Anyone who wants a piece of the hair-care and beauty franchise industry has plenty of choices to examine among the 25 top hair salon and beauty franchises of 2017/2018.
Hair salons and boutiques make up a major part of the industry, but with lots of variation within it. Choices include high-end upscale boutiques with a European flavor, trendy “blowout” boutiques that only wash and style with hairdryers, regular unisex salons for budget-conscious consumers, fun salons just for kids, and even a couple chains that revive the old-style American barbershop experience for men.
But the industry also includes all kinds of other niche boutiques for eyelash extensions, waxing services, tanning, cosmetics, and other spa-like services in a franchise model.
In 2015, the beauty industry generated $56.2 billion in revenues, a quarter of which came from its largest segment, hair-care chains. Keep in mind that a significant portion of revenues (up to 15%) come from products sales, which is an important aspect of most hair-care operations.
The beauty industry has proven itself to be recession-proof. Although consumers become more price-conscious, they don’t stop spending on services to help them look their best.
Here are the 25 best hair salon and beauty franchises of 2017/2018:
1. Great Clips
Great Clips was started by Steve Lemmon and David Rubenzer in 1982 near the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Every location is open seven days a week, no appointment needed. Innovations include Online Check-In so customers can add their name to the waitlist before showing up, and Clip Notes, which allows stylists to preserve notes about each customer that are accessible at any location. The number of locations has grown steadily over the last 10 years from 2,600 in 2007 to the current 4,200+, 146 of which are located outside the U.S. and none of which are company-owned.
Supercuts was created by Geoffrey M. Rappaport and Frank E. Emmett in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975. This large chain of no-appointment-required salons offers men’s haircuts, women’s haircuts, kids’ haircuts, color services, and waxing. Every haircut can be finished off with their Hot Towel Refresher service. Product lines carried in Supercuts locations include Paul Mitchell, Biolage, Redken, American Crew, Nioxin, and more. The chain is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Regis Corporation, which owns 20 different salon brands. Of the chain’s 2,665 locations, 944 are company-owned and 38 are located outside the U.S.
3. Sport Clips
Sport Clips was the brainchild of Gordon Logan who wanted to create a haircut shop men and boys would love, as opposed to going to a women’s salon or a dated, boring traditional barber shop. Taking a cue from the rising popularity of sports bars back in the early 1990s, his concept injects the love of sports into the haircut experience. The number of locations has grown at a rapid pace over the last 10 years from 454 in 2007 to the current 1,692, 54 of which are company-owned and 38 of which are outside the U.S.
4. Merle Norman Cosmetics
Merle Norman Cosmetics was started by Merle Norman 85 years ago when she began formulating her own cosmetic products. Now headquartered in Los Angeles, California, the company continues developing, manufacturing, and distributing its own full line of skin care and cosmetic products that are sold through independently-owned and operated Merle Norman Cosmetic Studios. It does not test its products or ingredients on animals, and doesn’t ask anyone to do that for them. Instead, they rely on human volunteer testing. The number of locations has declined over the last 10 years from 1,845 in 2007 to the current total of 1,184.
5. Fantastic Sams
Fantastic Sams is a chain of full-service hair salons that was started back in 1974 by Sam Ross in Memphis, Tennessee. He originally named it Incredible Sams, but when franchising started in 1976, he decided Fantastic Sams was easier to say. His goal was to give a salon experience at an affordable price to anyone and everyone. The chain was acquired in 2011 by Dessange International, a company that owns several beauty care brands. The number of locations has declined over the last 10 years from 1,398 in 2007 to the current 1,048, three of which are company-owned and four of which are located outside the U.S.
6. Cost Cutters Family Hair Care
Cost Cutters Family Hair Care was started by Joe Francis in 1982 after gaining many years of experience through his previous chain, The Barbers Hairstyling for Men, which was one of the first salons to grow through franchising in the late 1960s. His goal with Cost Cutters was to provide affordable, no-frills haircuts in a family-friendly environment that doesn’t require appointments. The chain is now owned by Regis Corporation, owner of 20 different salon brands. The number of locations has declined over the last 10 years from 877 in 2007 to the current total of 618, of which 236 are company-owned.
7. Palm Beach Tan
Palm Beach Tan offers the convenience of monthly sunbed or spray tanning memberships with no contracts or commitments, and supports it up with a fully-automated tanning rewards program that grants loyal members free upgrades, discounts, cash credits, and so on. One of the company’s growth strategies is to convert independent shops and regional chains to the Palm Beach Tan brand. Founded in the early 1990s, franchising began in 2003 and the number of locations has grown over the last 10 years from 131 in 2007 to the current total of 446.
8. First Choice Haircutters
First Choice Haircutters was started in Ontario, Canada back in 1980 to cater to value-conscious families. It’s a walk-in concept that is often located in strip-malls and offers a seven-day guarantee on all its products and services. The chain’s full-service salons offer hair care for women, men, and kids, including haircuts, trims, coloring, deep conditioning, and waxing. First Choice Haircutters is part of the Regis Corporation family of 20 different salon brands. There are currently 407 locations, 197 of which are franchises outside the U.S. (in Canada), with the remaining 210 all being company-owned.
9. Planet Beach Spray and Spa
Planet Beach Spray and Spa bucks the trend of service-specific niche salons by offering a wide range of services, including its HOTWORX infrared heat and isometric workouts, non-UV spray tans, automated massages, automated facials, red light anti-aging therapy, full body hydration, teeth whitening, UV tanning, weight management, oxygen therapy, and guided meditation. It was started by Stephen Smith in 1995 when he was looking to expand his health club and gym to offer more services. Franchising began in 1996, and the number of locations has declined in recent years from a high of 393 in 2008 to the current 200+ locations in the U.S. and six other countries.
10. SEVA Beauty
SEVA Beauty calls itself “the pioneer of the fast-casual spa with nationwide locations that maximize one-stop-shop convenience and price points everyone can afford.” The company is the creation of founder and CEO Vas Maniatis to provide spa-like services such as eyebrow threading, waxing, eyelash extensions, and facials. The SEVA Express format is small (150-475 square feet) and can be located within other stores, such as Walmart and other chains, while the SEVA Spa format is bigger. Since 2010, the chain has grown rapidly to its current total of 187 locations in 32 states and Puerto Rico.
11. Amazing Lash Studio
Amazing Lash Studio was co-founded in 2010 by Jessica and Edward Le to capitalize on the growing eyelash extension craze with a franchising business model. The semi-permanent lashes are light-weight and come in four different basic styles. They’re attached using pharmaceutical grade adhesive about 1mm from the eyelid and won’t come off except when your natural lashes shed themselves. The initial process takes 1.5-2 hours, with subsequent refill visits lasting 45-60 minutes. The chain has grown rapidly in the last 5 years from just two locations in 2012 to its current 147.
12. Blo Blow Dry Bar
Blo Blow Dry Bar was a small company in 2008 with just three locations when Ari Yakobson, a successful owner of a children’s hair salon chain in Canada, saw the opportunity in the increasingly popular wash-and-blow-dry salon concept. He and his wife Vanessa bought the company in 2009 and started franchising right away. The main service is “wash, blo and go” with many locations also offering makeup, nails, waxing, and bridal hairstyling, The company got a major boost in 2014 when actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her own hairdresser, David Babaii, became partners. There are now 91 locations in three countries.
Drybar was started by Alli Webb in 2010 when she opened her first location in Brentwood, California. She had previously perfected the art of the “blowout” through her in-home blowout side business called Straight At Home. The chain only does wash-n-dry blowout stylings, with its bar theme carried out both in the layout of each location where women sit facing a U-shaped bar with their backs to the mirrors, to the names of the different styles, such as Dirty Martini, Cosmo, Mai Tai, and so on. Even the gift cards play a part because they are designed like coasters. There are currently 86 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
14. Roosters Men’s Grooming Centers
Roosters Men’s Grooming Centers was started in 1999 by Joe Grondin in Lapeer, Michigan, to bring back the classic American barbershop, which had all but disappeared when the unisex salon movement swept the nation. He was convinced that enough men missed the elements of the traditional barbershop to warrant a revival. In addition to men’s haircuts, the chain also offers facial shaves, head shaves, color that blends away gray, beard trims, neck shaves, and men’s facials. Roosters is part of the Regis Corporation of salon brands. There are currently 85 locations, which represents fairly rapid growth over the last five years.
15. Waxing the City
Waxing the City was founded by Summer Hartshorn Vasilas, Marilyn Hartshorn, Robin Schoh, and Alex Arlotta in 2003 in the trendy LoDo neighborhood of Denver, Colorado, on the firm belief that lots of women want waxing services without having to go to an expensive spa. Each licensed esthetician completes an extensive training course to become a Cerologist technician before serving clients. Franchising began in 2012 through a partnership with Self Esteem Brands, parent company of the world’s largest co-ed fitness franchise, Anytime Fitness. The chain has grown quickly over the last 6 years to its current total of 76 locations, only one of which is company-owned.
16. Tan Republic
Tan Republic was started by Lance and Kristina Donnelly in 2005 with their first location in Salem, Oregon. The company motto is bronze without borders – tan is beautiful. The company offers a wide range of tanning services, including several different sunless spray tanning options alongside its UV-based beds, including the newest “high pressure beds” with lamps behind UV filters that weed out most of the harmful UVB rays but let the less harmful UVA rays through for precision tanning. There are currently 65 locations in the four western states of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and California.
Snip-its got its start in 1995 when Joanna Meiseles saw the sub-par approach most salons took to giving kids haircuts. She created a salon concept for kids that was truly fun and entertaining for them. The chain has its own cartoon characters in various games and stories, the Magic Box that dispenses a prize in exchange for a swatch of hair at the end of a visit, and its own all-natural line of hair care products specially formulated just for kids. An additional revenue stream comes in the form of hosting birthday parties that include hair styling and dress-up costumes. The company website lists 59 open locations with another 34 labeled as “coming soon.”
18. Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids
Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids was created to ease the often-painful process of haircuts for kids. It does this with in-store playgrounds featuring a slide; touch-screen play units in waiting areas; and TVs, video games, and fantasy chairs on the cutting floor that are like little vehicles for the kids to sit in while getting a haircut. The company motto is fun for kids, stress-free for parents. Families with multiple children can bring them all at the same time and get discounted cuts after the first haircut at regular price. The company website lists 53 open locations along with 17 more labeled as “coming soon.”
19. Pigtails and Crewcuts
Pigtails and Crewcuts was a single-location hair salon for kids that Wade Brannon took his daughters to for haircuts. He loved the concept and thought it would be a great opportunity for franchising. As luck would have it, the original owner of the salon was ready to sell and Brannon snatched it up in 2004 to begin franchising. He was no stranger to the franchise model, having previously helped grow Heavenly Ham from one location to more than 230 before it was sold to HoneyBaked Ham. There are currently 50 Pigtails and Crewcuts locations.
20. Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids
Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids is a chain that serves a slightly wider audience than most salons for kids, which tend to cater to younger children. Sharkey’s has all the right elements to serve young children with its toy-car vehicle chairs where kids can watch their favorite cartoons, or play Xbox or Playstation on 40″ screens while getting their hair cut. But Sharkey’s also has special lounges just for tween/teen girls who can get glam styling and their nails painted as well. The chain also offers “Glamour Girl” birthday parties. The company website lists 45 open locations with another 20 listed as “coming soon.”
21. V’s Barbershop
V’s Barbershop was founded by Jim Valenzuela in 1999 because he wanted to have a place he could take his son in Phoenix, Arizona that was like the classic barbershop his dad used to take him to, a breed of shops that has been dwindling for decades. V’s bills itself as a traditional, upscale, authentic barbershop that offers men’s haircuts and hairstyling, hot lather straight-razor shaves, facials, facial massages, free neck shaves for regular customers, and even shoeshines at many locations. Franchising began in 2005 and there are currently 34 locations, only one of which is company-owned.
LunchboxWax was founded by Debi Lane, who already had years of experience in waxing from her time at a multi-service day spa. The feedback she received about her speed-waxing service and results led her to believe that a waxing-only salon could fill a significant need. The chain services both women and men with no fewer than 33 different waxing services, each of which is focused on a different and very specific part of the body. She opened the first location in 2010, franchising began in 2013, and there are now 33 locations, three of which are company-owned.
23. The Lash Lounge
The Lash Lounge sums up its core values in one word: PASSION (Professional, Appreciation, Service-oriented, Servant leadership, Integrity, Ownership, and Never-give-up-attitude). The company was founded by Anna Phillips when she discovered how quickly and easily eyelash extensions can transform a woman’s look and boost her confidence. It was back in 2001 when she suddenly lost her IT job that she got into massage therapy. She started offering beauty services like permanent makeup, but when she began offering eyelash extensions, she soon couldn’t keep up with the demand, even after opening three lash-dedicated studios. Franchising began in 2010 and there are now 17 locations.
24. Deka Lash
Deka Lash was co-founded by Jennifer Blair and her husband Mike in 2011 and prides itself on several innovations, including its professional training program developed over 5 years; its proprietary studio design featuring custom designed beds, chairs, and work areas; a personalized customer experience with a unique check-in system; and a membership program different from the usual package deals. Lash extensions are a hot trend right now with plenty of room for growth for the few national-scope chains that have popped up in recent years. There are currently 17 locations with another 40 in various stages of development.
25. Camille Albane
Camille Albane was launched in 1994 on the Rive Gauche of Paris with the recognition that when women want true style, they turn to France. This is a chain of upscale French hair salons known for its styling and color expertise that includes the trending French balayage highlighting technique. The goal is to help customers achieve a signature look with a bit of pampering along the way, including a makeup touch-up at the end of each visit. The chain is owned by Dessange International, a company that owns several beauty care brands. There are currently 270 locations, all but one of which are located outside the U.S. The first U.S. location is in Maple Grove, Minnesota.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.