Mature market

Older clients have the time and money to spend on regular treatments. Lucy Douglas speaks to the beauty manager of Cambridge salon Elajé about how best to treat this lucrative market.

Michelle Richardson, beauty manager at Elajé Ask most salon owners where their business comes from, and they’ll probably tell you the regular clients who come week in, week out, are their bread and butter. And who these cliends tend to be? The ones with money to spend, and time to indulge, which by and large means women of an age where work and children are no longer tough restraints on their time, and income is comfortable enough that they can invest in themselves a little more than they used to.

“It was quite early on that we started noticing more mature ladies coming into the salon,” explains Michelle Richardson, beauty manager at Elajé Hair & Beauty salon in Cambridge, which does a roaring trade in treatments for clients over 50. It came about almost by accident, Richardson says. “We used to offer Gatineau facials and we had quite a large number of older ladies coming in for those, because they were for a drier skin,” she explains.

Face facts

Now, Elajé offers facial treatments from Dermalogica and Caci, and the machine-based lifting facials have been a hit with Richardson’s more mature clients. “I do three or four Caci treatments a day, and our other therapist probably does two or three. That’s a lot of non-surgical lifting going on,” she says. However, it’s not just anti-ageing facials that draw in this market. “The majority of our pedicure clients are older ladies,” Richardson adds.

In fact, she says that it’s usually the finishing-touch treatments that get the clients in through the door, and it’s only after they’ve been once or twice that they start to take advantage of the advanced facials.

“We get a lot of clients from this age group by word-of-mouth,” explains Richardson, “but its interesting, because clients wont tell their friends that they’re having Caci treatments. Once the friend is in the salon having a different treatment, she sees we do Caci and enquires about it. Then she starts having it and it just goes on – but the clients don’t want to reveal their secret.”

Elajé waiting area

Creatures of habit

It’s not just about getting the treatment offer right; creating an environment that appeals to older clients is important if you want their business. “We change the music to suit whoever is in the salon, which is really important,” Richardson says. Likewise, she says, being able to accommodate clients who are less mobile than they once were makes a difference. “They don’t always allow you to do more for them, but they love it when you do. Those little touches go a long way,” she says.

According to Richardson, the most noticeable difference in clients of this age group is their tendency to be resistant to change. “They very much like to see the same person, and if you’re not around, they want to know who’s going to look after them and whether they’re as good as you,” she says. “I’ve just been on holiday, and some of my clients wouldn’t see anyone else until I was back. Once I tell them about the other therapist that will treat them when I’m away, and how much experience she has, it’s OK. I’ll introduce them to her before I leave, so they know exactly who she is.”

Being so habitual about their treatments isn’t always a bad thing for business though. “They bulk buy everything,” Richardson explains. “I’ve got a number of ladies who don’t buy treatments when they come in. They put a certain amount of money down for a certain number of treatments, and they get a few free. They’d much rather do that so that after their treatment they can leave, and just be done.” PB