There is a very strict dress code for women in the kingdom. But, despite or perhaps because of those restrictions, women transforming their appearance is driving salon business in Saudi Arabia as it does elsewhere. Stylists note that their clients can change their look with a new and more modern hair color and style up to four times a year. This desire for a new image peaks seasonally (eg, Islamic Eid festivities)
Unusually for the salon sector, hairsalons in Saudi Arabia actually register as dress making businesses because no women's hair salon category as such exists for licensing purposes. The relatively small number of official salons is in reality dwarfed by the many unregistered or hidden salons actually doing business across the country. It is difficult for women to get to salons as they cannot drive or travel alone in Saudi Arabia so many freelance hairdressers and casual stylists fill that niche in the market.
Different interpretations of the laws governing the taking of photographs or displaying images of women make it more challenging for hair or beauty care services and products to be promoted. Salons cannot have street windows or use images of women as promotional tools to the public. Therefore, mega salons showcase (inside the salon) photos of their foreign staff with their coloured or styled hair as tangible proof of the quality haircare services offered. New media which allows for direct promotion and communication between salons and their clients plays a crucial role in the salon market. Social networking sites – which cover topics such as make up and hair care and other issues – can attract over a million Saudi women. Client referrals are also an effective marketing tool for Saudi Arabian salons.
The Saudi Arabian market is conservative and this is reflected in the relatively restricted range of brands and products used in salons. Stylists maintain that their clients are unwilling to take risks with new products. Brand-wise, it is a two horse race between L'Oreal and Wella. However, launches of new salon brands are doing well so the top brands' dominance of the Saudi Arabian professional channel will be challenged.
Looking ahead, all haircare experts consulted by Diagonal Reports are confident that strong growth will continue in the Saudi market. The number of women in paid employment will increase from its current low of 6% of the workforce. Saudi Arabian women's increased exposure via the internet and media to beauty trends outside of the KSA is making them more sophisticated and demanding as consumers. They now want more than the local fashions and standards.
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Diagonal Reports tracks trends in the global beauty and wellness market. It is the leading specialist in the professional hair and skincare market worldwide.