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Runway ready hair: Bradley Smith talks salon life at an airport

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The idea of beauty-on-the-go and grooming services at airports is on the rise. Why shouldn’t you be able to get your nails done or have your tresses blow dried before or after travelling? Cue celebrity hairdresser Bradley Smith. He has been styling and grooming weary travellers for nearly six months now at his Heathrow Terminal 5 Express Salon. The first Arrivals blow-dry bar at a UK airport (hurray!) includes two barber chairs and a nail bar area so you can kill two birds with one stone.

Smith secured his spot at the busy UK hub airport after one of his clients recommended him to Heathrow’s commercial department. Now, for two and a half years at least (when the contract runs out), travellers can leave the airport with hair as fresh as when they left home.

Besides the T5 salon, Smith has salons in Strawberry Hill and Twickenham in the UK and one at Sofitel Heathrow.

Smith took some time out of his grooming schedule to chat to PretAirporter about business in the travel environment.

Since opening the salon at Heathrow, what has the reception been like from customers and the airport itself?

Since the launch of our Bradley Smith Hair Express Bar, we’ve received various positive reactions from customers and staff at London Heathrow. Many commuters pop in and mention they never realised the salon was at the terminal. It’s a unique experience and many customers have said they love the concept of a hairdresser or beauty bar at an airport.

Throughout the process, we’ve had the backing and support from Heathrow.

What made you decide to open a salon in a travel environment?

We identified a gap in the market; while many international airports were offering beauty and hair services, we found that not many British airports were doing the same. Across London and New York City there has been an instant boom in the on-demand service.

Duck and Dry, Daniel Hersheson at Topshop and Harvey Nichols have all popped up in London, so we thought “why not offer the same service in an airport?” For us, London Heathrow is the perfect opportunity to expand our brand and be exposed to one of the busiest footfalls in the world.

What are the key beauty and hair trends at airports that you are noticing?

We are noticing that men are opting for cuts that are short and sharp around the sides, while women choose to have curly and bouncy blow dries.

The express nail bar is hot at the moment and a lot of cabin crew are getting their nails done before their next flight.

Besides blow dries, what other services are offered at the salon and will you be adding more services in future?

For hair, we offer men’s cutting and styling, wet shaves, blow dries and ‘up dos’ for ladies. On the beauty side, we offer facial waxing, eyebrow threading, gel nails, nail painting and French manicures.

We’re not currently looking to expand the services offered at our Heathrow Terminal 5 salon.

How does the day-to-day running of the Heathrow salon differ to your other salons? What challenges are there in terms of time constraints, space etc?   

Our Bradley Smith Hair Salon at Terminal 5 is an express beauty and grooming bar so we’re limited to the services we offer; the salon is designed for quick styling and do ups. Whereas our Strawberry Hill, Twickenham and Heathrow Sofitel branches are for the traditional services you expect at a hair salon. At these salons the majority of clients pre-book, whereas many of our customers at T5 are walk-ins. That simply falls down to the fact that many people aren’t aware that hair and beauty salons exist at airports, not only at Heathrow but across the UK. It’s a new trend which is expanding.

Over the next five years, I think it will be common practice for an airport to have a grooming or beauty service in some capacity. According to market research firm Mintel, 50% of women have visited a salon for a blow-dry in the last year. Beauty and hair bookings website Treatwell also noted that demand for blow dries has trebled between 2015 and 2016.

Tell us about your customer demographic at the T5 salon. Do you have many repeat customers?

Our customer demographic varies from day-to-day, and because of the nature of having a hair and beauty bar at an airport, there is no peak time. Since launching our Terminal 5 salon we’ve seen a boarder range in our clientele compared to our Strawberry Hill salon, which is predominantly community focused. We’ve established relationships with cabin crew at British Airways, who make up a large proportion of our repeat customers.

We have found that many business travellers have used the service while waiting for a connecting flight or attending an event in London or the surrounding area. We’re lucky to work with celebrity clients on a regular basis at our Heathrow Sofitel salon, including Craig David, Lady Forsyth and Tony Adams just to name a few.

Do you have plans to extend your airport presence beyond Heathrow in future?

Of course, natural progression is vital for any business. We’re always looking for new opportunities to expand our brand, whether it’s launching a new hair product or salon. Our Heathrow Terminal 5 Express Bar has been an instant success and is evidence that on-demand services work in a travel environment. Realistically, we are looking to expand our presence not only in Heathrow but across other UK airports in the next three to five years.

 

Helen Pawson
written by: Helen Pawson
Helen is Brands Editor at The Moodie Davitt Report. When she isn’t on a plane to attend the latest travel-related launches, she can be found (nervously) watching Leicester City FC or in search of the sun.