DryBar: No cuts! No color! Just Blowouts!
Blowouts on steroids! Transforming the hair industry one head at a time!
DryBar is a chain of salons specializing in ‘blowouts.’ Founded in 2008 by Alli Webb, the company recently opened its 50th location and has plans to continue to quickly build out a nationwide footprint. DryBar focuses solely on blowouts which entails washing, blow drying and styling hair only – no cuts and no color! The highly customer-centric salon offers the service for a flat fee, typically $40.
DryBar is a dream come true for many women who enjoy getting their hair blown out. The company has created a ‘luxury-like’ experience for women at a relatively cheap price. DryBar continues to create value in the hair care market as it provides a convenient and standard service to all women, despite hair texture, style or length. The company’s technology platform enables customers to easily book appointments by phone, website or mobile app as well as purchase its own hair products, which are used during the service. DryBar has benefited from ‘first mover advantage’ and is well on its way to creating a strong brand for itself.
DryBar’s success is enabled due to the alignment of the company’s operating model with its business model as it has standardized the salons and processes as much as possible in order to quickly disrupt the stagnant traditional hair industry.
- Design – Webb hired Josh Heitler when her idea for a blow out salon first came about. Webb and Heitler designed a simple, chic salon layout with a yellow color theme in order to create a modern, feminine and bar-like atmosphere. Heitler remains the lead architect and is instrumental in rolling out a consistent design which has allowed the company to quickly replicate the layout in order to open new salons quickly
- Convenience – A key differentiating factor for DryBar is convenience. DryBar’s ideal salon locations are “located on the way to work or on the way from home,” with multiple locations in larger cities. The salons are typically opened seven days a week from 7AM – 10PM
- Stylists – Each stylist hired has completed beauty school and is required to complete DryBar’s own training program which is ~1 – 2 weeks. Stylists are taught DryBar’s blowout technique which is used on every client, despite hair type or length, and they are also taught how to alter the technique according to the hair texture. With only one technique used to complete every service, there is little change between clients besides the style. Further simplifying the styling process, DryBar has a ‘look book’ with 12 different popular styles that clients typically select from. The look book enables clients to easily select styles that stylists are familiar with and style on a regular basis
- Booking – Booking appointments for all locations are centralized through DryBar’s website or mobile app as well as through its call center in California. The website and mobile app allow for quick bookings and provide a way to view upcoming appointments. DryBar has a call center in California which clients can call to book appointments, request a specific stylist or make changes to their account. Walk-in appointments are also accepted. The technology-driven booking system allows for easy bookings and cancellations which enables each location to predict stylist capacity needs and ensure maximum utilization of stylists during a specific time. Additionally, the booking system allows DryBar to capture customer data and observe booking trends
- Service charges – Blowouts are $40 in majority of the locations ($45 in NYC) and clients can add on services such as conditioners or updo styles for an additional $10-$20. Regular clients have the option to opt-in to the DryBar subscription membership which is $75 per month and includes two blowouts and 10% off all products and tools. Additionally, any blowouts in addition to the first two are $35 each, and if the blowouts are unused, they can accrue over time and be used at the client’s discretion. DryBar also offers ‘Dry on the Fly’ which is an ‘uber-like’ service in which the hair stylist will travel to the client’s location to complete the service for $75
- Customer Service – DryBar’s #1 focus is customer service. From the receptionist to the stylists, DryBar’s staff places a strong emphasis on client satisfaction and creating a luxury experience. Clients are offered complimentary beverages ranging from coffee to champagne, there are large TV screens hung throughout the salon consistently showing chick flick movies and there are customer surveys after each visit
- Products – DryBar uses it own hair product line and tools during each service. The products are also sold in more than 70 Sephora stores and in Nordstrom. Stylists are encouraged to sell the products to clients and new product are often created based on client feedback. DryBar’s hair product line enables the company to capture high margin to supplement its low fee, service oriented business
Quick success does not come without a few difficulties. While DryBar is benefiting from first mover advantage as they have quickly grown their locations, there are low barriers to entry with costs ranging from ~$500,000 – $1,000,000 to open a store. As a result, many competitors are popping up to compete in this developing space.
Additionally, there remain a few areas for improvement in order to ensure long-term sustainability of this business and operating model:
- Speed – the operating model is highly dependent on completing the hair service in 30 – 45 minutes in order to increase client throughput; there are some hair textures and lengths that take longer which ultimately could disrupt the operating model [if average client service time increases]. In addition to the expected service time, appointments are tightly booked and any changes to the schedule (late clients) can throw off future scheduled appointments
- Stylist request – despite an easy booking process, if the client wants to book for a specific stylist, they must call the call center; it cannot be requested and confirmed via the website or the mobile app
- Stylist capabilities – while all stylist are trained to do all types (textures, ethnic, length, etc.) of hair, there continues to be a significant amount of stylists at each salon who are only comfortable doing Caucasian or naturally straight hair
- Stylist pay – stylists are paid ~$8/hour, on average, plus tips and 10% commission on product sales. Because the pay remains low, there is often high turnover
Overall, standardization at DryBar has proven to be a success for the company as well as its clients. Clients are satisfied when they leave the salon with a bouncy blow out while minimizing the time at the salon and paying a low price. This simple business and operating model has allowed the company to quickly expand and should allow the company to capture value for the foreseeable future.
Student comments on DryBar: No cuts! No color! Just Blowouts!
I am wondering if the same concept would work with Nail Salons? What are learnings from Drybar that can be applied to the nail industry?
Very cool post… I am also wondering about how to generalize the idea. Taking something traditional and complex, abstracting one piece of it that is easier to scale and focusing on that piece exclusively for maximum scalability. Where else can one do this?
I have never tried out this service, but now I am somewhat tempted to- mostly out of curiosity. The main thing I would personally be uncomfortable with is the feeling of getting rushed. Their operating model is almost like a factory approach to blow outs. And when I go to a salon, I would want to feel “pampered” and relaxed. Overall, I think you did a great job outlining the business and operating models and pointing out some of their drawbacks. Awesome read!
Great post!! Very interesting business model and a great case study!! I’m curious about the relative size of price for “cuts & color” vs “washing & styling” as the latter usually have a higher demand but a lower ticket size. Is the market big enough for sustainable growth outside of metropolitan cities? I’m also very interested in how their own hair product line fits into the core business when it generates higher margin vs their core service. Would it just become the core business in the future? And would the stylists selling the products have negative impact on the perception of service?
Very interesting, loved reading about it. I think it is a very good idea because i am sure that in regular salons the proportion of people only doing blow outs is very large, so this is a great specialized idea. I think the idea of “Dry on the fly” is great as it really increases convenience for the customer.