Blow-dry bars, a growing trend for the last five years, are still proliferating at a wicked fast pace. These single-service hair salons specialize in turning unruly, frizzy or curly hair smooth and straight, and have been instrumental in making the blowout feel as accessible, common and casual a beauty treatment as the manicure and pedicure. As the popularity spreads and competition increases, how do the three main players—Blow, Dry Bar and DreamDry—maintain their edge? By carving their own niche within a niche.
Niche Guys Finish First
Open in 28 locations and six cities across the U.S. (with a 29th on the way), Dry Bar blow-dries a lot of hair at a rate of $40. While Dry Bar may be the most ubiquitous of the now 125-plus blow-dry bars, it isn't the first.
Blow, The New York Blow Dry Bar, pioneered the blowout service craze back in 2005. Stuart Sklar, Blow’s owner, strategically looked at where the beauty industry was lacking service-wise and how great women felt with a high-quality blowout, something almost impossible to achieve at home themselves.
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“There weren’t really options for women who wanted to quickly have their hair looking really beautiful,” Sklar says. “Traditional salons focus on cut and color so a blowout isn’t really their priority, which means the quality and consistency are at risk. Eighty percent of women in the U.S. blow dry their hair. We saw Blow as an opportunity to transform how women think about what they can do for their hair.”
In February 2013, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe and partner Robin Moraetes entered the market with their glamorous and buzzed about DreamDry.
“Rachel and I were consumers of blow-dry bars for years and we created DreamDry based on what we wanted that we weren’t getting,” Moraetes says. “I look at us as the 2.0 of blow-dry bars. Our focus is on technology and innovation. We’re all digital with iPads at each station and paperless menus, but we’re also personal. You choose your stylist and you get to know that stylist, which guarantees consistency and a personalized experience.”
Unlike Dry Bar with its nearly three dozen brick-and-mortar locations, and DreamDry with its pending second location, Blow’s business model focused around the flagship and building the brand through its products and hair academy. Its expansion has been by way of Blow outposts located in the beauty sections of department stores. Blow currently has two outposts at West Coast Nordstrom locations and is launching a Blow express salon at Macy’s Herald Square in New York this summer. Five more outposts are planned for the end of the year.
“Our product line is such a big part of the business, so our strategy was to optimize our flagship and partner with retailers so we can bring our customized blow-dry services and the convenience of them right to women,” Sklar says.
Know Your Customers
DreamDry’s owners both know the fashion and entertainment industry well (Moraetes was formerly a senior executive at top talent agency, CAA). With a deep understanding for the types of demands and drama of personalities within, they entered the market armed with an edge of flexibility.
“We have extended hours starting at 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., so we are much earlier and later than everyone else,” Moraetes says. “We figured because our clients lead busy lives that we would cater to all types of busy women.”
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With Zoe’s celebrity status as a top stylist, DreamDry is always trend-driven. Paired with the blowout options is a braid program. Its most recent trending braid is a three-variation crown braid called the Bianca.
“We look at what is on the runway that we can bring to everyday life for women to feel glamorous and stay on trend,” Moraetes says. “Our styles change quarterly, which gives our customers even more options to chose from than our competitors.”
When Blow first opened, it operated a three-tiered pricing system of $30, $50 and $60 based on length of hair—that is, until the competition came out with a competitive flat rate program.
“We realized it wasn’t consumer friendly for us to do it the old way, so we changed and went with a flat $50 regardless of length or texture,” Sklar says. (The Dry Bar and DreamDry offer their blowout for $40.) “We are a little more, but we our confident that we deliver our customers more. The combination of our own in-house products and our academy-trained team, leaves us confident that we can consistently give our clients the best and longest lasting blowout.”
Blow also changed by adding more services. Customers can opt for chair-side manicures, waxing, makeup, cut, keratin and color services as well.
“Blowouts are our bread and butter, our DNA, but our customers kept asking us for our recommendations for all these services that we are skilled at doing as well,” Sklar says.
These three players will have to continue to adapt, differentiate and provide top customer service, because with a hot trend like this, competition is sure to stay heated for a while.
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Photos from top: Thinkstock, Courtesy of DreamDry, Courtesy of Blow