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Top salons unite

A selection of the country’s leading salon entrepreneurs united for the first time at the Hair Expo 2010 Top Salon Summit. The inaugural half day summit dissected the business of luxury by providing guests with a high profile agenda of keynote speakers and answers to the many questions often asked by premium salons who offer a high-end experience.

Paul Stoneham

The VIP experience carried throughout the night as not only were guests given complementary access to the Hair Expo floor, they had a private entrance to VIP seating at the Hair Expo Saturday night gala, following their afternoon of luxury.

After a short introduction by Hair Expo Event Director, Julia Erben about the meaning behind the afternoon, Mark Kelly, Publisher of Vogue Australia, kicked off the official proceedings with an insight into the minds of today’s luxury consumer.

Mark revealed useful statistics from the Australian Cultural Monitor 2010 – research initiated by Vogue, which revealed that 71 per cent of Australians now view money as a concern and admit to being more resourceful and less wasteful. However, he did explain that Australians generally have a much more optimistic outlook now, than in 2009.

Mark explained how the marketplace has changed and that we are presented with more high-end or low-end offerings. “Today, there is not a lot of the middle and we now think that luxury must also have value,” he said.

While quality is critical, 91 per cent of people shop the sales and 86 per cent are willing to pay more for unique products. Mark then spoke of the creation and importance of having an iconic brand, naturally using Vogue magazine as an example.

“It’s important that advertising and everything associated with a luxury brand has a great look and feel. You are not buying Vogue to be reminded that K-Mart exists,” Mark said.

Melinda O’Rourke, owner and director of MO luxury has worked in management roles at Chanel and Prada before starting her own business. Melinda spoke about client satisfaction being the primary importance in a luxury business.

“Client experience is essential to success and future satisfaction nomatter the business. It is not acceptable when you pay a premium for a product for clients not to be satisfied,” she said.

While many businesses put consumers on hold everyday while telling them that their call is important to them, Melinda believes this is a paradox and that a lot of value statements can be vacuous and insincere.  She said, “If people are in and loyal you have to do something really bad for them to leave. Many companies say they give good customer service but few do. Every client wants to be acknowledged sincerely, warmly and efficiently.”

Melinda went onto deconstruct the ideals of trust, perception, how the second experience is one of the most important ones as it can make or break a customer’s commitment to a salon brand.

“It is always incredibly trendy and ageless to provide amazing service but a lot of salons have little training in business aptitude and management,” she said.

Naomi Parry from Black Communications was the third speaker for the afternoon and showed guests how to create the ultimate luxury events. While uncovering experiential marketing for premium brands she also recognised the importance of bringing a brand to life through experience.

With an army of high profile clients such as Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Paspaley Pearls, Taj Hotels and Hermes, Naomi explained that creating an A list event doesn’t have to cost the earth – a number of examples she referenced were executed for less than $5,000.

“All great events start with an idea that is driven by a clever ideal and while most things associated with luxury brands look expensive but don’t cost a lot. Be a cipher and never stop thinking about innovative ideas,” said Naomi, “Don’t be afraid to have parties in your brand space. If you engage some of the rules for creating emotional connections with guests whether it be an installation or a collaboration with a like-minded brand or people, bigger is not always better and the best luxury brand events come from brave ideas.”

While guests were left inspired by images from various sophisticated events and the Hermes beach party where guests were encouraged to be barefoot and driven home in combi vans, it was evident that luxury is not just about glamour.

The event closed with a presentation from Emma Gray from Bain & Company – a leading global business consultancy firm, and ghd Global CEO, Paul Stoneham.

Emma revealed some key statistic about luxury consumers, revealing that approximately 18 per cent of the wealthy don’t have an interest in luxury and how to better understand your target clientele.

Paul spoke about romancing your perfect client to create the ideal business and giving service more than it’s worth, while also reinforcing several topics discussed throughout the day.

“A good brand is about the ability to do it again and repeatedly deliver on something again and again. It’s about finding that ‘sweet spot’ for clients and identifying any adjacent opportunities for expansion and growth,” he said.

From finding ways to measure customer satisfaction to creating the ultimate customer experience or event, guests left feeling on top of the world with imminent possibilities for future growth, all while lapping up a bit of luxury of their own with a sumptuous high-tea and an impressive line-up of wine and cheese.


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