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Blo Blow Dry Bar Heats Up With Franchises

The salon chain is on pace to reach 500 locations within the next three to five years.

Blo Blow Dry Bar is on the go.

The franchise salon chain will swell to 100 locations over the next few months, on a course to reach 500 locations within three to five years. One of the original blowout-service specialists, Blo’s expansion is accelerating despite feverish competition from Drybar and traditional hair salons introducing inexpensive blowout options.

“We have been in business for nine years, and this is not a trend. Women have adopted the habit of getting blowouts, but we have just scratched the surface of penetration. We’re at the start of the runway, and this concept continues to grow,” said Vanessa Yakobson, chief executive officer at Blo. “There are millions of women who haven’t tried this service, and once they do, they fall in love with it.”

In the blowout field, Blo distinguishes itself by relying on franchises and staying away from branded hair-care products. Blowpro, a hair-care and tools line controlled by Farouk Systems conceived as a companion to a blowout bar, has shed its brick-and-mortar business. Drybar’s network of more than 60 salons includes both franchise and corporate-owned locations, and it’s extended into hair-care items and appliances available at QVC, Nordstrom, Sephora and Ulta.

Salons are the forte of Blo’s management team. Yakobson assumed Blo’s ceo post in April, but she has a long history in the salon industry. With her husband, Ari, and partner Paul Spindler, she established Canadian children’s hair salon company Melonhead around 15 years ago. In 2009, they acquired Blo when it only had three locations in Vancouver, and subsequently sold Melonhead to turn their attention to Blo.

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Yakobson is spearheading franchise escalation and buttressing the headquarters, which currently has eight people in Toronto, with plans to increase, to assist that escalation. Before her tenure as ceo, she said, “our businesses were all growing nicely at the franchise level, but there was an opportunity to drive that further, start focusing on franchise development and promoting the availability of franchises to the broader public.”

Blo is spreading across the U.S. and has no specific geographic targets, although it often locates on busy streets in popular shopping areas. “It’s a volume business, and that’s why it is important to be in locations that attract from a good-size population base. Women with higher disposable income tend to come in more often, and our locations have a mix of women who come in frequently and women who come in less frequently. You need to ensure you generate repeat business and word of month,” said Yakobson.

Compared to the cost of opening a Drybar franchise, Blo is relatively affordable. According to figures disclosed on the companies’ web sites, a Blo franchise costs from $160,900 to $280,500 to establish, while a Drybar franchise will set a franchisee back $581,070 to $1,239,360. Blo’s salons generally occupy 800 to 1,000 square feet and contain eight to 10 chairs. Its blowout prices average $40 to $45.

When asked if Blo’s locations are profitable, Yakobson replied, “Absolutely. There are extremely high rates of new customer acquisition and growth across our system,” she said. “It appeals to such a broad demographic. We have little girls who come in with their moms, teenagers who come in before bar mitzvahs and sweet sixteens, and we have young professionals, stay-at-home mothers and more mature women.”

Blo has stretched beyond blowouts, with add-on hair offerings (for example, conditioning treatments, head massages and clip-in hair extensions), as well as makeup, nail and waxing services. There are also seasonal hairstyles to inject the menu with au courant choices. The summer menu features a half-up, half-down style with a topknot called Off-Duty Cutie; a relaxed curly look with a side pinned up called Summer Fling, and a full, wavy ponytail called Swept Away.

Blo isn’t branching out with a product line. Its salons use products from the hair-care brand Unite, and the company is exploring makeup brands to bring in. “To go into a product line is whole separate business, and we don’t have that in the cards,” said Yakobson. “We actually started a private-label line. We couldn’t get sufficient quality and range with the quantities we were doing. We are very happy with Unite.”

Steering clear of products helps Blo stick to its priorities of amassing franchises and strengthening its franchisees’ businesses. Yakobson reported Blo’s revenues and services have been registering double-digit percentage advances annually. She said, “The growth is exponential. The more locations we have, the faster we grow because more people are aware of this concept.”