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Sorbet Drybar moves to franchising model

Sorbet is rolling out its new Sorbet Drybar franchise throughout South Africa, following the success of the pilot operation in Johannesburg.
The national beauty and nail salon chain expanded its service offering last year when it pioneered the innovative US hairstyling concept in South Africa. Essentially an express hair salon, Sorbet Drybar offers convenient, affordable blow-drys - no cuts or colours - in a relaxed, funky environment complete with in-salon entertainment.

The idea is based around convenience at every level. The stores will be open seven days a week (8am-6pm weekdays, 8am-5pm on Saturdays and 9am-3pm on Sundays); have a flat rate of per blow, no matter the length or texture of the hair, currently at R165 per blow; and offer a host of value-added services, such as scalp massages, hair treatments and a professional nail service. Customers relax while enjoying these treatments, as well as the free in-salon WiFi, DVDs, music and complimentary champagne.

"This is what sets it apart from regular hair salons," says Rudi Rudolph, MD of Sorbet. "In addition, the salons have the capacity to host groups of women as part of bridal showers, baby showers, teen parties and bachelorette parties - a unique feature."

Its stylists are expertly trained and its hair products drawn from the L'Oréal collection. The stores also offer a complete range of nail services as well as branded bath and body products.

The service offerings include blowouts and styling, nails (manis, pedis and gelish), make-up, hair treatments, Brazilian blowouts, hair extensions and a retail selection consisting of L'Oréal, Redken, Veaudry, Sorbet bath and body range and Essie.

Four year fast growth


The group has extensive franchising experience, which it has honed over the past eight years. During this time, it has grown from one store to more than 70 and established a strong presence in the local beauty salon and nail market, although Rudolph says half that time was spent refining the franchise model.

"We opened our first Sorbet franchise in December 2009 and have opened 62 new franchised stores of which 12 company-owned stores were converted to franchised outlets in four years. However, the four years prior to that were the most important, as we looked at various franchise models and then slowly started chipping away to refine the one that would work best for us. We have followed a similar route with Drybar. The concept is very popular in the US but completely new to South Africa, so we've adapted it slightly and perfected a franchise model that works for this innovative service."

Turnkey solution


The current cash requirement for a Drybar franchise is R1.1 million depending on the size and condition of the site, which includes the investment in equipment and stock, lease deposit, the franchise fee, VAT and some working capital. Rudolph adds that when franchisees buy into the group, they receive more than just another franchise.

"We deliver a full turn-key solution. Therefore, we approve all sites prior to lease commitments by franchisees, assist with lease negotiations, staff recruitment and provide on-going training and education for both the staff and franchisee to continuously improve and uplift the skills within the network. We also offer marketing and branding support, accounting and administrative services and full support with the store opening. There is a very strong focus on making everyone aware of our non-compromising attitude towards service delivery and service excellence. Being a franchisee means one is part of a growing and recognised brand that is obsessed with the service delivered to our guests and franchisees, with competent management in place and access to a growing customer loyalty programme that currently totals more than 110,000 members."

This approach to franchising clearly works, as the group enjoys a relatively low staff turnover rate and currently has nine franchisees that own more than one store.

The group aims to open five to 10 new drybars per annum, increasing the number of new stores in line with feasibility and acceptance levels.
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