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Economic woes weighed on the some 30,000 attendees and 405 vendors at the International Salon and Spa Expo held at the Long Beach Convention Center from Jan. 26 to 28. As in past years, music blared throughout the center while scissors snipped during hair demos, but the noise couldn't squelch reports that foot traffic and sales volume were down.
"It is a little bit slower because of the economy," said Dominic Barbar, who helms a namesake styling tools company based in Beverly Hills. "[Stylists and salon owners] want to buy, but they think twice about it. Last year, if they bought five or 10 [products], this year they buy two or three."
Stylists and spa and salon owners explained they were cautiously perusing goods because exactly how their businesses would be impacted by customers' tighter budgets remained unclear. However, if a good deal was to be had, many were adamant that they weren't hesitant to grab it.
Sandy Smith, co-owner of the salon La Bella's in Lake Isabella, Calif., who was searching for bargains, said, "I do a lot of dimensional color, and I have all my regular clients, but people coming in for special occasions hasn't happened as much." Mikki Foster, a stylist at Ulta in San Fernando, Calif., said, "Clients have been spacing out their visits. I have had clients laid off."
Still, Barbar attempted to open stylists' and salon owners' wallets for a new $150 blow-dryer dubbed Eco 8000 that uses a ceramic heating element instead of coils, and a $140 cordless flatiron with a 1-inch ceramic plate that will be sold at José Eber, Chris McMillan and Frédéric Fekkai. Next up for Barbar will be digitizing flatirons with touch screens and remote controls.
"The weather has something to do with it," said Ellen Ambrecht of the lackluster attendance at her booth. Ambrecht is the shows and events manager for Essie, the nail polish company based in Astoria, N.Y. Indeed, it rained almost 4.2 inches the week of Jan. 21 in a city that normally averages fewer than 3 inches the entire month of January.