The single biggest challenge of expanding a business into a new country is understanding the market. Every market is different and so it is important to do a considerable amount of research to ensure that your product or service is a fit. With respect to my expansion from the United Kingdom into Los Angeles I did a considerable amount of research on the market, competitors and clients. I felt that I understood the market and that our service would be a success hence the opening of our West Hollywood salon in early November. Two months in I have found that while our service has been very well received I missed some very interesting nuances of the Los Angeles hair extension market.
One of the first things I was surprised to hear of from our new clients is the price points that some of the high end West Hollywood and Beverly Hills salons charging. Stories of $1500 for two lines of Great Lengths, $3000 for a full head of taped-in extensions or $5000 for a full head of poor quality hair. As someone who buys hundreds of kilograms of Russian hair direct from Russia each year and who personally does hundreds of clients a year I can say for certain that no client, no matter how experienced or well known the technician is or how good the hair is should be charged these prices.
Russian Hair is Scarce in Los Angeles
This is something that I was very well aware of and was in fact a key factor in my decision to open a salon. You can read in the next blog article titled "Is Your Russian Hair Really Russian?" why Russian hair is scarce and difficult to source. Given that we source our hair direct from the local communities in Russia I felt I would have a good competitive advantage over my LA competitors by being able to provide real, ethically source Russian hair. What surprised me is the amount of processed Chinese and Indian hair that is being passed-off as Russian. One of our first clients came to us the day after she paid $3500 for a set of extensions at a very well-known West Hollywood salon. The hair, in her words was “crap” and she had the salon remove the extensions next day before coming to us for another new set.
Every Stylist and Colorist is a Hair Extension “Expert”
This perhaps surprised me the most. While I had identified prominent salons and individuals that did extension I was surprised to discover how many stylists and colorist there are in LA that also double as extension experts. They complete the extension portion of their cosmetology license and then self-proclaim themselves to be an expert. While there is no doubt that some of them are proficient what I am seeing is that many are not but when they get a client looking for extensions, rather than refer them elsewhere they offer their own hair extensions services as to do otherwise would be a significant amount of money out of their pocket.
So my suggestion to people that are new to hair extensions in LA is to do your research. The market here is very confusing. I came to LA with the goal of disrupting the hair extensions market in LA by offering my clients the finest quality Russian hair, transparent and fair prices and a wealth of extension experience. While I still have a lot of learn in Los Angeles I feel based on what I have seen that I may be off to a good start.