The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard on beauty salons and spas. In the spring of 2020, most businesses were forced to close their doors entirely. Some cities allowed for partial reopening over the summer for a period of weeks or months, only to shut service businesses back down again. If open, salons have had to implement new protocols, including asking customers to wear face masks and limiting the number of people in the store at any one time. The economic recession also has delivered a blow, as many customers have had to cut non-essential expenditures from their budgets. Yet still, the beauty industry is expected to grow by five percent per year or $52.7 billion between now and 2027.
In the midst of the tumult, two pioneers of the single-service beauty salon industry – Anna Phillips of The Lash Lounge and Andrea Mundie of skoah – share how their companies continue to thrive in spite of repeated closures and loss of business due to pandemic lockdowns.
1) Anna Phillips, Founder and Chief Innovations Officer of The Lash Lounge
The Lash Lounge is a premier eyelash salon franchise specializing in custom lash extensions, lash lifts, tinting, threading and more. Anna Phillips founded the company in 2006 after leaving the tech world and going in search of her life purpose. She decided that she wanted to help people look better in order to lift their overall self-confidence. The Lash Lounge grew quickly, and now operates 118 salons across America.
“As Oprah has said, ‘When you follow your passion – you find your purpose.’ My passion for the services that we provide has led to the expansion of The Lash Lounge and the ability to make an impact on countless people across the country,” says Phillips.
One of the most important lessons Phillips has learned as a founder and business leader is the need to have contingency plans in place. The Lash Lounge had to close its doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic during Q1 of 2020 and stop business until it was safe to resume. The company made sure to communicate constantly with customers, employees and salon owners in order to maintain trust. The leaders were also able access the seasoned executives at Franworth, their partner, who provided valuable guidance in recovery efforts system-wide.
As a result, the Lash Lounge has been able to not just survive the pandemic, but grow. Despite being closed nearly an entire quarter in 2020, business finished ahead of the prior year, and the company awarded over 20 new franchises. As small business owners, they are looking forward to a brighter year ahead.
“We are truly blessed with resilient franchisees with devoted teams,” says Phillips. “Moreover, our guests are beyond eager to return to the escape of The Lash Lounge. Most of our salons nationwide are now open for business and exceeding all expectations. We are going overboard on ensuring our employees and guests are safe. No doubt wearing masks puts even more emphasis on the eyes! We are here to help our guests feel great even during these different times.”
2) Andrea Mundie, CEO and cofounder of skoah
Skoah was a facials-only concept shop back in 2003, many years before single-service concepts were on everyone’s radar. The company developed a personalized facial experience based on teaching people how to take care of their skin, what products can and cannot do, and coaching them to achieve healthy skin.
“While we did not invent facials any more than Starbucks invented coffee, we did create an incredibly personalized, relaxing, and results-focused experience, just like Starbucks created a new experience around how we consume coffee,” says Mundie. “I love that many of our customers say, ‘I’m not a spa person, but I go to skoah for facials.’ That differentiation is important!”
To succeed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mundie examined all aspects of the business and considered new revenue stream opportunities. She then focused on increasing online sales and maintaining active engagement with customers.
“Our franchised locations have done a remarkable job at communicating with their customers. I have seen the power of local entrepreneurs, the heart of the franchise industry,” Mundie says. “At skoah, we have been working to support our shop owners by making re-openings as seamless as possible, anticipating new regulations, new customer feelings around self-care, and managing new ways of flowing through our shops. We have also used the time to drill down on the unit level economics and make changes to increase the per unit economics to strengthen the business. While we have always had manic cleanliness standards, we are much more communicative about these now.”
Mundie also says she is looking ahead towards how to create virtual versions of the business – from training, to customer education and virtual consultations. “Actually, this is an opportunity to connect even more deeply with our customers,” she explains. “Covid-19 made the whole world figure that out really fast. It’s been a time of tremendous challenge, both personally and professionally, but likewise, one of unprecedented growth. I choose to see the pandemic as a gift, an invitation to transform and move forward.”