchisees enjoy higher profit margins.
The franchise team, many with a background as managers or owners themselves, offer unparalleled support, as they’ve learned the business from the ground up. As they continue to grow, they pride themselves on ensuring they are active and responsive, from the Regional Director to the President.
Prospective franchisees are owners that subscribe to the 4-S business model: a business that’s safe, stable, secure, and scalable. They understand the bigger picture, and commit to delivering optimal customer service and gaining visibility in the local community.
With decades of experience, Fantastic Sams has created a model that meets the needs of men, women, and children, while providing revenue potential for franchisees, giving them a unique position in the marketplace.
Great Clips opened its first salon in 1982, and began franchising in 1983. With a strong presence in Western Canada and the Greater Toronto Area, the company continues to grow, with current opportunities in the Prairies, and future opportunities in the Maritimes and Quebec.
“We have 35 years of experience, and the knowledge of 1,200 franchisees providing feedback in 183 markets throughout the U.S. and Canada,” says Chief Operations Officer, Rob Goggins. “That doesn’t mean that every market we go into is easy. Every market poses challenges, but we can go in with our knowledge and experience, and help our franchisees grow a lot faster than if they were trying to do this on their own.”
All stores are owned and operated by franchisees, and Goggins believe that franchisees operate stronger units than corporations do. “They are closer to the action, they have more skin in the game, and they are closer to their employees. It’s been working well for us.”
At the forefront of technology, Great Clips’ proprietary online check-in app allows clients to view estimated wait times and check in remotely. Used regularly by 33 per cent of clients, more than 100,000 people download the app each month. This Clip Notes® technology means customers receive the exact same haircut no matter what location they walk into. The company is currently implementing new point-of-sale software with iPads to streamline the check-in and check-out process, and to create a better client experience. From helping to locate sites to understanding financials, franchisee success is optimized with dynamic corporate training programs to keep things fresh.
After 35 years in the market, many franchisees who have been in the system 20 to 30 years are passing the reins to the younger generation, who embrace what their parents have built with new energy and ideas for growth.
Goggins’ advice to franchisees is to research their options and carefully analyze and assess the stability of an organization. What is their background? How long have they been in business? “Make sure to speak to a number of franchisees until you get to the point where you are hearing the same message. There’s always going to be attractive things and items of concern about any business. Make sure that you and your operating style are a good fit.”
What began as retail beauty store, Trade Secrets, evolved to include brands like Taylor & Colt, an upscale men’s barbershop that offers spa services. The first Taylor & Colt location opened in Toronto in 2012, and the brand grew to 12 locations. Doug Warren, Director of Franchising for parent company GS Beauty Group, says the company plans to expand throughout the United States and Canada, and is looking to expand internationally through master franchising.
“We were doing a lot of men’s haircuts at Trade Secrets, and selling a lot of men’s products and seeing pretty good growth,” says Warren. “Guys are busy. We discovered that executive and business men, which represent 30 per cent of the male population, were underserviced. We came up with a concept that would provide an upscale barbershop feel.”
From hot shaves to espresso bars, clients can also take advantage of a manicure or pedicure in the privacy of a grooming room. “It’s a reasonable price and a nice-looking environment; millions of guys were waiting for something like us and wouldn’t go anywhere else. We’re off to a good start.”
Franchisee backgrounds range from company CEO’s to managers and engineers, and Warren says the untapped market presents a big opportunity. As a concept blooming from another successful brand, franchisees enjoy the benefits of investing in a mature system with solid processes in place. “Right from site selection to lease negotiation to grand opening, we have a strategy behind everything we do.” Once on board, a month of training solidifies day-to-day operations, and a week at head office provides exposure to business operations like marketing and accounting.
Behind the scenes, Warren says plenty of moving parts, from the District Manager who enforces standards to the head office that backs franchisees with the brand, and new, innovative research and development, work together toward a common goal.
“The whole purpose of franchising is to jump into a system created for you, so that that learning curve is cut in half. The learning curve on your own business is pretty steep, and you can’t afford to make too many mistakes. With us, we’ve made the mistakes years ago. It’s not going to be easy, and there will be competition, but I think the success of franchising speaks for itself.”
The 1930s Chicago-style vibe draws clients into Tommy Gun’s Barbershop, where time-honoured services take a modern approach for a vintage-meets-high-tech atmosphere.
Classic blends with contemporary offerings and interactive features like iPads, in-mirror TVs, old-school arcade games, and a unique, self-check-in system that allows clients to roam while they wait their turn.
In business for more than 30 years, the company first began franchising in 2009. With plans to expand throughout Ontario, British Columbia, and New Brunswick, Tommy Gun’s is leading the charge in a fast-growing industry.
With more than 70 locations across Canada and Australia, clients flock to indulge in hot towel shaves, unique hairstyles, and relaxing head massages, the epitome of male grooming. It’s a convenient, one-stop-shop for traditional men in search of quality and value, and young professionals and trendy boys looking for contemporary stylings.
What does it take to own a Tommy Gun’s franchise? The system welcomes owners who embrace the cool, fun, and dynamic brand, and want to take their team to the next level. Once on board, franchisees embark on six weeks of training prior to opening their barbershop, followed by a full week on-site when they are ready to open.
Ongoing support from a district manager ensures operations continue to run smoothly. To stay connected, a national annual summit gathers franchise partners, managers, vendors, and barbers from across the country to train, network, and share best practices.
When exploring franchise options, the Tommy Gun’s team advises prospective franchisees to choose a brand and organization they can identify with to maximize their potential success. For Tommy Gun’s, the undeniably cool vibe has created a strong culture that continues to grow daily, making them a cut above.
By Gina Makkar