Asian Nail Salons Reinvent Themselves

Would you work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day to make a living (no overtime pay)?

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The new era of Asian nail salons is emerging and we need to understand it for what it’s worth.

Gone are the Fordham and Dremel drills, dust masks, odors and sanitation “are you kidding me?” issues. In are airy comfortable salons in high income neighborhoods that cater to women (and men) that want a manicure and pedicure done well and done fast without an appointment required.

On my continuous journey of salons and spas, I stopped into one of these newer salons and was surprised. It was busy. There were about 10 employees, all from Vietnam. The owner had plenty of family working the location including a brother and sister. The average tenure of doing nails for each manicurist was 10 years. All spoke English but conversed to each other in Vietnamese.

I sat down for a manicure. I was told the price was $16 and the combo manicure and pedicure was $51. Clearly prices have gone up. I paid $18 for a manicure in a very upscale salon recently. But there were at least 8 customers in the salon while I was there so it seemed price was not an issue.

My manicurist, Cammie, has been doing nails for 10 years and was originally from Vietnam and then moved to California. She works 6, sometimes 7 days a week, typically 12 hours a day. She is 26 and thinking about getting a college degree. As I am learning this information, I quickly understand this generation is not like the previous generation and competition in the nail industry is going to get more intense.

The service reminded me of driving through a car wash. Very automated, very thorough and when done, very good. After trimming and filing my nails, she put one hand in a plastic liner, applied a liquid lotion and then put an electric mitt on. She took my other hand and pushed back and trimmed my cuticles (all implements were in a sealed bag). The process was repeated with my other hand. Afterwards a very intense hand massage followed. Then came a hot towel to remove the lotion followed by the application of product (I use Peak and Glacier). The manicure lasted 25 minutes.

While you can make an appointment, most customers walk in and are taken care of immediately. The owner has had so much success, she recently opened another location a mile away. I was shocked. This location had 8 pedicure spas and 8 manicure stations. Yet only a mile away she found the need to open a second location.

They do gels and acrylics but the focus is on mani’s and pedi’s. They also retail OPI and Essie polish.

I walked out shaking my head. Consumers are the truest indicators whether a business will succeed or fail. Clearly women find these salons attractive and attractive enough as the new generation of Asian salons relentlessly pursues opportunity. This is a classic case study that we can all learn from.

Happy Friday!