Townhouse Seeks Polish

Townhouse Seeks Polish
Self-care: Juanita Huber-Millet, founder of Townhouse, in the brand’s Beverly Hills location.

Nail salons are among the top anchor tenants for shopping strips and malls across Los Angeles.

Over the past two decades, the advent of wear-longer technology in the nail industry has lacquered new revenue streams for largely mom-and-pop shops.

Now, at one of the most expensive intersections in the city, a new salon model is moving in after taking over the market across the pond.

London-based luxury nail salon brand Townhouse selected Beverly Hills as the testing ground for its expansion outside of the U.K., and is opening its first U.S. store here at the end of the month.

The brand, with more than $25 million raised from backers including Stonebridge PLC, has leased a 1,500-square-foot space off Rodeo Drive.

It’s the first of several sites Townhouse plans for Los Angeles. According to Juanita Huber-Millet, the company’s founder and creative director, the goal is to have locations in every major U.S. metro area in the next three to five years.

“We actually spent a couple of years really thinking about where the first international location would be,” Huber-Millet said. “L.A. felt like the perfect launch market for us as an aspirational brand.”

At the new Beverly Hills location, Townhouse showcases its neutral minimalism aesthetic.

High-end design for its salons

Townhouse’s interior design took a page out of the neutral minimalism playbook.

Across all its locations in the U.K. Townhouse has built an aesthetic based on taupe drapery, curved finishes and ambient lighting reminiscent of high-dollar restaurants.

The brand’s uniformity has been its main selling point in a highly fragmented nail industry.

Angelenos know the plight of comparing Yelp reviews for local nail salons. Each salon differs depending on nail technicians’ training, what polish brands are offered and how each service is priced.

Customers can shell out anywhere between $35 and $125 for art to be painted and hardened under LED light machines – the price often dictated by whether a nail tech sold a rhinestone or design addition to a manicure or pedicure.

Townhouse’s prices range from $36 to $120 for services, with add-ons like a chrome finish costing $20 and custom nail art adding $68.

Huber-Millet founded Townhouse by consolidating each deciding factor into a digital check-in platform.

“I was really frustrated by the unreliable offerings at local salons in the U.K.,” Huber-Millet said. “Whether it was inconsistent or poor-quality treatments, customer service (or) long waits.”

The streamlined model was a hit with British customers, and within six years Townhouse had expanded to 40 storefronts, with 70 additional locations in the pipeline in the U.K. Miller-Hubet said the company will begin franchising in the U.K.

After establishing itself in the U.K., Townhouse plans to target North American expansion after opening doors on Rodeo Drive.

Bringing the benefits, too

Townhouse will remain headquartered in London, and while it looks to conquer the U.S. market, the brand said its European-style employee benefits will remain intact.

From the technician cutting cuticles to salon managers, benefits include 28 days of paid vacation, as well as private health care, free training and expensed social events.

California has become a hot spot for the nail salon sector, and its expansion can largely be credited to Asian, immigrant and refugee women.

In a report published in March by the ULCA Labor Center, nail salon workers reported an hourly median wage of $10.94 in 2021, which was below the then-$13 an hour minimum wage for small businesses in California. 

Researchers found many salon owners or employers misclassify nail technicians as independent contractors, even if they worked on a full-time basis.

Huber-Millet found that Townhouse’s benefits package is an enticing draw in a competitive beauty market in Los Angeles.

“The team members that we’ve taken on for the Beverly Hills site have been really excited about this because this is something that they’ve never seen,” Huber-Millet said.

According to her team’s market research, there are at least 2,500 nail salons in the broader Los Angeles County, and the majority of them are single-location entities.

According to UCLA’s research, the number of nail salons in the state of California has doubled in the past decade, with almost half of such businesses concentrated in Southern California.

A chain model has been deployed in the region in the past – Bellacures has six locations across Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

And while franchising is a relatively new movement in the overall beauty space, Los Angeles has proven to be the incubator for copy-paste cosmetology.

Sugared + Bronzed, a waxing and tanning outlet, was launched in Santa Monica in 2012 and now has more than 20 locations across the country.

Face Haus, a “facial bar” offering a variety of skin treatments, started out of Studio City and employs both a singles service and paid membership model. The company now has four outlets across Los Angeles and Dallas.

Self-care indulgences can be cast as unnecessary expenses, but growing chain models continue to bet that convenience and reliability will keep them a part of consumers’ calendars.

“Customers are now really looking for that reassurance in the brands they still associate with,” Huber-Millet said. “They want to feel like they’re actually getting something out of it and that it’s worth their time.”

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