What are we worth?: Stylist compensation and challenges

One of the many challenges I have come across in the salon industry is that of raising prices. This is often a very loaded subject as it impacts humans on many levels.

One of the challenges that comes with raising prices is perceived value. This is a big one because it hits both the service provider and the consumer. Perceived value is a customer's perception of what that product or service is worth to them. Lots of effort can go into working out how to price products and services in the marketplace so that it is competitive.

That said, service providers and stylists usually come with their own perceptions about the value of the products and services they offer. As an industry insider, I will let you in on a secret: stylists avoid this conversation like they do COVID-19. If you mention a price increase often stylists will break out in hives. Everyone wants and needs to make money, it's just a reality. No one wants to overspend. What I want to make clear is that everyone has the choice to charge and spend what they feel offers them value.

Hair salon payment

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There is a conversation happening around the service industry regarding competitive wages and the Ontario living wage calculations. In the service industry, gratuities are a significant part of compensation. This can cause fluctuations in the wages of service providers. The European model of including gratuities in employees' wages has long been the norm.

Wages and the prices of products and services go hand-in-hand in the service and salon industry, as wages are usually the biggest expense in the salon world. When I bring up the topic of price and wage increase to a stylist, I often hear them say “I want to make more money but I don't want to raise my prices.” And to that I think, “what gives? This doesn't work.” 

We can’t talk about wages and service values without talking about the elephant in the room: the difference between how men and women are paid. Statistically, the salon industry is 80% women. Is this why the struggle for proper compensation exists? I don't get it. I need help in understanding this conundrum. Is it the messages that we as a society give to girls? Self-worth, self-love, and the perceived value of who they think they are? I don't see the same dynamic with men. Are we raised differently? Are we given different messages? Are we not given the same message of “you can do it! You can be anything you want”? I don't know but in sharing my experience, I would love to give this conversation some space to grow so that we get clear on what is really going on so that women no longer question their worth in the beauty business.