Today, hair salons can be pretty complicated. Their interior designs are filled with over-the-top glitz and glamour. Hair treatment products with names you can’t even pronounce line the walls. A simple blowdry can cost just as much as a haircut. And when it comes to keeping on top of the latest trends, trying to understand that Bronde is the new Balayage and Balayage is the new Ombré is enough to leave most in a stupor.
But for brands like Great Clips, they approach the industry a little differently. Instead of getting caught up in the ebb and flow of fads, they prefer to stick to the basics. And for this 33-year-old legacy brand, it’s a tactic that has paid off—its billion dollar empire boasts more than 3,800 salon locations nationwide, and for 44 straight quarters, Great Clips has seen consecutive sales growth.
The Great Clips secret, according to CEO Rhoda Olsen, is knowing what works for its customers—and sticking to it. The brand values comfort and convenience. They don’t offer coloring or other upscale hair treatments. Its customers—70 percent male and mostly between ages 20 and 60—just want a reasonably priced haircut with as little waiting as possible (a basic haircut at Great Clips costs around $14, and unlike many hair salons, they operate on a walk-in only basis). It’s Olsen’s goal to keep the energy around that very simple focus.
“We don’t really change a lot. We know people want a convenient location with convenient hours. They don’t want the added pressure of having to make an appointment and being forced to stick to it. They don’t mind a limited selection of services either, because the prices are moderate. This model has worked for us, and it hasn’t wavered in 30-plus years. Even when the economy was bad, the haircut cycle didn’t suffer. People still came through our doors just as they always have,” Olsen said.
In a year, the brand usually does upwards of 90 million haircuts across all of their salons—a true testament to the brand’s importance in just about any city in America. Great Clips typically anchors itself in neighborhood shopping centers, and in many ways, putting their storefronts where people are consuming retail products gives them more visibility. Historically, the brand has targeted areas where there are plenty of families and economic growth, but Great Clips has also set out to open more salons in dense urban areas, too.
“We’re in big cities, small towns, in growing areas and rural areas. We’re everywhere. Everybody that’s willing to pay for a haircut is our potential customer. They’re already getting their hair cut somewhere, we just want them to come to Great Clips,” Olsen added.
But while the brand’s mission remains unchanged, Great Clips still continues to add new weapons to its arsenal. In recent years, the brand has moved quickly to adopt new technology—both for its consumer-facing business and its internal operations. The company offers an Online Check-In system that’s used by about 22 percent of its customers and a mobile app that’s had millions of downloads.
“If you’re holding your phone in your hand, we view that as our front door. So the more we can connect with customers in their life and lifestyle through technology, that means we’ve pushed our front door out to where the customer is, and if they open it, it’s great for business,” Olsen said. “We’ve always focused on more customers rather than more dollars per customers, and this helps us continue to thrive in that way.”
Olsen believes that as the world’s largest salon brand, it’s their commitment to tradition and simplicity coupled with modern enhancements—like new technology—that makes Great Clips great. Being a brand with a proven three-decade track record doesn’t hurt either, and year after year, potential owners flock to this tried-and-true business model to join the team. Great Clips prides itself on being 100 percent franchisee-owned. Today, they have nearly 1,200 franchisees on board, and they expect that number to continue to grow.
In 2015 alone, Great Clips signed more than 270 leases, and this year, the brand aims to add another 200 new locations, or more. Franchisees interested in joining Great Clips are asked for a minimum net worth of $300,000 and liquid capital of $50,000.
“For years Great Clips has been the world’s fastest-growing salon brand. Our services are reliable and trusted—families know us and love us. And on top of that, we’re operating in a recession-resistant industry with a time-tested business model,” Olsen said. “It all comes down to three things: comfort, freedom and connection—for our customers, for our hairstylists and for our franchisees.”