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Industry • COVID-19

Tipping Science: What Stylist Gratuity Reveals About Service Quality & Loyalty

When is a great tip more than a great tip? Boulevard platform data shows that salon tips are one of the first indicators that your beauty business is bouncing back from the pandemic.

As in many service industries, beauty businesses rely on client tips to supplement employee income. This revenue is crucial for stylists across the country, especially as we emerge from COVID-19. What salon managers and stylists don’t always realize is that tips can reveal a lot about the health of your business. People don’t necessarily just tip what is expected of them; our data reveals that clients tip better for quality services — and a slight variation in tip can predict whether a client will plan a return visit. 

To explain why let’s look at Boulevard platform data and see the impact of a good tipper on your beauty business.

West Coast city-dwellers out-tip NYC

We should start by saying there are many reasons clients tip what they do — everyone should give what they’re comfortable tipping, and we’re not here to judge. That said, let’s get to the spicy bit: Where can you find the best tippers in the United States?

Average first tip graphic

*Includes data from all Boulevard salon partners between June 2017 and December 2020. For more information, view the whitepaper published by our independent analyst, Jacob Kolhepp.

According to our data, clients on the West Coast are typically the most generous with their gratuities. The average Hollywood tip adds 20.1% to the base appointment cost, while Beverly Hills and Santa Monica bring 21.1% and 19.4%, respectively.

They say if you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. For stylists, that’s true — because they only earn 16.1% in tips. Boston boasts an impressive 20%, but that seems to be an exception on the East Coast.

The best all-around tippers, however, don’t hail from either region. They’re in Nashville, Tennessee, where the average tip is a whopping 22.7% of the final bill. Bless your hearts, Nashville. We love y’all.

Higher tips predict client loyalty

Of course, tips benefit the stylist receiving them, but high tips are also indicators of healthy beauty businesses. According to our data, clients who plan to return will generally tip more during their first visit than one-timers. The difference is relatively small: Returning clients tip 19.3% on average, compared to 17.8% for one-time clients. 

An above-average tip is also a good hint that a client plans to come back. We found that clients who tipped above average for a stylist were 3.7 percentage points more likely to return than those who did not. To put that in perspective, only about 25% of the clients returned to the same stylist in our data. The takeaway? An above-average tipper is 15% more likely to come back to your chair.

loyalty tipping graphic

*Includes data from all Boulevard salon partners between June 2017 and December 2020. For more information, view the whitepaper published by our independent analyst, Jacob Kolhepp.

Focus on service quality to drive up tips

So, how can you tap into that tip sweet spot? Our data shows that clients are more likely to tip higher based on stylist quality. The chart below demonstrates these findings. We used each stylist’s retention rate as a proxy for quality — if lots of folks come back, you’re doing something right! We found that there is a direct relationship between stylist quality and the average tips they receive. For example, if your city’s average tip is 19%, a stylist in the 10th percentile might receive an 18% tip, while a stylist in the 90th percentile would receive a 20.6% tip.

quality tipping graphic

*Includes data from all Boulevard salon partners between June 2017 and December 2020. For more information, view the whitepaper published by our independent analyst, Jacob Kolhepp.

If 2.6 percentage points don’t feel like much, consider this:

  • The median appointment cost is approximately $115, therefore;

  • That 2.6% difference will equal $3 per appointment;

  • The median number of appointments per week is 22;

  • Which drives an additional $66 per week;

  • Totaling an additional $264 per month, per stylist.

Who says you can’t put a price on quality?

Use tipping to gauge post-pandemic recovery

As vaccination ramps up, more clients will come back to the salon. It’s a critical time for beauty businesses, and those high tips will be an excellent indicator that your salon is bouncing back from the pandemic’s lows. Going the extra mile to offer quality service will drive earn you a few long-term clients. Tips are a good signal of post-pandemic business recovery (and they're great for your bottom line!).

With that in mind, now is the time to keep doing what you do best, and then some. Make clients aware of any new safety precautions. Consider offering a discount to first-time returning clients. And, as always, work with them to create fantastic styles that look great even when they’re wearing a mask.

Get started with your own tipping analysis directly within the Boulevard dashboard. Partners can review tips at the business level, or see breakdowns for individual stylists. This reporting functionality is a valuable tool for coaching your team, identifying areas for optimization, and celebrating wins. If you’re not yet a partner, drop in for a demo so we can show you what our platform can do.