The Mane Event

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Consumers are spending more time and money at the hair salon.

Having a bad hair day? Well, you certainly won't have to look far to get it fixed. Major supermarket chains and mass beauty retailers like The Body Shop are expanding their personal care sections to include more hair-care products. Even trendy clothing merchants such as the Gap are entering the market, not to mention a slew of e-commerce Web sites, like Hair.com and Just4hair.com, solely devoted to products for your do.

But many consumers still want a professional opinion, and they are willing to pay for it: The average cost per salon visit in New York is currently $45. But it is expected to increase to $65 in the next five years, according to the "2001 Haircare Report" by Datamonitor, a market analysis firm based in New York.

Rhodri Jones, consumer market analyst at Datamonitor, says that professional hair salons have a key competitive advantage over mainstream vanity retailers. "Salons have the ability to build relationships with clients and offer a personalized service. This allows the salons to become hair-care advisors and therefore use their professional expertise to prescribe products as opposed to merely selling them."

Overall, in six countries surveyed, sales of professional hair-care products - including styling agents, colorants, shampoos, and conditioners found only in salons - have increased from $2.5 billion in 1995 to $3.2 billion in 2000, according to the report. Colorants are especially big, particularly in the U.K., where sales have grown the fastest, at a compound annual rate of 15 percent between 1995 and 2000. In terms of dollars, however, Americans still have the most colorful heads - total sales of colorants in 2000 in the U.S. reached $368 million, capturing over 25 percent of the $1.5 billion market in the study's six-country sample.

And contrary to popular belief, it isn't just women laboring to look good. Salon owners are expanding the demographics of their clientele with specialized products and services. For example, a chain of outlets in London called "The Crew" has transformed the traditional barbershop concept into more stylish male-focused salons.

Overall, today's salon patrons demand much more from their hair-care providers. Approximately 40 percent of day spas in the U.S. are located within hair salons, showing that consumers want more than just a cut during their visit. Some salons are already taking note by creating more holistic beauty experiences, combining hair styling with nail treatments, facials, waxing, even aromatherapy massages, and dietary advice. Aveda salons, for example, offer complementary stress-relieving and make-up sessions in an effort to transform occasional visitors into repeat customers. Other stores even offer customers use of laptops and Internet access. Others have cafes, offering up gourmet sandwiches and salads. The Michael Van Clarke salon in London, for one, has its own resident chef. The 30-minute hair appointment is now an afternoon affair.

For more information, visit www.datamonitor.com.

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