Store of the Future   //   August 17, 2021

‘A national presence’: How Drybar is expanding with the help of franchisees

Hairstyling destination Drybar is doubling down on nationwide expansion.

The brand’s franchisor rights were acquired by managing firm WellBiz Brands in February, which is currently developing 25 Drybar new locations. 

Since opening its first shop in 2010, Drybar has become known for its signature $40 hair blowouts. As opposed to traditional salons and spas that offer multiple services like makeup application, nails and haircuts, Drybar strictly focuses on providing blowouts at a flat rate. Prior to the acquisition, Drybar’s business, which includes a hair product division, generated $100 million in annual revenue.

Before this acquisition, Drybar was operating 140 locations across the U.S. and Canada, and it is still operating those locations independently. Along with the newly-acquired Drybar, WellBiz also manages Fitness Together, Amazing Lash Studio, Elements Massage and LunchboxWax franchisees; WellBiz, which has been operating health and wellness brands since 1983, most recently acquired waxing salon LunchboxWax in July 2021. The firm has already opened an additional six franchise Drybar shops since February. 

The goal is to reach 500 units within the next five years, said JD Prager, vp of real estate and construction at WellBiz Brands. “We want to take [Drybar] from being a niche service provider in major cities to national presence,” he said.

To execute this strategy, the key is finding like-minded franchisees who already love the brand, Prager said. “Many are looking for career changes right now, so we’re hoping to be an appealing opportunity for entrepreneurs.” He also explained that because Drybar is already “one of the biggest names” in the hair industry, the name recognition is helping generate inbound interest from potential franchisees. 

WellBiz also has an existing database of client information through its other brands, which Drybar can be marketed to and vice versa. The goal is that franchise owners will want to multiply businesses under the WellBiz umbrella. 

Building and operating a Drybar “doesn’t come cheap,” according to the company’s website. The initial all-in cost can be anywhere between $639,180 and $1,391,470. Furthermore, interested owners also need a net worth of $750,000 and liquidity of $250,000.

For WellBiz, scaling Drybar quickly will require “the learnings we’ve experienced with other concepts,” said Prager. Some of the elements of operating a franchise system include investing in real estate scouting, property development and even staff recruitment, Prager explained. To support staffing challenges, which many service businesses are facing right now, WellBiz is providing owners with recruiting resources — such as social media ads and hiring listings. 

The firm also helps with site selection, the construction process, vendor selection, along with providing a post-opening marketing playbook, Prager explained. “We utilize our geographic data and local brokers to help us tap into market opportunities,” Prager said, including tracking expiring leases. During the pandemic, these brokers have also occasionally negotiated with landlords whose clients couldn’t make payments after their rent relief expired.

Part of Drybar’s retention strategy is offering monthly membership customer packages, which include multiple blowouts and discounts on products. Prager said the goal “is to help our owners acquire customers and convert them into loyal monthly members.” 

Leon Alexander, president of hair salon consulting firm Eurisko, said franchising has “a place in business, but it’s not for everyone.” The model, he said, is a good option for owners who want a turnkey business with robust support from the parent company. It’s also proving to be the new expansion strategy for startups, more recently like hair color bar Madison Reed and facial shop Heyday.

One of the more challenging aspects with franchising can be finding the right owners. Alexander said that high-end brands require enthusiastic owners who can operate their locations at consistent standards. However, operating a franchise might be as enticing to experienced entrepreneurs, who want more control.

Still, Alexander thinks that Drybar’s model makes it appealing for franchise expansion.

“Years ago, in beauty, customers were used to a one-stop shop for their hair, nails and skin,” Alexander said. These startups’ success are showcasing that customers want to get one quick, reliable service at their convenience, he continued. 

“That’s why I see Drybar growing further, especially with support and resources for franchisees.”