Finding the Ultimate Salon or Spa Location

Finding the Ultimate Salon or Spa Location

For salons and spas, location makes all of the difference in the world. It’s important to be readily accessible to clients in an area that they like. The trick is to balance what clients need and want with what you like and can afford.

Every community and several pockets within each neighborhood have their own history and vibe. For any business looking to set up shop, it’s essential to research that specific region. Get to know the area, if you don’t already. Talk with other merchants and the local chamber of commerce, see if the area is receptive to a salon or spa, or a new business for that matter. Ask about the community, even get involved with local projects and causes, that way you are a familiar face when you open your doors.

Ideally, you want a location where your target demographic lives, shops and/or works so it’s convenient for them. In addition to good foot traffic and high visibility, think about how your customers will get to your salon. If you’re in a big city, you’d want easy access to public transportation. For everywhere else, keep street access, local traffic patterns, and facility parking in mind. And when you consider parking, think beyond your clientele. Your staff needs a place to park that’s close by, well-lit after dark and secure, especially when so many salons or spas are open several nights a week.

You also want to look into plans for future development for anything that surrounds your chosen location. Is there major construction panned, is a high rise going in across the way, or upcoming renovations in your building or shopping center? Urban planning is ever evolving but does take time to implement. Because the of the process for funding, permits, and approvals, there is now a public record that you can tap. Check with your local planning commission at city hall before deciding on a location. And while you are there, inquire about any incentive programs for business startups.

Also, look for other businesses that are nearby that will attract walk-in traffic. If possible, you’ll want a couple of “anchors” or big draws around you. Grocery stores, theaters, big retail outlets, even major gyms typically bring in a fair amount of foot traffic, which you could easily tap.

Also, make it a point to check into the proximity of your proposed location to your competitors. If there are 10 salons in a two-block radius, for example, adding one more could be business suicide. A little nearby competition is not a bad thing, but it’s advised to avoid overly-saturated areas, as it will be that much more work for you to gain your share of the market.

Balancing Salon Size, Space & Configuration

So, how much space is enough for your salon? The short answer is; it depends. It would make sense that you would not want to take on too much management-wise and instead work to start small and build from there. However, there is a point that you need enough busy operators to offset the cost of your overhead and expenditures.

Most salon planners will tell you that a general rule of thumb for figuring salon space is allotting 150-square-feet of workspace per hair stylist and one shampoo bowl per three stylists. With this method, think through how many people you’ve comfortably managed in the past and multiply that number by 150. So, if you’ve led 9 other stylists before and you intend on performing services as an operator, multiply 10 (9 stylists plus yourself) by 150-square-feet, and you come up with 1500-square-feet for 10 stations and 3-4 shampoo bowls. Now add space for any spa services or private rooms plus the reception, retail and waiting areas. Add all of this together to figure out the minimum square footage you’ll need for the size of a salon that you are comfortable managing. This number is your starting point when you begin looking for available real estate or rental space. One of the first questions a realtor or commercial broker will ask is about the size of the space you are seeking, so you’ve got to have a starting point.

Once you have a facility size in mind, check out any available space that fits the size requirements or larger. When touring the building, do more than envision salon stations and workflows. Check the available plumbing, specifically the water pressure and where each outlet and access to the sewer system is located. Inquire about the age, construction, and condition of the pipes. Also check if there is a water heater, how old it is and what size and shape it is in. Examine the restroom facilities and the condition of the fixtures.

Check out the electrical system by identifying outlets and then visit the breaker box to see how the power is distributed. Make a note of the lighting, both existing and natural. If a single story or standalone building, inspect the roof, look for water or leak marks. Look into the condition of the floor and what material was used. Make a note of the walls and the state of the paint or wall treatments.

Now step outside and evaluate the curb appeal or how the building or space looks on the outside, the opportunity for signage, the amount of available parking, where it’s located, lighting and security at night, etc.

It would be a good idea to take video or photos of each location for reference and make notes so that you can refer back later.

Renovating an Existing Salon Versus Starting From Scratch

When starting a salon, you essentially have two options for your facility: take over an existing salon or start from scratch. There are definite pluses and minuses for both options, but it comes down to opportunity and/or what works best for you, or more likely, your budget.

The main benefit of taking over an existing salon is that someone else has paid for additional plumbing, more robust electrical, and enough bathrooms to fit local ordinances. Depending on the arrangement with the landlord and/or local laws for installed fixtures, some of the salon-specific items may be included in the deal. If so, have them listed explicitly in detail in the contract or rental agreement. If the previous salon went out of business, they may have left the fixtures behind as part of a bankruptcy agreement, which could be good for you. However, if the previous salon is moving to another location, it’s possible that they may take the fixtures such as shampoo bowls, workstations, reception desk, etc., with them. Otherwise, they may be willing to sell them to you.

The benefit of starting a salon or spa from scratch is that it gives you the opportunity to lay out the floor plan of your business however you’d like. It’s like a blank canvas to a painter, where anything is possible. However, that blank slate can come with a high price tag, as you are financially responsible for everything that you add.


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