Welcome to the Precision Nails Blog

As a salon owner and licensed manicurist, my perspective on the nail industry could not be more practical. While some may be offended by the opinions expressed, please understand that I want to share information and stimulate discussion. Whether you want your nails done or do nails professionally, I hope you find this blog both useful and interesting.

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Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nail Services in the Spa Environment

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, June 2011

What role do nails play in the day spa industry? Apparently, not a very significant one. With the industry focused on skin care, massage, wellness, etc., nails don’t receive much attention. That’s obvious whether reading a typical menu of day spa services, or a list of exhibitors and classes at a spa show. Very few day spas target nail clients, and very few nail product manufacturers target day spas. This leads me to conclude that despite the popularity of professional nail care, nails may be the most neglected aspect of the day spa industry.

Many day spas attempt to function as both a spa and a full-service beauty salon (remember those?). How often do the words “spa and salon” appear together? Enough  already. Typically, a day spa relegates its beauty services, like hair, nails, waxing and makeup, to the “salon” area of the facility. But it’s difficult, if not impossible, to maintain separate spa and salon areas, and have them impart the same sense of “spa.” Nail services performed at a day spa rarely offer an experience any different or better from what clients can experience at a traditional beauty salon. So why bother offering the services? And why would nail clients frequent a business that doesn’t prioritize what they want most?

Having attending numerous spa/beauty shows, I’ve concluded that spas, whether they be resort, destination or day, treat nail services as a necessity for guest convenience, but not as legitimate profit generators. There’s a presumption that while facial/massage/body treatments can command $2 per minute, if not more, nail services cannot. I could take offense that the time/training/skills of nail professionals are not regarded more highly within the day spa industry. (I have a hard enough time convincing nail professionals to charge at least a $1 per minute for themselves!) But as a salon owner who employs licensed manicurists to provide services in a clean, upscale salon environment, I’m grateful. It’s easier to compete when the competition doesn’t understand the market and its potential.

The word “spa,” when used, must be used with caution. Attaching “spa” to the name of any service or business raises client expectations, except when that word appears in neon. (Neon tends to lower my expectations, but increase my appetite.) But what exactly does the word “spa” mean anyway? Like so many words overused in the beauty industry, it lacks meaning. For me, it translates as more complicated, more time-consuming and more expensive, none of which appeals to me as a consumer.

Raising expectations can be a good thing, as long as they’re met. Clients would expect to pay more at a day spa than they would at a beauty salon, but they also expect a better quality service. But as most people would acknowledge, paying more does not guarantee a safer, or better service. The bottom line: any establishment that offers beauty services is required by law to meet minimum standards for health and safety, regardless of how much the services cost.

A salon does not need to be a spa to offer quality nail services. The environment does not ensure quality; it’s the professional performing the services that matters most. Nor does a salon need to make its services more “spa” to charge more. Adding unnecessary steps or overpriced products to the procedures does little to improve quality. It’s hard to justify increased service prices without commensurate results. For example, using expensive facial products for pedicures would likely do nothing except add to product costs, and lower the profit margin.

While spas advertise facials, massages and other treatments with elaborate descriptions, nail services often get a one-line mention as if everyone should know what to expect of a spa’s “signature” manicure or pedicure. Again, perhaps I should be grateful because if more detail were included, it may read something like this:

Your extremities collect stress that must be released to achieve optimal wellness/improve your mood/soothe your soul/balance your energy. Experience the ancient traditions of the [insert name of indigenous people here] who have passed along their unique nail care rituals for hundreds/thousands of years. Utilizing the incredible healing power of [insert name of indigenous plant/mineral or popular landmark here], our nail experts [read: any available employee] will revitalize/nurture/replenish/restore your hands and feet with our custom-blended, organic, natural products, available for use at home to extend your journey of enlightenment.

On a side note, it’s disappointing to realize that many spas have not moved beyond “gentleman’s” manicures and pedicures to gender-neutral services. Instead of being inclusive, which is no doubt the intent, naming services according to gender makes it seem somehow unnatural for men to have their hands and feet cared for/groomed.

In the future, day spas may realize the value of nail services for generating additional revenue and increasing client loyalty. In the meanwhile, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned about providing quality nail services at every spa/beauty show I attend.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.