Why attending beauty trade shows can benefit your business
If you want to be confident that you’re ahead of the trends and stocking the right brands, you need to be at the major trade shows, says Hellen Ward.
I don't know how many of you managed to get to Professional Beauty’s London expo at ExCel in February but it felt like the whole industry was there. We employ a third of a million therapists, nail techs, hairdressers and barbers, and Professional Beauty and new hair show Salon London really did have something for each and every one of them.
Trade shows are a vital part of my calendar. I must admit I used to avoid them because the hairdressing ones can get a bit riotous. The MCs on the live stages and stands almost give themselves (and everybody else) laryngitis trying to get heard above the din. This leads to you shouting to your colleagues to be heard, which then duly raises the volume of the people trying to get your attention through their loudspeakers and get themselves heard over the banging, thumping music, so the whole volume escalates. Still, the atmosphere is usually great. We’re never dull in our trade are we?
Beauty shows are normally a much more refined affair. Still busy and buzzy, they are a little more chilled on the noise levels. The stands are always completely fabulous, the halls packed to the rafters and every brand who’s any brand is there showing you what you’re missing if you’re not buying their products or services – but all in a civilised way.
So I was wondering just what this year’s Professional Beauty would be like seeing as, for the first time, it included a separate Salon London section for the hairdressers. It has long made sense to couple these two sides of our industry as there are a huge number of salon owners who are not on one side of the fence or the other but have a foot in both camps; me included.
For those of you who didn’t get there, I can assure you it was great. Having both shows side by side was just the ticket. I was there at the live stage hosted by the Fellowship for British Hairdressing (of which I am chairman) so was checking out the behind-the-scenes goings on, as well as being out front to drum up membership and watch my teams show their talents on the HJ stage. The audiences were full and I think it was a great start to the hair arm of the show, which will clearly go from strength to strength.
For me, the show is not just a lovely day out, it’s a fantastic snooping exercise. After all, if you’re loyal to a brand there’s often not a lot of opportunity to check out the competition. But more than that, it’s a vital chance to see what’s new. Treatments, services, products, gowns, uniforms, equipment – I want to see it all. I make a lot of my purchasing decisions for the year at trade shows so knowing I can go to one place and see it all under one roof is a great use of precious time. Also, it’s a great networking opportunity. Catching up with friends from the industry is what makes going to a show a social event, not just a vital date for my business diary.
I checked out some of my favourite skincare and nail brands and sampled a new polish idea that I liked. I spoke at Decléor’s conference on the Sunborn Yacht hotel and met the amazing brand founder. I looked at some new ranges that I might take on for the salon and was amazingly proud of my team’s representation of our brand on stage – all in just a couple of days.
Going to any show is time well spent. Shopping around gives you confidence in the brands you already work with and, weirdly, keeps you loyal to them. It’s great to see what’s out there because that cements your relationship with your brand if you’re happy and encourages you to swap if you’re not. I certainly wouldn’t invest in new stock or equipment unless I’d had the chance to sample what’s on offer and there’s nowhere else you can tick all those boxes but at a good show that has lots of exhibitors. Just remember to pack your flats (heels are a no-no for something like this) and maybe your ear plugs.
Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London's Sloane Square and also chairman of the Fellowship for British Hairdressing.