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Would you subscribe to your local beauty bar?


As the retail beauty market becomes more premium led and online and offline world’s merge, co-founder of beauty bar start-up Blow Ltd, Dharmash Mistry feels he is well placed to capitalise on the opportunity.

Mistry has successfully invested in online retailers such as My and Lovefilm in the past but is now trying his hand at something new.

Blow Ltd, a two floor store in London’s Covent Garden has been bankrolled by Mark Sebba, chief executive of Net-a-Porter and Nick Robertson CEO of Asos and aims to provide fast beauty for “the partner at the law firm and her secretary” as well as “yummy mummies.” The company is looking to open stores in high density office space and premium high streets.

Mistry explains how he is utilising customer and staff data to drive a tighter and more engaging operation.

“All staff have been through a three week boot camp and customers sometimes have three members of staff working on their hair, make-up and nails simultaneously. When a customer leaves they are invited to rate our services out of 10. If we see a score that is 7 or below, we know what blow dry hair styles have been chosen and can decide if we need to take action with staff on the issue.”

“We book a slot not a person. The real time data allows us to target training and get feedback from customers who score well and the very few who score less to ensure we are constantly learning and improving our service and product offering.”

Blow also puts products “on trial” through social search such as Facebook and Twitter to gauge what products are popular and then chooses the most popular items to stock in-store. It takes its lead from sushi bar menus and offers a blow dry in half an hour, make-up in 15 minutes and nails in 15 minutes. “Half our customers have multiple services when they come here. They find it useful that we’re a one-stop shop,” he says.

The in-store analytics market is growing with firms Euclid, Nomi and Shoppertrack offering solutions for retailers to count the number of in-store shoppers through small devices placed at the entrance and exit of stores. Cosmetics retailer Lush recently gave its shop floor staff access to data analytics to improve performance and said it will save £1m this year doing so.

Blow stocks around 40 beauty brands which are mainly sourced from the UK and US but also sells make-up and lipstick from Swedish brand Face Stockholm.

The company’s main selling point is providing a one stop shop for cash rich but time-poor customers. But in the busiest times such as Thursday, Friday and Saturday night has the business been so busy that they’ve had to turn people away?

“Yes”, admits Mistry. “We’re learning from it. The solution is to increase capacity and open more beauty bars!”

TV and film subscription culture is enveloping the US and UK as Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Instant Video sink their teeth into the entertainment market. Could beauty bars be next?

“We’re seeing dry bars in the US become more like a gym membership,” he hints. “Our closest inspiration is the Dry bar in the US with 40+ outlets, blow dry only, which is the first player to start seriously testing subscriptions as far as we know.”

Mistry has developed what he believes could be the first business model to combine service, retail and media under one roof.

Co-founder Dharmash Mistry (left) is using real time data to target training and get feedback from customers
Co-founder Dharmash Mistry (left) is using real time data to target training and get feedback from customers

My mother, Grazyna Somerville went to Blow for a blow dry and make up session – here’s what she made of her experience.

“Two hours before the appointment, I received a personalised text message, reminding me about my appointment at 3.15pm with its address and landline phone number. It felt good to know I am expected and to have all the necessary details in my phone in case I got lost.

I was greeted at the door by a vivacious, funky young woman who welcomed me and enquired about my presence. I was directed to a hair stylist who was ready to start working with me even though I arrived 15 minutes early.

My jacket was taken from me and hung in a wardrobe in a safe place which made me feel cared for in a special way. Nice touch. Also, I was offered a coffee, tea and water, I said ‘yes’ but it never materialised. Half-way through my hair blow, I said I would like a drink as I felt thirsty and this time it was promptly brought to me in a nice large glass with lime. Later I was asked again, very generously, if I would like another drink and it was brought to me immediately and graciously.

I was asked if I had a chance to look through the menu to choose a hairstyle. The stylist, who was holding an iPad in her hand, showed me some different styles on it so we had a little discussion about what would suit me most and I opted for the ‘Beach Blow’ style. I had my hair worked and styled in 30 minutes and while I was having my hair done, I was offered the iPad to look at but I preferred to relax and have an easy chat. I’m happy to say I was very pleased with the results of my session.

Next, I was led upstairs to have my make-up session and was asked what kind of style I would like. I went for an easy ‘day’ make-up. Again it was pleasant, easy and enjoyable. I opted in for a brave orange colour for the lipstick and it was recommended how I could buy the product used from their shop. At the end of the 15 minute session I was asked to fill in a questionnaire on the iPad: would I recommend a blow dry to anybody on a scale from 1-10 and would I recommend a make-up from 1-10? I gave both top scores, thinking it would make a really good present to my daughter who is going to be 21 next month.

I found the whole experience at Blow Ltd very professional, relaxing and genuinely unpretentious. Good stuff.”

Published on Wednesday 30 April by Editorial Assistant

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