The Beauty Business
The massive influx of women in various careers and professions and the need for personal grooming lures many working women to beauty salons and spas. Manicure, pedicure, facials, cleansing, streaking, blow dry, hair styling and even expensive hair treatments now seems to have become a necessity. Weddings are big business and while a fortune is spent on the bride’s make-up, females in the family as well as guests embark on a veritable spending spree to look their best. Beauty consciousness has, in fact, emerged as an indicator of rising affluence. With an increase in the number of households upgrading to a higher consumption lifestyle, there is an explosion of growth in the beauty industry as well.
Despite sluggish economic growth due to adverse market conditions in Pakistan for the past few years, the growth in the beauty industry has been massive both in the organized and unorganized sector. There are about 500 registered beauty salons in Karachi alone, in addition to perhaps an even larger number of unregistered parlours that have mushroomed in every part of the city. A similar situation exists in other large cities and even in smaller towns across the country.
Just as there is a distinct difference visible in the lifestyles of various SECs (socio-economic classes), there are salons available to cater to the various income strata. All these parlours may offer similar basic services on the face of it but there is a clear difference in the quality of service as well as the general ambiance and setting of the salons.
Many well-established beauty salons have even emerged as brands, with the proprietors of these salons investing considerable amounts of money in their interiors, training of employees, etc. The phenomenon, known as ‘prestige pricing’, allows many salon owners to lead their customers into believing that their services are expensive as they offer higher quality services., It is easy for the gullible and vain upper class ladies to fall prey to such deception as the better-packaged services obviously attract more attention, allowing the upmarket salons to make huge profits. Studies reveal that the psychological effects of such marketing techniques also give the well-heeled female customer a sense of satisfaction as she feels she deserves the premium treatment.
The parlours that cater to the lower SECs are entirely different. Proprietors in many instances have little knowledge or experience of the beauty parlour business. They are aware, though, that their customers would be willing to compromise on quality if services are provided at a lower price. The low-priced parlours offer everything from makeup to manicure, pedicure and hairstyling. Like the better salons, they too offer hair and skin treatment along with health and beauty tips, though their services may not be supervised by qualified beauticians like the higher priced salons.
There is a trend of hiring Christian girls by salons in all price categories. One reason is that these girls are available during Islamic holidays such as Eid, which ensures continuity in lucrative business days. The other reason is that Christian girls are found to be better disciplined and more hardworking. Well-established salons ensure that the staff they hire are trained for the job. Many provide on-the-job training to new entrants who are also given personal grooming lessons. In comparison, the smaller parlours hire amateur workers who sharpen their skills by working directly on customers.
The manner in which the Pakistani beauty industry is progressing both in the organized and unorganized sector, it is time for international parlour brands to enter the market. This will usher in a new era, offering services based on global insights and professional products using the latest international technologies. There is no doubt that growing affluence in the upper income categories can trigger increased experimentation, leading to accelerated growth in the beauty category. The current explosive growth in beauty parlours certainly offers a big opportunity. Many local and multinational companies can exploit this opportunity to step up investment and embark on innovation, offering their marketing capabilities to boost the beauty sector, both in terms of products and services.
The hair and beauty industry in Pakistan may have expanded in terms of per capita annual spend but this is considerably lower than world or even regional standards. This means that there is a great market potential waiting to be exploited.
The beauty industry must focus on the fact that the environment is positively inclined towards growth. High profits and long-term market share can be attained through judicious investment and bringing together of various business and consumption factors that play a major role in the continued growth of the beauty services segment. Such growth can be driven forward by large national and international cosmetic companies that can venture into the beauty care sector.
There is also room for the launching of a beauty academy with the objective of providing training to stylists and beauticians. This would add considerably to the service standards offered by all categories of beauty salons and, in turn, offer better value for money to customers.