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Blow-dries to hot shaves: The costly allure of convenience grooming

·Marlene Skaff
Blow-dries to hot shaves: The costly allure of convenience grooming

No time to tame a bad hair day, so you blow into the nearest trendy blow-dry bar.
Languishing at the airport between flights, you escape to a mini-manicure kiosk.
Been awhile since your face was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, so a soothing hot-shave spa beckons.

Time-strapped, stress respite-seeking consumers are dropping money at quick-fix pampering establishments that have gained favour since the 2007-2009 recession, touted as an affordable alternative to the costlier full-service spas and salons.

But are they really?

“With everybody on-the-go and looking down [at their cellphones] and working their thumbs while walking, people no longer have time like we did in the ‘good old days.’ This frenetic lifestyle does not suit people driving home to groom their beards and nails,” Tony Buliga, co-operator of T&L Tax and Finance Inc. , a financial consulting and tax return business in Windsor, Ont., gives as a big reason consumers turn to quick primping and priming services.

Buliga and others who help Canadians balance their spending warn that “as with everything we purchase or consume, it all adds up” and can dent your budget, he says.

Despite fluctuations in the economy, the North American beauty industry was valued at over $800 million in 2010, says Statistics Canada.

In the U.S. between 2008 and 2013, industry revenue on average has dropped slightly to about $1.6 billion, according to IBISWorld market research, noting, “consumers tightened their budgets and cut out unnecessary beauty purchases,” turning more to “value-priced” grooming alternatives.

Men’s beauty services, in particular, have picked up steam, according to market researcher Euromonitor, with workplace competition, and Baby Boomers’ spending power and their refusal to age behind the trend.

Enter growing groom-and-run businesses like:

  • B.C.-based Blo Blow Dry Bar, “the wash blow go” hairstyling business that has grown to 31 locations across North America and Asia. A basic wash and blow dry is about C$40.

  • Truefitt & Hill, established in the mid-1990s for “gentlemen’s needs” and now with locations in Toronto, Chicago, Las Vegas and London, England. Prices in Toronto’s Scotia Plaza in the financial district, for example, include $8 for a shoe shine, $22 for a hand and forearm massage, and $48 for a hot lather shave.

  • The :10 Minute Manicure, a Florida-based “nails done on the run” franchise at Toronto’s Pearson and other airports around the world. Cost of a nail soak, buff and polish is $15 to $20.

A last-minute hair wash-and-dry here, and a drop-in manicure there every month, and based on the previous prices, you can add $55 to $60 to your spending – over a year, that amounts to $660 to $720, money that could be spent on paying off a credit card, your annual condo insurance or even a holiday.

But as Toronto flight attendant Enessa Janine experienced, “cheap” drop-in beauty fixes can add up.

Never one to book regular manicures, Janine, 25, only budgets about $30 a month for all her grooming services, so she prefers to use that money toward a haircut every couple of months. But after :10 Minute Manicure opened at Pearson airport, she started a drop-in nail care habit.

She soon found that one manicure a month was eating into her budget.

“Even $20 more than what I was used to spending wasn’t in my monthly budget. I would be spending an extra $240 a year I didn’t plan to spend. So I just started doing my own manicures at home – I may get a manicure if it’s really a special occasion instead.”

Buliga warns against impulsive “discretionary” spending – as grooming-on-the-go is considered.

“If there is room in the budget [for last-minute grooming services] or you build it into your budget, then fine; but if there isn't room or you don’t build it in, you will have to either forego something else discretionary or put off grooming luxuries until you can afford it.”

Here are three other ways to cut luxury grooming costs:

Go for promos: Search for web deals by typing in the name of the esthetic or cosmetic business and the words "promotional codes" and "discount codes" that can be applied to online bookings. Also search for deals on Groupon and other coupon sites, but don't let any services you buy go to waste.

Try early-week specials: Business at hair, nail-care and other salons tends to be slower Mondays through Wednesdays, so you'll sometimes find special prices and deals on those days.

Test the rookie: Experience usually costs, so if available, try the less pricier work of a junior stylist or esthetician who may be keen to make a good impression. Often the owner or manager will oversee less experienced staff.