Big-name boutiques and home salons can co-exist, say experts

Spa Esprit Group founder Cynthia Chua, who owns beauty brands such as men's grooming salon We Need A Hero (above), says business has not been impacted.
Spa Esprit Group founder Cynthia Chua, who owns beauty brands such as men's grooming salon We Need A Hero, says business has not been impacted.PHOTO: WE NEED A HERO

While home-based businesses have proliferated here, commercial boutiques still dominate the beauty service industry in Singapore.

In fact, both types of businesses can co-exist harmoniously without one cannibalising the other, say experts.

Singapore Management University associate professor of marketing Seshan Ramaswami says the two types of operators are vastly different.

"Large chain salons have a professional marketing operation and will continue to draw the mass market, while home-based operators may be restricted to those in their immediate neighbourhood and relationship circles," he adds.

Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim agrees.

"The crowds drawn to big-name and trendy boutiques will be those who want a fuller set of services. They want the best equipment, the best ambience and the prestigious image," she says, adding that commercial outfits still attract the masses.

Those looking for a more laidback, convenient and personalised atmosphere, she says, are more likely to choose a home-based service.

She adds: "A personal relationship is built between the customer and the beautician after a while. I think there is a niche clientele that appreciates this friendly and relationship-based service."

Home-based beauty services, with lower overheads, also give people a more affordable option at price points that commercial chains cannot offer. A classic gel manicure can cost between $25 and $35 at a home-based salon. The same service costs about $55 to $85 (without a package deal) at a commercial boutique.

Such home-based businesses also act as a test bed for entrepreneurs, who are then better placed if, and when they decide to open a commercial outfit.

Big names in the industry here are unfazed.

Ms Cynthia Chua, founder and chief executive of home-grown beauty brand Spa Esprit Group - which includes waxing boutique Strip, eyebrow salon Browhaus and We Need A Hero, a men's grooming salon - says business has not been impacted by home-based service providers.

"Our numbers are growing steadily and we have not seen any noticeable change in direct competition or gotten any feedback that our customers have moved to home-based beauty services," she adds.

Browhaus, for instance, has seen customer numbers growing for the last four years at an average rate of 6.75 per cent a year.

She is confident that people will continue to visit commercial salons as they are deemed to be more reputable.

"Customers think that the quality and service of their treatment will be of a high level and that these are reputable operators," she says. "Commercial salons also employ skilled therapists and the equipment used is also generally of professional standards."

From 2013 to 2015, the Housing Board received an average of three cases of feedback a month regarding home-based business activities and had issued one written warning. The Urban Redevelopment Authority did not receive any feedback on home-based businesses in the same period.

Mr Loy York Jiun, executive director of the Consumers Association Of Singapore, says it did not receive any complaints from consumers about disputes with home salons in the past three years.

However, he advises that before visiting a home-based boutique, consumers do their research by looking for reviews and ratings by other consumers.

"These may provide a good overview of the reliability of the salon in terms of its business practices, product quality and service standards," he says.

Melissa Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline 'Big-name boutiques and home salons can co-exist, say experts'. Print Edition | Subscribe