The past few years have seen the proliferation of “bars” and salons exclusively dedicated to pampering one’s nails, brows, as well as face and body waxing services.
So, why not a blow-dry bar?
Given the growth of specialized, single-service concept businesses in the Philippines, the entry of Blo Blow Dry Bar was just a matter of time. The bar is a North American hair blow-dry bar franchise. It opened only two shops in the country—last Friday at Power Plant Mall, Makati, and this week at Serendra, Taguig.
The first two are also the first Blo franchises in Asia.
Blo is essentially a hair salon that offers only one service: blowouts—no cuts, no color. Curling rods and flat irons are de rigueur, but scissors are a no-no. It’s a concept that’s growing in popularity in North America, but is quite new in the Philippines, where there’s a hair salon or beauty parlor in practically every neighborhood.
Most local salons still offer all-grooming and aesthetic services, from haircut to color to nail spa to face and body waxing. But specialized places like Blo are poised to change the service landscape.
“Our hook is, ‘You’re not cheating on your hairdresser,” explains Howard Chua, noting hairdressers’ tendency to feel slighted when another stylist does a longtime client’s tresses. “We’re not competing with the regular salons; we complement their work,” says the Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur who brought in the Blo franchise with Hong Kong national Edward Lee.
In the US and Canada, says Chua, regular salons typically point a client to a Blo bar when she needs only a blowout. “When you need only a blow-dry, your hairdresser doesn’t usually do it himself, it’s his assistant. Here, we make the ‘assistant’ take the forefront and be the ‘style boss.’”
He adds, “Of course, they won’t turn you away from a regular salon [if you need only a blowout], but you will have to wait in line. Here, blow-dry is all we do, and you can come every other day if you want. We know how Filipinos are crazy about their hair.”
How does it work?
Says Lee: “A client comes in and checks the service menu. There are seven signature styles [with illustrations] to choose from. Our service is ‘Wash Blow Go.’ One person, called the ‘Bloer,’ works on you from start to finish.”
Blo is known for its cheeky, provocative jargon—“blocabulary,” as it’s called. Its slogans include lines like, “Just Blo Me.” At a Blo bar, they give out hot-pink buttons printed with the words “Blo Me.”
Blo’s style names on the menu include “Sex, Hugs and Rock & Roll” (“Tousled, agitated, deliciously disheveled”), “Executive Sweet” (“Our best irons are on the case”), “Holly Would” (“Fun and flirty with plenty of curl and bounce”). They charge a flat rate of P500 for the signature styles, regardless of hair length. In North America, the same service costs $35.
“We figured everything costs a third here,” says Chua of the slashed local rates.
A stylist from the North American headquarters was brought in to train the Filipino staff. The Blo bar at Power Plant (next to Mercury Drug and True Value, right by the parking entrance) has hot pink dividers, the brand’s signature color; the interiors have sleek, clean lines, with white cube salon chairs and bright lighting from recessed lamps. A large black-and-white portrait of Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” dominates the wall behind the reception desk.
“We’re not just for the young,” Chua clarifies. “In the 1960s, there were styling salons where our grandmothers used to go. They didn’t cut their hair! This is just a new twist, we just upgraded it.”
For bros, too
And dudes are just as welcome, say the owners: A service called Blo Bro consists of a 20-minute head massage, wash and style for an indulgent, well, bro job.
Young girls can also visit the bar with their moms for a Blo Girl service. Customized styles, as well as blowouts with hair extensions or installations, are also offered.
“Bloers” can also go to a client’s location, for bachelorette parties and weddings, as well as other on-the-go events. (Call 0917-6256379 for inquiries and appointments.)
The owners are also banking on the timing of their launch: prom and graduation season.
Chua acknowledges that the Blo concept could easily be copied. “But we’re about the total experience, the ambience, the service. You can get a blow-dry for P150 elsewhere, or you can even do it yourself. But if you’re having a bad-hair day, hopefully when you come out of here, you’re feeling more confident. Our goal is to make girls happy.”
Blo Blow Dry Bar was born in 2007, the idea of a student in Vancouver and her mother. While it was predated by a similar concept in New York City in 2005, it’s Blo that’s quickly expanding within and outside North America. The Philippine branches are No. 27 and 28; the local owners are hoping to open two more this year.
Chua and Lee, while impressed with the concept of a blow-dry-only bar from the business perspective, were both initially doubtful that women would spend “just on blow-dry.” Lee’s main business is manufacturing, while Chua’s is into I.T. services.
“You know, men are wired differently,” Chua says with a chuckle. “But then our wives explained to us that women think differently.”
And, “women spend a lot of time on their hair,” Lee adds. “I travel here a lot for business, and I see the economy improving. This is a service that fits into that lifestyle.”