Article by Vanna Le for Inc Magazine Online, first published 2/6/16.
When Valentine's Day rolls around, very few pleasures compare with going on a grooming spending spree. Mani-pedi? Check. Blowout? Check. Body massage and a facial? Check, and check. Brazilian wax? (Hold tight, and hold your breath!) Double check.
Body waxing companies have been making big bucks in the hair removal business. One franchise, in particular, has observed a rising trend in the past few years: During the season of love, many are opting to go "bare down there."
The Business of Love
From 2014 to 2015, during the weeks leading up to February 14, Uni K Wax saw demands in waxing services increase by 40 percent. There was also a 500 percent increase in the number of gift cards sold. Sales during that period grew from $250,000 to $460,000.
"It's nice to see that Valentine's Day is a time when many of us love and pamper our own bodies," says Noemi Grupenmager, the founder and CEO of Uni K Wax. "Many couples wax as a special surprise for their other half. It's also a wonderful sensation to feel skin against skin."
Founded in 1993, Uni K Wax currently has 34 locations. By the end of 2016, she hopes to create 100 franchises and affiliates across the country.
A Very, Very Fast-Growing Industry
The "anti-hair" movement isn't a recent phenomenon. Beach vibes of the '60s brought fame to the "bikini line" (a type of trim that requires a precise shave). Since then, U.S. consumers have increasingly been willing to pay for waxing services. At Uni K Wax, a Brazilian Bikini costs $50, and eyebrow and lip areas can range anywhere from $13 to $23.
The personal waxing and salon industry grew an average of 7.6 percent annually between 2010 and 2015, according to research firm IBISWorld. In 2014, an estimated 300,000 businesses racked up sales totaling $11 billion. European Wax Center remains one of the most dominant players in the market. Founded in 2004, the franchise landed a spot on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for three consecutive years (2011 to 2013). In 2015, EWC counted more than 7.7 million waxing services to clients across its 740 locations.
More Men Are Following Trend
This isn't simply a female-driven sensation. As the French often say, without suffering, there is no beauty--and men are no exception. If the famous waxing scene from Judd Apatow's 40 Year Old Virgin (in which Steve Carell's Sasquatch-pelt of a chest gets a painful makeover) has taught us anything, it's that more men are beginning to invest time and money into self-grooming.
At Uni K Wax, 20 percent of customers are male. 48 percent of them opt for waxing services on the back and shoulders, while 19 percent get bikini services. There are others benefits as well, Grupenmager adds: "A waxed body provides an extra level of intimacy with your partner."
In the U.S. alone, men's grooming--or "manscaping," as it's often called--has skyrocketed to a $4 billion industry. $1 billion of the sales chunk comes from hair removal services and products. "More men are preferring a clean, polished look over going au naturel," says Grupenmager. "Males who participate in sports activities like cycling, body building, and swimming are also getting waxes."
A Glut of Innovation
Hair removal technologies have improved vastly over the years. New high-tech innovations like the laser method, which sends a beam of light to damage hair follicles, has become increasingly popular.
"Having the most cutting-edge technology, and always being on the forefront of lasers and other devices is so important in the hair removal industry," says Whitney Bowe, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She also runs a private practice that offers laser hair removal services.
Prices for laser removal services vary according to the body area, and clients must return for several sessions of treatment before results are visible. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average price of laser treatments in 2014 was $289.
Simplicity Laser, a hair removal franchise with 11 locations across five states, ranked No. 1807 on last year's Inc. 5000 list. The company, which counted revenues of $6 million in 2014, saw sales growth rate of 220 percent in just three years. A handful of websites and apps are also changing the industry: Five-time Inc. 5000 honoree DaySmart Software designs and sells management software to salons, making it easier for clients to book and schedule appointments.
The War Is On
Justin Joffe is the co-founder and CEO of Hudson Blvd. Group (HBG), a multi-brand company whose portfolio includes DreamDry, the blow dry salon co-founded by Rachel Zoe, and laser hair removal franchise Spruce & Bond.
"Clients are becoming more educated about the lasting benefits [of the laser method]," he said. "That includes the long-term savings and the convenience of never having to worry about ingrown hairs." According to Joffe, HBG's revenue is approaching $20 million.
As more technologies develop within the industry, businesses will compete even harder to beat the market. Still, Grupenmager is confident that new innovations in laser treatments won't bring her waxing business down. "If the laser method worked for everyone, I wouldn't still be in business," she said.