What happened to GS HAIR?
A cautionary tale of Salon Economics
We closed GS HAIR on June 17th, 2014. A lot of people keep asking us ‘What happened?’ We didn’t show the normal signs of decline. Our phones were ringing. Our clients were happy. We built a great reputation and a great name for ourselves. So what happened to GS HAIR? Well we put on our happy face for business. The reality is quite different.
Though it seemed sudden, we have been watching our industry carefully since we opened and have been watching a disturbing trend for the past 4 years. When we opened in 2006, high quality renters were nearly impossible to find. We needed experienced stylists who had great reputations and their own clients. I call many of them friends. We began to jokingly call them ‘Unicorns’. Mythical creatures that didn’t exist anymore. As the salon suite phenomena expanded, they became extinct. Over time, the few that leased space with us, retired or moved on to private suites.
Like all business owners, we adapted. We couldn’t find Unicorns so we made them instead. Many variations and modifications of this plan came and went over the years. But it was basically the same. The kids come in -fresh out of school. In exchange for their commitment to us, we give them a blue print for success. We give them highly specialized technical skills -beyond a license. We give them confidence. We support them with marketing, social media and advertising. We ask them to voluntarily follow a protocol. We ask them to expect more of themselves. We give them clients, filling their chairs over time, so when they are ready, they can move into being renters and their client books are ‘gifted’ to them with our blessing. Over 40 stylists came to us with nothing but a license. In nearly 8 years open we have fully trained and launched over 40 careers. That means every two months, we began the process again. That number doesn’t include stylists who have leased space from our floor, who had their own clients or who didn’t need technical training. Or who came just for the experience we had created. For a beautiful full-service salon.
Now, the beauty industry is well-known for it’s high turnover. As we became better at filling chairs with clients, the turnover rate accelerated. Stylists broke their contract with us. Client books, products, tools and hair color were routinely stolen. Each time, we re-built and started over. You see, there will always be a salon down the street who will do it cheaper. A salon that can cut costs by not having the level of service that we provided. A salon without an owner, who will step forward when a client is unhappy and fix it- no matter what. Few owners will step in and re-do another stylists work at no charge. Few owners will contact unhappy Yelpers to remedy, refund or apologize on their renters behalf. There will always be a salon unwilling to accept responsibility for the clients happiness.
Yes, we could have made cubicles and gone solo. But we didn’t want to work in a ‘box’. We respect those that do, but we couldn’t do it. We thrive on the energy or what we call the ‘hum’ in a well-built high service salon. Yes, we could have reduced the level of service and made cheap rent deals with the stylists. But we didn’t want to be that kind of salon either. We had chosen our niche. We had created this place. Sacramento was hungry for service. We survived a double-dip recession without swaying from our ideals. And our clients loved this place. If we altered our strategy that significantly, then we were just like all the rest. In short, GS HAIR failed because an unwillingness to lower our standards. But mostly because of our unsustainable workforce.
Though we closed quickly, the decision was not made without much forethought. The stress was killing us. The cycle of turnover was disheartening and exhausting. I began to lose my creativity and my focus. We are grateful. We have had so many people giving us sympathy and words of encouragement. So many friends have called to see how we are doing. Former owners cheer us and give us knowing looks. We are truly in the ‘Former Owners Club’ now.
Thank you for following us. Casey and I are grateful and appreciative of the outpouring of warmth and support. Thank you to the team at GS HAIR for the many years of camaraderie. And most of all, thank you to our clients for your years of loyalty. I couldn’t have done it without you.
From my family to yours,
Greg & Casey Saumure
Greg Saumure, Owner of GS HAIR is located at 2398 Fair Oaks Blvd. Ste 9, Sacramento, CA 95825. We are on the same side of the street as Ettore’s. Book direct (916)838-4642 we Text! E-mail us at [email protected]
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