National brands are attempting to redefine the haircut industry nationwide. In 1982, Great Clips , Inc. was founded in Minneapolis. Currently, Great Clips operates 4,400 locations in the US and Canada. More than 1,200 franchisees own local salons in North America under the 100 percent franchising model of Great Clips.
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The budget haircut market is moving away from stylist loyalty and moving toward salon brands as a result of the tremendous growth of tech-focused services. Benjamin Franklin is usually credited with popularizing the proverb “nothing can be said to be certain, but death and taxes,” even though he was actually repeating Daniel Defoe from the colonial era at the time. However, if Mr. $100 Bill were still around today, he might wish to add haircuts to his long list of unavoidable facts.
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Conservative estimates from industry insiders indicate that Americans receive around 1.5 billion haircuts annually in barbershops, beauty parlors, and kitchens all throughout the country. Hair, at least for those of us who have some, continues to grow regardless of the state of the stock market, whether there is a trade war or not.
And it’s not like we’re even close to letting robots with sharp scissors near our ears; it’s not like something as mundane as a regular haircut could possibly be disrupted by technology in the same way that it has changed so many other aspects of daily life.
But you’d be mistaken. (Not in regards to the robots, but rather the disturbance at hand.)
The haircut industry is undergoing internal change all over North America to accommodate Millennial and Gen Z sensibilities. In order to manage online check-ins, salons of all types are doing away with appointments in favor of dynamic stacking and queuing. It is adapting technologies that allow a hairdresser in New York to communicate with her counterpart in Miami about your preferences for your bangs or the setting you like to use on the razor to trim your sideburns.
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The rising popularity of these tech-focused services is moving the budget haircut market away from allegiance to an individual stylist and instead, towards a salon brand. Surprisingly, the company driving this shift isn’t some upstart disruptor that sprung out of a Menlo Park garage; rather, it’s the biggest player in the industry, Great Clips, a long-running business with headquarters in a small suburb of the Upper Midwest.
Great Clips is the market leader in the multi-billion dollar haircut industry, yet its size hasn’t limited its innovation capacity or willingness.
With more than 4,400 franchised salons in the United States and Canada, Great Clips is a giant company with headquarters in Bloomington, Minnesota. New sites are opening almost every day. The business provided more than 110 million haircuts in the previous year.
Its unwavering attitude toward embracing innovation and technology is what drives its success. It has been hailed as a silent disruptor since it never made a big deal out of its innovative apps and cloud-based “Clip Notes” technology, which tracks customers’ preferred hair styles across salons and even borders. But Great Clips is having a major effect on rivals in the market for inexpensive haircuts, which also includes other well-known chains like Supercuts, Cost Cutters, and Sports Clips, among others. Great Clips is completely revolutionizing the multi-billion dollar North American haircut industry through a series of subtle yet profound adjustments.
Steve Hockett, the CEO of Great Clips, makes his love for haircuts quite evident to anyone entering his rather sparse workplace, which overlooks a significant eight-lane motorway. Hockett thinks that hairstyles should be completely commoditized and that clients should start to demand the same level of care in St. Louis as they do in St. Paul. “We don’t think that clients should have a special affection for a stylist. We want them to be devoted to our brand rather than a specific employee, Hockett told the Observer. “Once you free the customer from the dependency on a particular person, who may or may not be available that day, or who may or may not be with another customer, you start to create efficiencies in the workflow that benefit everyone; customers get what they need faster and with less wait-time, and stylists get to see more clients.”
Ethan Bearman, a Fox Business analyst, concurs that Great Clips’ decision to promote brand loyalty rather than allegiance to a person was a brilliant strategic move. For the majority of time-pressed Americans, it’s all about efficiency, and this is where Great Clips has been a true trailblazer, said Bearman. “There will probably always be a place in America for the corner beauty shop or main street barbershop, where guys and gals get together to kibitz,” said Bearman. Great Clips strives to give you the haircut you wanted at a price you can afford, get you out the door, and on your way.
The company’s online check-in app, which enables consumers to arrange and track their location in a line from the convenience of their phone and enable them to turn up when they are first in line, is possibly the biggest and most well-liked innovation Hockett has shepherded to market.
Hockett appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box last autumn to discuss how the company’s early use of cloud technologies and smartphone apps positioned it for the current level of exponential growth.
Great Clips still has a sense of humor about its commitment to the “do,” as shown by its long-standing partnership with the NHL to celebrate “Hockey Hair,” those long manes endemic to the winter sport that appear to be stuck in the early 1980s. This is true even though the company and its CEO may be all business. The advertising effort has been a unique but very powerful branding instrument.
Despite claiming to be “follicly challenged,” Ray Solnik is a former Silicon Valley veteran who became so passionate about the Great Clips franchise industry that he gave up his cleats in the industry and switched to a set of shears. In the San Francisco Bay Area, he currently owns seven Great Clips locations and has plans to add three more this year.
We want to help people feel and look their best, so Solnik said, “I appreciate that it is such a family-friendly business and it extends to our family of employees.” And coming from the high-tech industry—I spent my career in Silicon Valley at Intuit, AT&T, Earthlink, and several other innovators—the company’s early adoption of mobile technology and using tech to truly drive innovation was quite alluring.
Of course, Great Clips’ rivals have begun adopting their own variations of Clip Notes and remote check-in, but Hockett assures us he has more cunning plans in store. We have a lot of ideas in the works, Hockett reflected. Some of them will be just as disruptive, if not more so, than the innovations we’ve introduced in recent years.
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