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Antony (00:00:02):

Welcome to the grow my salon business podcast, where we focus on the business side of hairdressing. I’m your host Antony Whitaker, and I’ll be talking to thought leaders in the hairdressing industry discussing insightful, provocative, and inspiring ideas that matter. So get ready to learn, get ready to be challenged. Get ready to be inspired and most importantly, get ready to grow your salon business.

Antony (00:00:31):

Hello and welcome to today’s episode of the grow my salon business podcast. I’m your host Antony Whitaker, and it’s great to have you here with us today, and don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a rating and review if you enjoy it. So let’s jump straight into today’s show. So without further ado, welcome to the show,

Elena (00:00:50):

Elena. Thank you Antony, for having me here today.

Antony (00:00:53):

It’s an absolute pleasure. I have been looking forward to this as you know, I’ve been hounding you on Instagram, to come on the podcast. So I’m really happy to have this, you know, this opportunity to talk to you about the Amazon salon and not just about that, but about you and hairdressing and your business and you know, all things that come with it. So let’s just start off with why, how I always start my podcast is I sort of get my guests to introduce themselves. So, you know, and to talk a little bit about their background, just a quick sort of introduction. So who is Elena Lavagni just give us your sort of, you know, two or three minute backstory and then we can dig into that.

Elena (00:01:36):

Well, Elena Lavagni is a mother, a wife and a friend, first of all I’m a business owner and I work in this wonderful industry, which is a hairdressing. I am the owner of Neville Hair and Beauty which is located in Belgravia London. And I also own a salon in the Bulgari Hotel in London, and I have opened the first ever in the world, Amazon Salons. We opened on the, on a soft launch on the 20th of April and we open to the public on the 20th of May. So it’s really, really fresh.

Antony (00:02:18):

Right Fantastic. Great. So first of all, I want to apologize for mispronouncing your surname. I don’t have your beautiful Italian accent. So my apologies for that. Yeah. So, okay. So here we are at the time of recording where at the beginning of June, you’ve only just been opened, which is fantastic. Were you surprised when the media sort of announcement about the Amazon salon opening, were you surprised that the amount of publicity on social media, on Instagram, Facebook, Clubhouse in the press, there was so much talk about it did that surprise you?

Elena (00:03:03):

Yes and no. Yes. To the point that I wasn’t expecting so much opinion flying around. And no, because you know, when something like this, enter your industry you’re worried you if you don’t know what’s going on, you make you know, you have ideas, which that completely incorrect by the way, but you have this idea and and you tend to run with it. I think people felt scared and and people felt threatened on a very delicate situation, which is just coming out of pre post COVID. So I do sympathize with the feeling, even if there could have been a little bit less aggressive, but I do sympathize with people and I don’t feel any, you know, any anger, any upset. I have a perfect reason solution and the reason why we did this and I still believe that the Amazon Salon It’s a, it’s a great thing for the industry.

Antony (00:04:09):

Okay. Yeah, you’re right. There was you know, a lot of misinformation and I listened and watched and read a lot of stuff about it in, in the trade sort of media, the, the public you know, the general press wasn’t negative about it. They were just sort of stating the facts based on the press release pretty much. But as you just said, when people don’t know the facts, they start to, they start to make up their own version of reality based on fear often. And it was interesting though what I found, because I listened to a lot of people on clubhouse talking about it. And there was so much misinformation, but they sort of eventually as a generalization, they talked it through and they came out the other end of it with a degree of acceptance and not feeling, you know, so negative about it. I thought that was a really, you know, sort of interesting process that people went through as they sort of talked it through and through and through it. And God knows there was so many clubhouse rooms that were talking about the Amazon salon. Was that your experience that people sort of, you know, gradually came around to not being so afraid of it?

Elena (00:05:21):

Well, I only listen at the beginning and after I didn’t, I chose not to you know, the Amazon salons is, is a place where it’s a, it’s a hope, the reason why I got involved and let me explain this because maybe it will be easier for you to understand the process. My, my thought process of getting involved, you know, I was approached at the end of 2018. So it wasn’t something that came out during the pandemic because they wanted to hurt the industry with some absolutely. But at the end of 2018, I started to feel a little bit twitchy generally, because there was, I couldn’t see any of the press of any of the brands or anyone helping clients walking back to the salon. I could see there was this divider of people wanting to kind of leave the salon you know, in, in the beginning of the nineties, everybody was supposed to be a session stylist.

Elena (00:06:29):

And on, in, in, in the 2000, everybody wants to be a coach and after everyone wants to be an educator and after everybody wants to be self employed, open studios, everybody seems to be kind of moving from something where they had salons So I started to feel a little bit fidget and I just started asking question and I, and I spoke to brands and,ubut nobody had an answer how to bring clients back into the salon. What can we do that is so different that will bring people back into our chairs. And,uwhen the Amazon,uopportunity came along and for me, it had this kind of ureka moment where I saw, yes, this is the way where we can actually take people out of the living room chairs into my chairs in the salon with something that is interesting with something that is interesting and a point of discussion, you know, just to having, you know, we have this screen, which is like augmented reality, where you sit the clients in front of this, mhhis screen where you speak to the clients about hair, hair, color, different types of hair techniques.

Elena (00:07:36):

And it’s not just what you see it’s the conversation. The conversation can be moved along different type of way. You could, you could speak about color, you speak about about products. You could speak about lifestyle. It could speak about everything. You know, that little, that little screen in the salons that you can have actually create a communication between a client and the stylist, which is, which is, you know, physical two people together. It doesn’t have to be, you know, on a, on a zoom call, we’re doing a virtual consultation is actually, you’re sitting that with your clients, you can discuss things with your clients. And that, to me having this conversation actually understand what the clients want is is, was an incredible, an incredible opportunity. Also, the Amazon salons, we have the QR code. So people come in, we finish our services with advising clients on, on buying products and the product sitting on a shelf.

Elena (00:08:40):

We have a QR code, the QR code gets scanned and people buy purchase that products through the Amazon account, into prime, into that home. You know, one things I noticed again, prior pandemic. And I don’t know if anybody’s noticed same things is that people don’t buy as much products, but they do not buy products because they don’t want to buy products is because the lifestyle. So for example, a woman comes to the salon before she wants to go out for, for the date for dinner. The last thing she wants to do is bringing products back into it, you know for the night out and little bag with the shampoo and conditioner. So what do you do? You don’t buy them and you think I’m going to buy them next time. Next time you’re going to the hairdresser. You went to the hairdresser because there is some kind of other event or something else.

Elena (00:09:25):

So you always end up leaving the product in the salon not buying them. And you know, at the end of the day, when the client doesn’t buy the products, it doesn’t damage the clients, but it damage the work that we’ve been done for three hours. You know, when you’re doing a full set of highlights and you do a pure color change, and the clients goes and uses different shampoo that is not the right one for the service that you provide, you undermine and undervalue your own work, you know? And you know, when you buy a pair of shoes, for example, you go and buy a pair of shoes and depends how much the shoes cost you buy the right Polish, but you’re not doing it with the hair the hair seems to be something like, oh, you could go to boots and buy something in boots and make it work. So in this way it protects your job as a hairdresser.

Antony (00:10:18):

Okay. well, there’s so much to dig into here. Let’s just go right back to the first bit about the name of the salon. It’s called The Amazon Salon is it? Yes. Okay. All right. And, and how did it, how did it come about, did someone approach you or like, how did, how did that work?

Elena (00:10:39):

But somebody came along and asked me if I, if I would have been interested on something in this way we spoke, we had a quite few meeting at the beginning. I was in, I was worried, you know, like everyone else, you know, I was thinking, you know, is it going to be the right things? It’s not going to be the right things. And after I realize that, you know, we all have to gain out of this as, as a salon, because remember, I still have Neville Hair and Beauty you know, I still have my own salons It’s not that I’m just doing one thing. And as much as you can understand, I need to protect my own, my own salon. Like everyone else like that. And you know, I’d already, I had problems with clients finding products in Amazon, much less expensive than what I could sell in the salon

Elena (00:11:31):

So I really, I was trying to change the way we, we sell products for example, at Neville we only sell products that you cannot buy online anywhere else. The rest of the products that the clients might need, you can buy them on our website by an affiliate with Amazon. So I give my clients the best price that the clients could get and the products and that they cannot buy anywhere else that you buy physically in store with us. But you know, you have to be, the problem is that, and this is always the problem we spoke to. I spoke to you a little bit before about this. Since I starting to work in the hairdressing, a salon always made a choice in this way. You choose a product company that gives you the best discounts, the best price. So you choose the product fromthe best price.

Elena (00:12:28):

Then you choose the services that this product companies allow to do. Then you choose the hairdresser and then you sell your products and your hairdresser to the consumer. Now we need to start going backwards, Amazon teachers that we need to go backwards on the way that clients come first, what the clients need, the treatments, the clients needs, how they need to be done and how they need to be sold to them. Then we have the hairdresser that is able to provide all these different services. So the product line, so a salon to be able to offer every clients out there what they need, we need to be multi branded. We cannot be single branded anymore. And on this, providing the clients, what the clients need, because as we know, there are some products are perfect. And for highlights there are some products that are perfect for [bronze sombre, balayage whatever you want to call it.

Elena (00:13:33):

Other products, we need Hennawe need to work with the right Henna you know, all different brands have their strengths. So we need to use whatever it is. We need to give the clients what the clients want the clients in the center of our universe, not ourselves, not the brand, not anyone else. If we start from the clients, we will have a business that will be, you know, have longevity in the future because we need to be very much listening to, to what, to what they need. And I do believe a salon from now on the salons of, the future needs to be multi-branded, there’s no way around it.

Antony (00:14:14):

Ok so what brands do you carry? I thought that you did only carry the one brand in the Amazon salon?, Is it a multibrand salon?

Elena (00:14:22):

At the moment? We carry one brand. At the moment, but yeah. You know, you know, definitely it’s changing at Neville Yeah. Completely. You know, it’s the world, the world is changing as much as the brands trying to close us in and they are taking, they taking, they trying to take over or what we do in brandsthat are, that are interested in digital, on selling digitally. That’s what they’re interested in, in salons. We are just an extension of the digital world with our, you know, we’d all we’d all our Instagramming things. We just promoted them for free every day. They charge us for what they do, but we promoting them for free every day. You know, it’s like the amount of publicity that we give to these brands every day is it’s incredible. You know, we are the biggest advocates.

Antony (00:15:22):

So, so you’ve got two salons. One of them is called Neville which is a very high end luxury salon and a very, you know, high-end luxurious part of London. And then you’ve got the Amazon salon in spittlefields, which is a very different sort of area. It’s a very different part of London. It’s very cool. And you know, it’s got, it’s got a great, it’s great. I mean, I love it there. A lot of people love that part of east London. Do what I’m asking you is do the two salons have the same target market or are they focused on a completely different market?

Elena (00:15:55):

Completely different markets, completely different things in the same week that we open up the Amazon salon WE also open up a popup blow dry bar with Anya Hindmarch, which is one of the most chic designer in London. So we basically, we, we did the same things we did. We did the very boutique very exclusive blow, dry experience. And at the same time, we open up the Amazon salons with all the technology with super modern, super, super cool. And at the other side, and in the middle, we had, we have Neville with established clientele, but the way we work, the way we do things is very, it’s, it’s, it’s very constant and it’s very consistent. So, so

Antony (00:16:48):

Why did you know, in your initial conversations with Amazon, why did they want to open a salon?

Elena (00:16:55):

I think, I think, you know, it’s they wanted to, they wanted to help us on you know, the idea was try to see how the industry, how they could help the industry. You know, what they’ve done here is also what you need to think that technology that is inside Amazon at the moment was a preexisting technology. We need, we didn’t need a tech company to open something like this. Our, our product product company should have helped us to do something like this, but they didn’t. So we had a major technology company, they came in and shows us how we can move into 20, you know, in the 21st century and give us a more, more interesting way of, of doing our job every day.

Antony (00:17:43):

Okay. I mean, I’ve I’ve not used it, but that was one of the things I was going to ask you about was, you know, what is the technology? And, and because I’m not seeing any technology that wasn’t already available in some shape or form. So like all the virtual reality, augmented reality stuff. I know that L’Oreal had a product where they bought a company called ModiFace. I don’t know how many years ago, 3, 4, 5 years ago, 2018. Right. So all of that sort of technology from ModiFace was already available through, through, through matrix and through L’Oreal and, you know, different companies out there. So it’s not new, is it that, that sort of technology to sort of see that virtual reality and see what this color will look like on you before you have it done and all that sort of stuff?

Elena (00:18:36):

Yes. It’s the things what to say, the things that are new, the new is that somebody put them all together into one place. And that is the clever part of it. The clever part of it that somebody actually that what would make the customer experience more interesting on coming into hairdressing salons. So they use whatever was preexisting and make the salons of the new salons of the new generation. You know, we, we, ourselves being a hairdresser has been in this myself when in the shop every single day for 20 years, I, I wouldn’t have been able to think about something like that. The product company that own this kind of technology they never suggest us to have it. And all of sudden we have this amazing tech company with the, I had to say, you know, the people that work there, they’re so clever, so incredibly clever and hardworking and innovative, and, you know, it’s, it’s incredible.

Elena (00:19:39):

I have my team that not only for example gets an incredible wage, but also to have health insurance you know, it’s they, they looking after every single part of the working life, you know, there is a hairdresser that has a break for their lunch, you know, I don’t think I actually, haven’t given, give my team a break for lunch. But you know, it, we, we, we do, and for them, it’s something important. The value, the core value are incredible. You know, we’ve learned, we’ve learned so much working, working with them and the energy is, is incredible. And you know, yeah. So th that’s not, it’s not, it’s not a new, it’s not a new technology, but the fact that what is new is that altogether in one place.

Antony (00:20:31):

Yeah. Got it. Okay. And is do you think it’s the first of many are they planning on opening more of these?

Elena (00:20:39):

I don’t think their in the world of having hairdressers, if you understand what I mean, because the salon is very much operated by hairdressers. And so no, I don’t, I don’t think, I don’t think it’s going to be, it’s going to be the case. I haven’t been told, but absolutely not in the UK. I don’t think so, but what they do is I think is, which was something was quite important was the B2B they have this service, they provide stock to businesses registered businesses, not just whoever wants to buy the very competitive price. So for example, if you’re a like of a small little salon in Aberdeen, that doesn’t benefit from the great grace that Loreal wella or any other company could give you as informal discounts, you then could go to the Amazon business and purchase products with a very good discount.

Elena (00:21:51):

I mean, a nice invoice, but you can only, you can only register if you’re a registered hairdresser or a registered business while when you go to Sally’s. And because we are unregulated industry you’re going to sallys anybody could buy color and start to do start to do services. Here is a little bit, again, you know, doing this, they protecting the industry, they protect the real industry they protect the morality of the industry and this kind of thing. So not being seen as being, as being favorable, because I think everybody wants to see the bad things about about Amazon, but instead they have done a lot of good things.

Antony (00:22:32):

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. No, I’m intrigued to find out all about that more and I’m sure a lot of the listeners are too. One thing you just mentioned was you said your team get a very good wage, so are you, so they work for Amazon? Do they, Amazon employs them and pays them a salary?

Elena (00:22:49):

You know, we, we are the business providers, so yeah, so it’s you know, the, the way things have to be structured our structure on the, on, on the basis that we, you know, everybody has to be really well looked after everybody has to have a, you know, above industry representations. So it’s it’s a really, it’s a really good, good place.

Antony (00:23:22):

And before we were recording, I, I asked you a question about I said, you know, how much retail, what would the volume of sales be in the week? And, and you said to me, well, I don’t actually know Antony because they don’t buy it in the salon. They have the QR code. And so they order the product on the phone via the QR code, and it gets shipped to them straight from Amazon. And so where my head’s going is, well, what’s in that for you? Like, what do you get from that? Because a lot of salon owners would be saying, you know, our services side of the business is not particularly profitable, but because we do 20% of our total sales in retail, you know, we’re profitable because of the margin we make on the retail product. So I might’ve misunderstood it, but were you saying that the retail margin, you don’t get any percentage of that? Am I correct in saying that?

Elena (00:24:15):

This is an Amazon Salon. I’m not going to get, I wasn’t getting, it’s an Amazon salon, you know, so it’s not that I’m getting anything because, you know, it’s, it’s not my position to get anything out of that. So, but and that’s the reason why, why I, I don’t know. I’m sure when is the same question asked me you know, when, for example we one of the salons that when we sell, when we sell at Neville when we sell the retails, we don’t give commission on retail. The reason why we don’t get commission retail, because for me, is in the service of customer care. And, you know, if you care for your clients to sell, I don’t understand why I should give, you know, the commission. I don’t, I don’t give commission I prefer pay my team, a good wage above everything else. But the selling products at the end of the service should become natural because you care about your clients. That is what it’s, you know, selling products is not about money all the time, especially not any more it’s about the service you provide to your clients. And also selfishly is also about the fact that you want the hair that you do, you call it the you done to look the best for the longer period as possible. So it’s also, there is a little bit of selfishness into it as well.

Antony (00:25:37):

Okay. And I, I totally respect that. I think that’s good. I think that if people do just sell product for the commission, then that’s a completely wrong reason to be doing it. You know, you need to be looking after your clients because you generally care about them and, and profit or commission is a by-product of doing that. Okay. So with, with I mean, I think everybody’s aware, and I don’t mean this in a derogatory way against L’Oreal in any shape or form, but I understand that L’Oreal are the professional partner in the salon in terms of color and, and retail, is that, is that correct?

Elena (00:26:13):

At the moment we have a load of products in the salon. Yeah.

Antony (00:26:16):

Okay. And are they, are they part of the partnership with, with Amazon or just happens to be Loreal that are providing it at the moment? It’s

Elena (00:26:26):

I, I, I think that just on the moment happened to be there.

Antony (00:26:30):

Okay. do you think that Amazon eventually want there, because this is one of the, one of the things that hairdressers were worried about with the misinformation that was going around at the beginning, do you think that they want their own line of professional product Amazon? Is that their, their end game, or do you think that they want to be the distributors For all products out there?

Elena (00:26:52):

I think, I think you’ve been doing the B2B. I think they, maybe they want to help our business to get the products, the distribution products though to, to everyone. I think that could be, is, you know, it could be the goal or what they’re looking for. I don’t think they want to get into the nitty gritty into hairdressing. I don’t think they want to take the place of a Loreal or anyone like this. You know, that it’s much it’s, it’s a much broader and bigger and bigger brand. The B2B, I think, is something that they care about. Absolutely. And to be honest since I started using the B2B for Neville our prices is, you know, your margin is gone much, much higher. So, you know, there is, there is a good it’s, it’s, it’s a really good price, competitive price.

Elena (00:27:42):

Also there’s somebody was telling me, I’m not sure if it’s true though. So don’t quote me too much on this. They say the one that there was the announcement, 20 April of Amazon opening, a salon Sally’s share prices, went down nearly 10%. So it shows you where that is. Actually the heat is going to really happening. It’s not, it’s not, hairdressers is not taking over what we do. They’re not going to start cutting hair. We’re not going to have robots. We’re not going to have anything that was said before you know, we’re doing, we’re doing a hair. We have a team of highly skilled hairdressers. You know, we have two teachers that have been in a hairdressing for over 15 years. We have one guy which is the youngest guy, this NVQ three, there’s been hair dresser for five years and we have another, another gentleman has been a hairdresser for 15 years another Italian, you know, we have all people that generally apart from one boy they’d been into hairdressing for over 10 years and more so the team is quite strong is is more to skills because they need to do everything is a proper hairdressers.

Elena (00:28:54):

You know, like when it, you know, you remember when you, when you used to learn and used to do everything you used to do color, cutting, hair up perm and everything that comes on with that, and after for some reason has become unfashionable and you just did one thing. And you know, you remember the time where blow dry wasn’t cool and you shouldn’t do blow dry and she do, you know, just cutting. I don’t do blow dries or that kind of hairdresser now there are people, of course they can’t blow dry because they never learn how to blow dry and blow dry is the easiest way to get clients. So, you know, it’s all these kind of things in, in, in the Amazon salon, the hairdresser are able to do everything.

Antony (00:29:34):

Good. Okay. Now I read somewhere that at the moment it’s only for Amazon employees, is that correct? So it is now open to the public is oh, fantastic. Great. I thought, I thought at the beginning it was only open for Amazon employees.

Elena (00:29:51):

It was open on a beta phase just for amazon employess but that finished and now it’s open to the public. It’s been open to the public since the 20th of May.

Antony (00:29:59):

Okay. Oh, fantastic. Okay. So what is it that like, I agree with what you said before about, and I know you said don’t quote me on that. I might be wrong, but it was interesting about the Sally’s share price because Sally’s being a global distributor. I forget how many outlets they’ve got around the world, but I find, and again, I might be wrong. It’s significantly more than 2000. So, you know, they are distributor professional product. And if you were someone who owned Sally’s, you might be looking at Amazon and thinking, oh my God, they are the masters because that’s what Amazon do and do brilliantly. They are the masters of distribution of logistics, of shipping and handling. So, and this is me now adding two and two together and getting 10, I might be completely wrong, but you sort of look at it and you go, well, if I was a big manufacturer of hair products I would look at Amazon as being a great logistics partner that they would do all the shipping and handling and distribution of product. So therefore you can focus on what your core business is, which is manufacturing and education and training of people and outsource the distribution side to the masters of it, which are, which are Amazon. Do you, do you think I’m barking up the wrong tree, or do you think that maybe that’s sort of the way some people might look at it?

Elena (00:31:25):

I think it makes a lot of sense. There could be a, can be done. I personally wasn’t told anything particularly this way. So, you know, as I say, I, I don’t know anything on a, on a broader range of what Amazon intend to do on this kind of things also because I’m trying to concentrate on what we do, we’re do in the salon and how to make things the best as possible. But I know that as as far as we concerned as an industry, they are not that to injured the hairdressers or hairdressing salons. So that was a hundred percent you know, of course that is going to be a kind of a game behind it, but I really don’t. I really don’t know what’s what that is.

Antony (00:32:15):

I’m always intrigued by, I mean, again, it’s what Amazon do brilliantly is data and understanding behavior of, of consumers and staff and, and that based on all that data that they get they, you know, it makes them a stronger, more efficient, more productive company, but to be really honest with you, I’m not quite sure what the data is that, that they, that they’re getting, you know, how often a client comes to your Salon, how often they wash their hair. Like, you know, like what I fail to see, and this is me, I sort of fail to see the value in a lot of that data, but I’m the first one to say, that’s me. I must be being fairly naive about that. What are your thoughts about what is the value in the data for them?

Elena (00:32:59):

Well, maybe it’s what they spenditure on a salon, but you know, I think we’re going back. Do you know this, when we get back going back to the B2B kind of services, you know, what the cost of the salon, what we spend, what we do in, how is it run? So, because I don’t think the may, as I said to you before, the main goal is not, the hairdresser is not it’s, they sell products. So anything to do with with products, it’s what they are interested on. Um, I don’t think, you know, they’re not interested in a hairdressing.

Antony (00:33:34):

Yeah, exactly. Okay. Let’s talk about the technology, cause I’m always intrigued by technology. So the virtual reality, the augmented reality, all that sort of stuff. You are someone who is, you’re a very charming woman. So if you, and I know you’re not a hairdresser, I think I said that to the audience before that you weren’t a hairdresser and that you’re actually that you have a degree in psychology, which I think is amazing. And the challenge I have, and I always, I try and sort of always remind myself that I am not the client. Okay. And because I think you have to be objective about it. And if I go into a hairdressing salon, I want someone who’s charming. I want, I want someone to look at me to make eye contact, have conversation to have good product knowledge, to be able to ask me the right questions and to, to build that connection, that one-to-one relationship.

Antony (00:34:30):

And, you know, over the years when I sometimes, cause I go into lots of different salons as a client, and sometimes people come up to me with a clipboard and they want me to fill out a consultation form or they’ll come up to me with an iPad. And, you know, they’ll ask me to fill out the questions on the iPad. And it just annoys me because I want to talk to you. I want to talk to that charming professional hairdresser who can smile, who can laugh, who can ask me the right questions, who can, who knows when to push a little bit and when to pull back a little bit and all that sort of stuff. So I often look at the technology and I go, wow, isn’t it amazing. But as a consumer, I actually don’t don’t want it. So, but that’s just me. I’m the first one that says it’s just me. So what are your thoughts about that in terms of in the salon situation, how do you find that both clients and hairdressers engage with the technology and, and is the relationship affected negatively because of that?

Elena (00:35:33):

Yeah. I, I actually, I do believe there’s exactly the opposite, I think technology is a point of discussion for somebody that could be a little bit shy or the clients that are a little bit shy on describing what they want. It’s it’s you know, like in everything is depends how you use it. If you, if you use it with a conviction and with with feelings and you, and you make that part of your bigger picture of delivering the clients, the best kind of of experience that you can do, you can actually emphasis and make the experience much more enjoyable. For example, these classical things. Now we have these via tablets with all the magazines coming through it, and you know, the simple fact that we can have up-to-date magazines all the time. We don’t have

Elena (00:36:27):

And sometimes you go to a salon you find an old magazine on a hold, a old magazine, or you keep looking through, you know, you don’t have the problem. Everything is absolutely new sparkly, and you can read anything you want to read. You know, the augmented reality, which make you try different things. You know, we had we had this lovely lady just yesterday, actually she came into the salon. She just wants you to have a look around. She want you to have a chart? The lady must have been, I don’t know, early seventies so she came in. She was really, really sweet and she had long blonde highlighted hair. And she wants you to know about the augmented reality. We sat her there we spoke about it and she ended up having a hair pale pink. You know, she wanted to stay.

Elena (00:37:13):

We accommodated to say she changed her color completely. She loved it. And today I just been told that one of the girls received a beautiful bunch of flowers because it makes her feel so much better and she needed to have a little, a little change. So, you know, sometimes this this kind of gimmicks that you can have can actually make things a little bit easier for it to be more fun and, you know at the end of tha day I always believe to me going to work is like going to go out and play to me. It’s going to work is this kind of, this kind of feeling that I need to enjoy. I want to enjoy it because, you know, it’s never as, as you know, better than me, you know, it’s never the destination. It’s always the process, the enjoying the moment enjoying every day, you know, and going to work and being able to make a lady so happy that she has to send flowers to say, thank you. It’s you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a lovely moment. And this, if it wasn’t for this augmented reality there we wouldn’t have done it, she wouldn’t have done it.

Antony (00:38:18):

So it created a talking point, it created a new experience

Elena (00:38:23):

Also, you know, for, for retail, you know, I’m the classical person. I, you know, I have my head down because I’m going somewhere and from doing something so normally what I would do, I would go home. I get changed. I go to the salon, I have my hair done. And and then if I had to buy something, I don’t want to carry it with me. So I don’t buy in this way. The clients comes in and scan, the QR code gets sent home. They have the products everybody’s happy. And you, you know, you, you feel comfortable on, on advising clients, to buying products, because you know that it’s easy for them. It’s not going to be a problem because they could do it easily and, and, and go and keep going forever what they want to go. So it’s yeah, I think, I think it’s, I think it’s an amazing, I think it’s an amazing experience, an amazing concept to, to have all these things into one, into one salon but my favorite it’s, I need to tell you which one is my favorite is point to learn. Yes.

Antony (00:39:28):

I can ask you about that. So talk to us about that.

Elena (00:39:30):

I absolutely love it. I spend my day pointing to products and basically we have this kind of a hero shelves where we have 8 hero products. And you just point to the products and on the big TV screen comes out what the product is for.

Antony (00:39:51):

What you point With your finger, you point your finger to a product and on the screen, it comes out as to what It’s for?

Elena (00:39:56):

Yeah. And it’s, you know, for somebody shy you know, sometimes people don’t want to ask things and just want to come in and see things, see products that can just point it out and see what is there. And it’s, it’s incredible, you know, it’s I, I personally is my, is my hero piece of technology, but you know, it’s, it’s great. And they’re all those things, which they make things easy. They don’t take the, don’t make things difficult and made the customer journey, the customer experience much more smoother and, and give us much more time to speak to the clients. They give us the opportunity to create it, to create a connection. And, and that is what we’re all about. Hairdresser are here to make a connection with our clients, you know, we need to care.

Antony (00:40:50):

Yeah. In your other salon, in Neville, what have you learned from the Amazon salon that you will integrate into Neville? So for example, you talked about the Amazon fire tablets, it’s got all the magazines on, have you got something like that in Neville now, or will you put something like that in?

Elena (00:41:09):

I mean, yeah, definitely. Definitely. The magazine is something that is really cool. Of course we will, we will introduce some of the technology or some of the things into Neville, into Neville For sure. Also, because as I say to you, I think is a great service for my clients. And as a company like Amazon, that the customer is the only real goal made me to revalue, absolutely everything, everything in Neville, everything we do, even the simple fact that how we’re looking at our team, you know, I always been a team person, you know, I never believed I don’t like hierarchy because, you know, for me, the most important person in the salon my cleaner and my junior, my assistants, because without them, you can have 25 clients charged at 300 pounds a haircut, but without them, you won’t be able to do your job.

Elena (00:41:59):

So I always, you know, it’s always very important to value each one it’s job for what the really are worth to you as a, as a business. And for us, you know, it’s very, very important to, to understand that a team work together, the foundation put together and everybody has the same, the same value. You know, if you, if you’re building a house, you’re every single brick in the house has an immense value. So, and for, for me is always how Neville has always, has always been. But now being with you know, with Amazon, I I’ve realized that that concept that we always had can be an emphasize a million times more because it’s always been it’s, it’s the only way forward. And as I say, while before, we were maybe looking at the product company and going down to the product company, now we’re going from our clients upwards.

Elena (00:42:55):

And and the answer is, and why we you know, now at Neville we start to introduce henna colours which you never do, we find a new way to, to create this colour with a completely new technique. We we introduce this brand of of treatments which it comes from Brazil. Now. I don’t know if you know, but Brazil is the only country in the world. That’s got hairdressing salon that just do treatments, hair treatments that don’t do anything else. So I found this brands, which I can create 23 different hair treatments and create a treatment journey. One things they understood are coming out of the pandemic is that health is the new luxury, is the new beauty. So anything that makes you look healthy, like to do health regime for your food, or for you, or for your physical activity, we need to have the same journey and it the same type of attention to your hair, but in doing so, you had to sit down as a salon owner really see what things going out there, try to work out the best things that could give your clients the results that they wish to have, or maybe they don’t know that they want yet, but that will want in few, in few months time, you really need to start to become much more open to whatever happens around the world, take all the informations and customize anything you need for the goal of making your clients happy.

Antony (00:44:23):

Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really good bit of wisdom at the end of that. Well, not just at the end of it at the beginning of it is that little summary. I keep reflecting back on that thing you threw in, and you mentioned it again about the lesson of working with Amazon is that it made you learn to think backwards to how you’d traditionally thought and to start with the client and work backwards from that. There is a lot of, there’s a lot in there. I need to really reflect on that because I think that’s very, very interesting. Okay. So just in terms of technology and data, the traditional, you know, technology hub in a salon has basically been the point of sale computer system. Do you use a, a point of sale computer system at the front desk? Is it, is it something that you’ve developed with Amazon or do you use an existing brand, or how does that, how does that work?

Elena (00:45:21):

We, we do, we do use a computer. We do use a computer system. And yes, we, and the moment we, of course, because we need to have a online booking, what we don’t have online booking because I didn’t want to have online booking. This has me going back a little bit. A, the reason why we have a phone booking and not online booking is because, because it’s such an incredible technological company, I wanted to have a little bit of a one-to-one human interaction. And also I think it’s very important to you know, sometimes when people go online, they just book themselves something. And one problem that we’re going to have that we do have, you know, we’ve patch tests and consultation and things. I just want to, I just want something more more approachable.

Elena (00:46:14):

So I wanted the clients to come in to have a consultation with us using the augmented reality, have a conversation, gave him the human touch because we are a hairdressers and that’s what we do. And I don’t want to take that away from what we are doing in making a completely external or technological to the point that we taking the essence of what we are away, what we are, is what we are inside us. And we need to keep going for that, you know, and the biggest advocate for our for our industry, I do believe it 200% and, you know, I, I will always defend it and always protect it. And so the reason why we made some choice or running our salons in a way, you know, sorry, the amazon salon in a way that it’s it’s very much human.

Elena (00:47:01):

It’s very much human led, you know, very much like every, every other, other salons, we have all this technology that that makes the customer journey much more enjoyable and much more fun and create a point of talking to guests, your clients, because of curiosity, they come out from, from the sofa, into our chair much more in much easier way, because people are curious. They want to come and see, they want to try a treatment. They would like us because they like us. They come back and that, it’s something that we need to, you know, the hairdresser are busy because they’re good hairdressers.

Antony (00:47:41):

Hmm. Have you had many hairdressers as clients? Yeah. probably but they haven’t told you yeah

Elena (00:47:47):

I do have a lots of hairdressers come in and, and looking from outside, which we invite them in to see inside because I think it’s important. They come in and see yeah, I’m sure we had we had quite a few, but they didn’t tell us.

Antony (00:48:02):

Yeah. Okay. And just going back to the, the point of sale computer system, you don’t have to tell me what brand it is or anything, but it’s not a, it’s not some Amazon new bespoke bit of technology. You’re just using a point of sale system. Like everybody else’s. Is that correct?

Elena (00:48:20):

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, ish

Antony (00:48:22):

So ish. Right. Okay. So, so Amazon, and not that interested in that side of it, I’m assuming then they’re not that interested in the productivity of the stylist, would their revenue per hour, that they’re producing and what percentage of their appointments are taken up. They’re not that interested in that sort of data.

Elena (00:48:44):

Well, interestingly interestly the guys are fully booked, 97% of occupancy. So, you know, there is no, there is no much of, you know, the guys are busy, so,

Antony (00:48:54):

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Tell me about the advantages of not carrying inventory.

Elena (00:49:00):

You know, the, the amount of stock that sits in your shelves all the time that you don’t sell you don’t shift. I think it’s very difficult now with this online world, not to find a product that is cheaper or more convenient online from whatever brands, it doesn’t have to be Amazon, but you know, you’re going to fill your needs and all the other ones, you find products that that they’re very competitive prices. So, you know, unless you have a brand that you can not buy online I don’t think there is a point of even stocking it, but this is my opinion.

Antony (00:49:36):

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s interesting though, and that sort of goes back to, I was talking about before that a lot of the smaller brands, they are partnering with Amazon, particularly in the U S more because they see that as a marriage made in heaven, that you’re a small brand. And if you want to get a distribution network in the logistics and supply chain set up, that you can put it on Amazon and they just look after it. And so you can see for a lot of the small brands that are the sort of bespoke brands that you want, that actually for them to grow, the smart thing to do is probably to get on Amazon. Would you, would you agree?

Elena (00:50:17):

Yeah. No, absolutely. For some brands, that’s the way that they want to do things, but trust me, we have some brands that we sell in the salon They’re not thinking that way. So it’s just the research you need to do, to be able to see what type of salon you have, what type of clients do you have what kind of market you are referring to, and then choosing the brands that be able to help you out to go forward in different things. You know, they affiliate, you know, the affiliate with Amazon gives you a kickback. Depends where you, so, you know, you’re still earning money with, or without holding any stock. But you know, in, in, in many ways, what worries me now could be that now, now you have Amazon doing something like this, where you have an affiliate and things, but Amazon is not interested in your client’s database because they already have the client’s database because the client has to have an Amazon account to buy or purchase any products from you. So it’s not that you give them anything else. They already they’re already there. They already been purchasing before, but I’m sure in the next few months, the things you will have major brands coming out and offering more or less the same service, where you are going to give people that do not own your customer data selling directly to your consumer and then it’s a problem.

Antony (00:51:38):

More and more of them are already doing that more and more companies already do it.

Elena (00:51:43):

So somebody that always done B2B all of a sudden want to go to B2C, Amazon is always been B to C. So it’s one thing to give in to, you know, if I have to, if I have, if I had to give my, my clients the choice of buying directly from a major product brand and gave this major product brand my client’s data, I wouldn’t do it. Yeah. But that’s my opinion because it’s, because then, then you know how data manipulation could be easily for people that searching for the clients things. So I, I would, I would be scared. Yeah. Maybe, maybe I’m just ignorant and I don’t understand it, you know, but

Antony (00:52:30):

No, no, no. I understand what you’re saying. Yeah. I think for everybody, there’s lots of, there’s lots of questions and some of them, you have answers to some of them, you don’t, you know, there’s always a degree of trust and well, what will that look like in the future? You know, how will that, how will that work? But there’s another bit of technology that Amazon use, which I, which I think is really cool. And it is the just walk-out technology that they use in some of their stores Yeah do they do that in the UK yet? I know they started at the us, but I didn’t realize it was anywhere in the UK. I knew it was going to be, but I didn’t know if it was, do you have that technology in the salon yet? Would you like it in the salon?

Elena (00:53:17):

Honestly. I would love that in Neville you come in and you just pick up and you, and he goes straight into your into your credit card. I think, I think it’s a good, it’s a good thing. But to do that, you need to hold stock and I don’t want, I’m not the kind of person likes holding stock. So yeah, so for me, it wouldn’t wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t be the kind of thing, the idea of going to one of the stores and, you know, sometimes you had to, you know, you go, you go that you, you pick up something and you leave and you feeling like, oh, okay, now they’re going to stop me because I just left it. I left, just left the shop and I haven’t paid, you know, that is still a kind of this mentality that it’s it’s a little bit, but it’s an amazing, it’s an again, it’s an amazing things.

Elena (00:54:01):

If you don’t have any time you pick up your stuff, you go there, you pick up your leave, it’s in, it’s in your car, you’re done. You don’t have to do that. The, the QR, the checkout, you don’t have to, you know, customer experience the customer is at the center of the experience. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s incredible. They try to find a way to kind of make your life easier in many ways. You know, you, you can’t, you can’t say anything about that, especially if you’re somebody that’s got 20 minutes lunch break and need to go and just pick something up and come out. Or if you’re one of the moms and you got your children crying in the car and you just want to pick up something, you know, it’s, you know, it makes things, you know, honestly makes things easier for, for the live, you know, forever today’s Life

Antony (00:54:44):

Yeah. Has, has there been any unexpected benefits, you know, for your team being involved with the Amazon salon in terms of the, I don’t know the experience that they have as hairdressers. I mean, I know you mentioned before about that they work for Amazon and they get, you know, health insurance, et cetera, but has there been any other sort of unexpected benefits or unexpected client experience or just anything that that they would say, oh my God, I weren’t anticipating this. And it’s been incredible.

Elena (00:55:17):

And the fact that the skill they’re challenged, the skills are challenged with every day with different things all the time, you know, is they, every single day is not normally when you go to, to a hairdresser, when you’re a hairdresser, you’ve come to work in 99% of the time, we tend to do the same things every day, you know, is it haircut is a, it’s a blow dry it’s a color is more or less the same things that every day there is something new, something more exciting to do. And everybody is excited for the person that does something, really, something really you know, different. So it’s it’s an exciting place to be. And I will tell you the energy of the, of the people that come to work of the team it’s it’s really strong. They, they want to be that they want you to be there from the beginning. They actually didn’t know what they were going to work, because when they accept, when they accept where they were working, they didn’t know they were working on Amazon salons. They they, they just trust me that were working on something that was new and exciting. So,

Antony (00:56:20):

Right. So it wasn’t your existing team at Neville that transferred over. It was a whole new team (one person). Okay. So what were you looking for when you employed this select band of people? What, what was it that you were looking for

Elena (00:56:36):

First? Well, first of all, was qualifications they had to have the right qualification because I do believe in qualification, I’m a mom, so I’m obsessed with having the right the right qualifications. So I wanted to see that and I wanted to make sure that the hair standard was to a certain level? And then the second thing is for me is very important is personality. I want them to have the right attitude to, to to work to new experience their ability of coping with anything that’s been thrown at them. And and, and skills comes a little bit on on, on the third point, because I do believe the skills, if you’re happy. And if you are eager to come to work, your skill will improve constantly as it is every day. Also, I do not believe that there is a good hairdresser and a bad hairdresser.

Elena (00:57:34):

I do believe that there is the right hairdresser for the right clients. You know, sometimes you can bring, yeah, I have one of the guys that work with me, which he literally does 27 clients a day, again, super, super, super, super busy, incredible guy. I’m sure that if I moved the him to shorditch he won’t be as busy, but it’s not because he’s not as good or is not. It’s just because the clientele that he has, the way he’s been set up, it’s completely different into different place or time. And I also do believe that hair goes very much by postcode. You know, there is a trend each type of, in different areas, little different pockets of our, of of our town. You know, we do have micro trends, micro things that people, how people likes doing things. So when when you have other salons, you know, entering your little area and thinking they’re going to take it over, you know, they need to, they really need to know how, how did the area is set up and how, what the clients really want. And it’s one thing, knowing it as I’ve discovered personally in with,uuin the spittlefields salon. And it’s one thing actually realizing every day and changing and moving and, you know, you need to adapt fast and your team needs to adapt fast. And if your team doesn’t adapt, unfortunately we need to swap and change the team until we find the right people that be able to understand the ecosystem where they are located. And it’s all about understanding of what is around you.

Antony (00:59:16):

Well, I think it will be amazing for everybody, for the industry at every level, whether you’re a manufacturer, whether you’re a distributor, whether you’re a client, you know, whether you’re a hairdresser, whether you’re a salon owner, it’s an interesting, I mean, it was often referred to, in that, in the media as some sort of experiment, you know, and it’ll be interesting to see how it impacts on the industry because it is going to impact on the industry in all sorts of different ways. So I’m intrigued and, you know, I just want to say, thank you ever so much for, you know, for coming on the podcast and talking so openly and honestly about it, I really appreciate your, your insights into it. And you know, cause it stops the misinformation. At least it gives people some clarity. I’d heard it from the, I shouldn’t call you the horse’s mouth. I heard it from the source, you know? And yeah. So on, on that note, do you have any final words for our audience who are predominantly salon owners as to, you know, what the Amazon salon and changing technology and just change in general what it means and how they should embrace it and how they should be receptive to it?

Elena (01:00:37):

I think first of all, every single salon should start from the clients first they should use, you will see that technology is going to be in certain salons in different, in different ways. Somebody would just have the fire tablets and someone will have the the smart shelves where you could buy with a QR code. Somebody will have the augmented reality, but I think we are all going to be moving into that into, into that direction. And one thing is, is very important. I would tell them to check the B2B because it’s a good price. And you know, it’s I think it’s also helping the industry in many, in many ways. So it’s, it’s it’s a lovely salon. If anybody wants to come and visit is very welcome. It’s it’s very much operated by people that love what they do. They have passions they are highly skills and you know, it’s it’s, it’s a place of inspiration, more of competition and how to move things, how to reinvent ourselves. And as I say, we needed to have a tech company to teach us how to, how to go forward, because whatever we had, wasn’t able to give us the information or the idea or the push that we needed.

Antony (01:01:54):

Okay. Well, next time I’m up in London, I’m going to be knocking on your door and I will look forward to to, to seeing it and pointing at those products. I’m desperate to come in and do that. So. Okay. whereabouts can people connect with you or the Amazon salon on social media? Is there a specific website or Instagram

Elena (01:02:22):

There is Amazon salon UK on Instagram. My myself is Elena lavagni on, on Instagram. And yeah, any, any emails that people want to send is through the Amazon salons we, we check them regularly as you, as you can imagine, we have one hour 24 hours answers back to our, our emails. It’s it’s an exciting, it’s an exciting place. And I wish people could that are really curious and want to have some information about it. Go contact me with no problems. I, I do feel as, as, as protective as I am for my industry, as much as I love it. Think I’m speaking for every single one that I wouldn’t do anything that would damage it. We need to take this one as a, as a step up as the way to move into a new direction, but not taking this on unclassified importance of a human contact that the hairdressers do have during this service salons are powerful.

Elena (01:03:30):

We need to bring the power back into the salon. We need to make it value. We need to value our employees. We need to value the way we’re going forward. And somehow I feel that everybody’s going a little bit. Now we have, we have businesses that rent in the chair for hours or renting chairs. This is not salons. You know, this is not how we operate. This is not how we keep the hub. And real, this is a real actually What people should be worried about, not the Amazon salons, if people, they actually do rent a chair hourly in a, in an environment like the UK, which has never happened before, you know, the us is completely different, but in the UK is like diluting the essence of salons. So, you know, that is what we should be worried about. Not, not the Amazon salon Amazon, it’s a, it’s an inspiration, something to help us move forward in the right direction.

Antony (01:04:23):

Right. Thank you for that. On on that note, we need to start wrapping up. I’ll put those links into the show notes on my website, grow my salon for today’s podcast. If you’re listening to this podcast with Elena Lavagni I hope I’ve said that correctly, that time and have enjoyed it, then please do me a favor and take a screenshot on your phone. Don’t forget to share it to your Instagram stories and and subscribe to the podcast. So you don’t miss out on any of these amazing guests that we are able to feature. So to wrap up, I dunno, thank you ever so much for giving up your time today and being such a willing participant on the grow, my salon business podcast.

Elena (01:05:09):

Thank you so much, Anthony. It’s a pleasure being here today.