Ugly economy trims beauty spending

Renita Jablonski Dec 3, 2008

Ugly economy trims beauty spending

Renita Jablonski Dec 3, 2008


KAI RYSSDAL: Fashion’s really only part of the style equation. To really look good in clothes, you have to look good. For men that can be a good shave and combing your hair. For women it can get more complicated. While they might cut back on new clothes and accessories in a recession, it’s a different story when it comes to highlights and facials.

Women — and they are mostly women — probably aren’t going to give up personal primping entirely. But they are taking a breather. And that has salons scrambling to adjust to beauty’s new bottom line.

Marketplace’s Renita Jablonski reports.

RENITA JABLONSKI: Full disclosure: It’s been five months.

It has been five months since I’ve trimmed my hair and had my highlights touched-up. Stylists tell you to come in every six weeks. I’ve been trying to save money. Who isn’t?

LESLIE HALPERN: I’m not running in every six weeks. Sometimes it’s seven, sometimes it’s eight, but I’m still coming.

That’s Leslie Halpern. I met her while she was getting the works at an L.A. salon called B2V. She lost her job as a creative director for a furniture company a year ago. But every few months she still comes to B2V and drops about $275 on a haircut and color.

HALPERN: There’s certain things I can do at home to alleviate expenses. I can give myself a manicure. I’m not going to color my hair at home. I don’t want the mess. I don’t have the chops for that, and I’m not going to live without it.

Halpern says she needs to spend money on her looks if she wants potential employers to look at her.

It’s that kind of thinking that’s helping the vanity industry survive in this not-so-pretty economy, says Kat Fay. She’s a beauty industry analyst at Mintel International.

KAT FAY: With the beauty market it’s not quite as simple as supply and demand.

She says there’s a lot of emotion involved when it comes to spending on personal appearance.

Steve Lococo co-owns B2V and another salon in Beverly Hills. He says business is down about 10 percent as more clients wait it out.

STEVE LOCOCO: They’ve sort of quietly and gently suggested that they might not be coming in as often.

So, Lococo’s team is trying to add some style to saving. The salon now offers a monthly blow-drying class for $20. A blow-out at the salon runs between $50 and $70.

Lococo says he expects a decent December since clients usually splurge on a new ‘do for the holidays. The bigger test will come after the party season ends.

LOCOCO: We have to make sure that we keep them in the salon January and February and that’s what we’re working with our staff right now to do.

Vickie Vargas has a different challenge. Vargas manages two Super Cuts franchises in L.A. Her business is growing so fast she’s had to hire more stylists.

VICKIE VARGAS: We’ve got a lot of customers that are used to going to a more expensive salon and want to try Super Cuts because it’s more affordable.

You can get a hair cut here for $16.

Punita Khanna came in because her son needed a cut. Now she’s thinking of making the switch to Super Cuts herself. Khanna says she gave her beauty treatments the treatment after the last quarterly report from her broker.

PUNITA KHANNA: Oh, dear. Well, I’ve decreased the number of facials. I got rid of my trainer a couple months ago, which I’m glad I did. Um, decreased spa visits. Decreased my shopping habit.

Khanna says those adjustments will mean an extra $5,000 to $10,000 over a year.

As for me, I’m going to give it a few more weeks before I make that hair appointment. Dark roots are in this season.
I swear I heard that somewhere.

In Los Angeles, I’m Renita Jablonski for Marketplace.

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