They are style conscious but cash and time poor. They don’t need a haircut but want the look of having just stepped out of a salon. They are the customers of blow-dry bars.
Dedicated blow-drying salons have sprouted up in London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester offering customers all the pampering of the hairdressers but without any hair being cut, and therefore a reduced price.
A blow-dry bar is just about styling — washing, drying and sprucing, all within half an hour.
According to the market research company Mintel, they are one of the top-growing trends in the UK beauty industry, with more than 50 per cent of women having visited a salon specifically for a blow dry in the past 12 months.
On the King’s Road in Chelsea, Duck and Dry opened a year and a half ago. While it was a risk setting up a hairdressing salon that did not actually cut hair, Yulia Rorstrom, its founder, was so confident that there was a gap in the market that she quit her job as a management consultant.
“Hair salons seemed to focus on the cutting and colour, not the styling, that was an afterthought rather than the main event and I wanted to change that,” Mrs Rorstrom, 31, said.
She now has 400 clients each week, with some travelling from Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire.“We specialise in one thing and doing it really well drives demand and the business,” she said. Having started with eight employees, she now employs 20 stylists to cater for the steady flow of customers from 7.30am to 7.30pm.
“It will be like the evolution of nail bars,” Mrs Rorstrom added. “Ten years ago everyone wasn’t having a manicure but now it is a major part of most women’s beauty regime. It will be the same with blow drying.”
Her prediction may not be far off. With a haircut and blow dry often costing about £60, a simple blow dry and pamper for less than half that price can be an attractive prospect.
According to Treatwell, the online booking platform for hair and beauty, the number of blow-dry appointments trebled between 2015 and 2016.
“Salons are finally catering to the demand for blow dries,” Liz Hambleton, editorial director of Treatwell, said.
“Where once we only had blow dries after a trim, it is now perfectly normal to book in for a weekly blow dry minus the cut.”
At Blowdryexpress, which opened last year in Liverpool Street, east London, its owner Sarah-Jane Lilwall, 28, said that the concept had proved so popular that she will launch a second salon around the corner in Aldgate next month. “It is a fast affordable treat,” she said.
Julie Goodwin, owner of UptownFunk, a blow-dry and make-up bar in Southport, Merseyside, said that she came across the idea while searching the internet and saw how popular blow-dry bars were in New York. “I thought we had nothing like this up north,” she said. “We open at 9am and close at 7pm and my stylists are fully booked all day back to back.”
In Manchester, Kara’s Blow Dry Bar markets itself as the “ultimate pampering experience that costs less than going to your regular hairdresser”.
In many ways the trend has been slow to catch on. The original blow-dry bar was launched in 2006 by father and son Daniel and Luke Hersheson, who founded a salon in Topshop in Oxford Street under the tagline “no cuts, just styling”. “It was a time when no salons had the skill set to create stylish blow drys and up dos and knots and braids,” Mr Hersheson, 37, said.
“It was a massive part of the market that no one knew how to develop.”
Hershesons now has five blow-dry bars between Birmingham and London. “We give between 2,500 to 3,000 blow dries a week,” Mr Hersheson added.
Style with no sign of scissors
In the 30 minutes it takes to have my hair styled in Chelsea’s Duck and Dry, about 10 clients walk through the door to treat themselves to a wash and blow dry (Danielle Sheridan writes).
One woman is sipping a latte and has long luscious locks that require a little sprucing, while Alex, a fashion blogger in her 20s, has come down from Milton Keynes especially to experience a blow dry on the King’s Road. Even a bloke pops in to have his hair dried.
“We get walk-ins, regular customers who have a blow dry every week and a handful of men,” Karolina Siudzinska, a stylist at the bar, said. “There is an obvious appeal to coming in and getting your hair washed and styled by a professional.
“Getting your hair cut every week or for every special occasion is not realistic but being able to pop in and have it blow dried so that it looks amazing when you need it, is.”
After half an hour of washing, drying, sprucing and poofing, my hair is bouncing in a way I can’t do myself and there isn’t a scissor in sight. At half the price of a haircut, I can see the appeal.