Here’s a hair-brained story if you’ve ever heard one. Or perhaps not. I have found few who have bothered to explore the reasons behind Amazon’s decision to open a salon. Especially since we can only presume former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has had no recent experience in the matter. The pressing question for many right now is: would the Amazon salon take over the industry by storm? Traditional salons in the London region, where this forerunner opened its doors, don’t seem to think so for now.
“Hairstylists often set a lot of the hair trends because they have the insight, education, and roster to do so. Our hair experts are confident that the new Amazon hair salon will have minimal effects on the industry. But like many things in the early stages, only time will tell” Natasha Marsh writes for Popsugar.
The fear of ‘stasis’
In answer to my original question, that is the idea behind the ‘idea’, none came closer to Brad Stone in the New York Times. This author claims:
“Mr. Bezos now hands his successor and longtime deputy, Andy Jassy, a company with the third-largest market capitalization in the world. But there’s an incongruity — call it the Bezos paradox. As the fortunes of the company and its founder have increased, their public images have taken a beating. As recent news reports show, Amazon’s workers are often pushed to the limit by arduous goals, arbitrarily changing rules and algorithmic masters, which seem to have little tolerance for human frailty.
I’ve written two books chronicling Amazon’s history and have come to view both the company’s never-ending expansion and declining reputation as byproducts of Mr. Bezos’ personality — his towering intellect, along with a notable deficit of empathy and fear of stasis.”
So, is Amazon, who was created in 1994 primarily as an online bookseller, really trying to revamp its image by focusing its message on an entirely different offering? Could this be a simple PR exercise, whereby Amazon is changing the narrative about its company, simply because whatever is being said about this ‘apeirogon’ (as Stone describes it) right now is somewhat damaging?
Not worried about footfall
Thomas Macaulay of The Next Web treated himself with an experience at the Amazon salon. In his cheeky account of the experience, he highlighted that “the fees are pretty reasonable for an upmarket salon in east London.” However, he noted, “the price points and high-tech charms don’t seem to have generated substantial footfall yet.”
Macaulay picked up on a few ‘advances’ which other salons of a similar category wouldn’t have. Those, for example, were the AR mirrors and QR-coded products on the shelves which patrons could order directly while enjoying the Amazon hair services. He couldn’t find negative points, describing the workers as “jovial and relaxed — perhaps because there are hardly any customers for them to deal with.”
Perhaps it really is just an experiment for the e-commerce giant. Maybe they split hairs over a lot of other novelties and decided this was the one for them. Their official statement justifies their decision as follows:
“The salon is the latest initiative designed to support the professional beauty industry and follows the launch of the Amazon Professional Beauty Store on Amazon.co.uk.”
By ‘supporting’ the industry, Amazon really meant:
“Showcasing a selection of bestselling professional hair care products, the salon will also test new point-and-learn technology, where customers can simply point at the product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen. To order the products, customers can scan the relevant QR code on the shelf to visit the product detail page on Amazon.co.uk and purchase, with delivery direct to their home.”
In fact, Marsh’s article did mention figures: “With the global spas and beauty salons market set to reach $217.25 billion by 2026, all our experts agree that the introduction of an Amazon hair salon is of no surprise.”
I tried to think of similar examples in the business world to assess whether this was really about making money. Richard Branson was the closest I could come to. But his diversification to move from a well-known and loved record label to a jet-setting, futuristic airline and even airspace company isn’t quite the same.
So, is Amazon’s entrance into hair-space really only about hair? About 1500 square feet of tech-fitted salon in a trendy area of London, just to sell more products and create more of an ‘experience’ for customers?
As things currently stand, there are no plans to open more such salons in other parts of the world. But Amazon “could have the opportunity to turn the industry upside down,” analysts warn. Amazon has had disruptive energy since its beginnings. Nobody thought an online bookseller would become a 315-billion-dollar colossus.
Perhaps the nature of Amazon is surprise… to venture where no one expects, as it did at its inception. For now, the salon is a test: “We want this unique venue to bring us one step closer to customers, and it will be a place where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies.” So, we shall leave it at that… for now.