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Interview with Scott Guinter: General Manager, Kao USA Salon Division

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 17:42

In an exclusive interview with Estetica, Scott Guinter talks about the unique challenges involved in rolling out the Kao Salon Industry Recovery Initiative in the USA and their commitment to getting salons back on their feet and growing their businesses safely.

Please tell us a bit about this lifeline program.
"The Kao Salon Industry Recovery Initiative represents an umbrella for all the programs Kao has assembled to help salons reopen and recover. In addition, it is supported by the brand-agnostic #WorthTheWait social media advertising campaign which is designed to drive the consumer back to the salon. We are committed to helping salons recover in a safe manner while expediting their revenue generation. Our mission has always been to help salons create growth and today, it’s more important than ever that our teams are engaged in this effort."

What are the special challenges you’re facing in the United States?
"Salons across the country are going to be opening over an extended period of time, so there will not be a “one-size-fits-all solution”. We will need to work with salons by geographic area to help them develop a plan for when they are ready to reopen."

How is your financial support being distributed?
"We’ve put together a support package for the industry in North America that’s valued at roughly 5.6 million dollars. This package includes financial donations to both charity and trade organizations –including the PBA, One Fair Wage, Feed The Children and Beauty Changes Lives– to help salons, stylists and the communities where we live and work.
We will also be offering enhanced benefits and packages to our Loyalty Program Customers through the Oribe Rewards Program and Kao Salon Alliance. In those programs, a salon earns points for their purchases. In light of widespread closures, we have adjusted our program to be more flexible in point usage, product and programs available, as well as maintaining member status."

And for the Oribe online sales plan?
"For the Oribe Commission Program, each salon that opted-in was assigned a code. When the consumer goes through the salon website and links to ours to make a purchase, we ship the products through the Oribe.com website. We then send a 50% commission back to the salon during this unprecedented period of time. Since its launch in March, it’s been such a successful program that it has now been extended to June 1st. This was inspired by a program that has been in effect for over a year for our other brands, where our Salon Alliance Members get a percentage back on any retail items purchased by consumers on Amazon."

And what’s happening in terms of social and digital programs?
"We’ve increased our virtual education footprint by over 65%, we intend to add more choices of digital education and give stylists full access to it. As we know, not all the States will be back in operation at the same time, so we are anticipating a need for virtual education access for the full duration of the health crisis. 
To help salons communicate their safety and reopening procedures we’ve added a package of social media assets for salons to use on their pages to communicate how they will be conducting business and how clients can book appointments. We anticipate strong consumer demand for bookings once the States allow salons to reopen so these assets can be put right to work.
We’re also rolling out #SalonObsessed, a program designed to support salons and provide added visibility in local communities by enabling clients to help their salons by buying gift cards."

Where are product donations going?
"Product donations cover a selection of personal care products which will be given to charity organizations and medical facilities in some of the major metros where we live and work: NYC, Baltimore, Dallas, LA, Seattle, SF, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver."

Are all salons in every state closed?
"This catastrophe is more complicated than a natural disaster, like a flood, fire, or earthquake which would have affected a specific geography, and had a definitive end that would allow you to start the rebuilding process. Some salons did remain open, although very, very few – probably less than 10%. The reopening process is in the hands of the individual states. We anticipate that each state may recommend slightly different salon operating recommendations for safety. The programs we are putting in place will have to be adapted in real time to comply with each State’s guidance."

What resources will be deployed? Sales teams? Educators?
"I am really proud of what we’ve done with our staff. Our field sales and education teams, who support both our direct sales organization and our distributor partners, have remained fully employed with us during this crisis. We’ve used this opportunity to put the teams into intensive training and preparation for the focused mission of increasing salon revenue when we can safely work in the field again.
For our technical teams, it’s about: How will they engage? We came up with a concept called the ‘Helping Hands’ program. When it is safe for our Education team to be deployed, they will be an in-person resource to help salons with an extra set of hands to manage client demand for services. As long as the salon has the facilities and wants us, we’re going to stand side-by-side with our salons to help them and their clients recover.
Our sales teams are working on solutions and initiatives to help salons create a safe and comfortable environment for clients once they are back in the salon. The #WorthtTheWait program is part of that. The brilliance of this campaign is tapping into the passion and support people have for their hairstylists as expressed in the tagline: “Please wait for us.”

What about the surge in demand and limited salon time and space?
"That’s going to be one of the biggest challenges. The pent up demand could be tremendous and salons will be working at capacity. As part of our Networking Experience series, we’ve partnered with Allyson King of Beauty 360 to provide suggestions on how to handle this demand, including ways to extend evening and weekend hours, incentivize off-peak appointment times and skipping routine holiday closures for the foreseeable future. Another aspect of this challenge is the client experience. The social and “buzzing” atmosphere of the salon may be lost for a while but in its place can be a focused, quiet time to concentrate on the client for a truly customized experience."

Are you getting any feedback from salon owners?
"Last week we started having three calls per day with ten salon owners to get their feedback and to learn what they’re seeing in their marketplace. All of our decisions are made with the salon in mind, so we are in constant contact with many of our customers. 
One important question they brought up is, “If there are additional sanitation requirements, how can they fit those costs inside their business model?” Should they increase their prices? Perhaps the increased cost of sanitation can be added to the ticket like we have seen with environmental charges. That way, the clients will see and understand an itemized charge for the additional safety measures. The salons want to protect both the salon employees and client population but there are real costs to do so. With so much happening, it’s great that we’ve been able to stay in direct contact with so many salon owners."

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