Winner profile: Lido's Boutique Spa

Lido’s Boutique Spa won the Professional Beauty Award for Beauty Salon of the Year: Four Rooms or More in February. Owner Janine Corciulo tells Eve Oxberry how she changed her business model to stay ahead.

Where I started...
I used to work in Jersey looking after a group of hotels, so I’ve always been interested in tourism and service. When I moved to the UK I started visiting day spas but couldn’t find anywhere I felt was the same standard as those I was used to, so I thought, ‘I could do this better’. I wasn’t trained in beauty so I went on a Cidesco course and was the oldest one there. As soon as I qualified I rented a room above a fitness centre, specialising in holistic treatments. After 12 months I got pregnant. I carried on working throughout – in fact, I massaged four men on the day I was due to give birth. I’d never let the girls do that now!

How I launched my salon...
After I gave birth I decided working on my own wasn’t feasible, I needed support, so I looked for new premises and I found a site. It was derelict so we renovated completely and opened in February 1997. I employed another therapist and we specialised in spa treatments. We were the first in the North West to have hydrotherapy tanks and La Stone therapy. We took on Espa, which had only been going for about four years – we actually trained in [founder] Susan Harmsworth’s house. We also had Darphin for face.

How I developed the offer...
After three years we were fully booked but had nowhere to move to. Luckily, the lady next door decided to sell her interior design shop, so we knocked through and are now double the size. We’ve evolved with the times and now most of what we do is advanced treatments. We’ve lost the hydrobaths and the seaweed wraps and do mesotherapy, collagen induction therapy, laser and IPL. We still have a very strong massage client base and natural nails but the rest is more technology-based. Traditional massage constantly grows because clients don’t view that as pampering. We now use Skinceuticals, which has clinical trials to back up all its treatments, and at the other end of the spectrum we use Bamford, which is Soil Association-certified organic and is not used anywhere else outside London or the Cotswolds.

The way we weathered recession...
Around five years ago people were starting to cut back and it was pretty grim. I took a big risk and bought a laser because I found attitudes were changing; people didn’t want to spend on something they couldn’t see results with. Even though laser hair removal is expensive, you can see a definite lifestyle benefit from it. So, rather than do something they could do themselves at home, like paint their nails or give themselves a mini facial, they’ll invest in hair removal. My accountant was very concerned and said ‘if this doesn’t work it’s going to make things very difficult for you’, but it worked straight away. In fact, I think it’s the laser treatments that got us out of any kind of trouble financially. It did the reverse.

It boosted trade by opening up a whole new client base. People were asking ‘can you use laser to remove age spots or broken capillaries?’ so I invested in an nd:Yag laser and an alexandrite so we could do both. IPL is really popular for rosacea and from there we went into mesotherapy, radiofrequency, and treatments like Caci, which is fantastic because they keep improving the technology. The latest machine we took on was Geneo+ in October.

What I did to beat the competition...
The number of salons around us has increased dramatically since we opened. Everybody started competing by dropping prices and running offers but we did the opposite. We put prices up but we made sure clients had value. We did deals with our suppliers and said, ‘with the amount of money we’re spending with you, could you give us a client gift?’. Clients would book in for a facial and leave with a free cleanser, for example, and that gave great value because it’s also a surprise. They’d also get touches like a steaming hot towel on arrival and complimentary fruit in the relaxation lounge. We were nervous about increasing prices but we’re fortunate that the Altrincham area is very high-spend on image – we have four hairdressers on our street alone.

Two years ago, when a salon opened just down the road, we launched an app with a built-in loyalty scheme. It allowed us to communicate quickly with clients at no cost to the business. We add points to their phone then they get that back in money, so they’ve enjoyed staying with us.

How winning a Professional Beauty Award benefitted business...
I didn’t expect to see as big a rise in business as we did following the win. We were up about 7% year on year in March and for April we’re way ahead – about 10% up. Usually we’re quieter in April because it’s school holidays, so we’ve definitely bucked the trend and we put that down to the awards. We also noticed clients who hadn’t been in for a while have suddenly started booking back in for all the latest treatments. In the last six weeks we’ve had a steady trail of CVs from prospective therapists, which has been wonderful because we’ve not advertised. A lot of the covering letters said they’d seen we’d won the award and wondered if we had availability for full-time staff. The owners of other shops on our street have popped in to say well done; it’s good for the area. And it’s been great for the girls; their clients have congratulated them. We held a cocktail party for clients then took the team out for dinner afterwards. Local press have taken an interest too. The Altrincham Messenger and Cheshire Life are both going to run features on us.

What the future holds... 
We’re adding a third manicure station, because even though we’re not nail focused it’s steady business and we’re often full. We introduce new treatments every year and at the moment I’m looking at a new company that has a completely different way of delivering peels. It neutralises on the skin, so you don’t get downtime. We have nine therapists at the moment but want to build that to 12 by Christmas. I need to keep investing in training too because I find the better trained the girls are, the more they retain their clients.

Corciulo's tips for entering awards...

1. Involve your team; it’s really important for them to feel that you’re a growing business and trying to offer the best you can in your category.
2. Set aside a day to do it. Most of the information you need, you’ll already have stored in your records.
3. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t win. Last year we didn’t win but the number of clients congratulating us on reaching the finals was amazing and the team were all really boosted by it.
4. Use the process as a way to assess progress. The forms ask what you’ve done specifically over the past year, so even if you realise you’ve not made any changes it gives you a kick to get thinking about what needs to be done.