Knockouts, a full-service salon franchise that would make Floyd the barber blush, is busting into New England.Naomi Kooker reports in the Boston Business Journal that Neko Corp., headed by Bing Yeo of Lexington, bought the rights to franchise the salons that have been dubbed the “Hooters of haircutting,” where a scantily clad “specially chosen staff of female stylists” provides professional grooming services, including haircuts, coloring, waxing, manicures, pedicures and massages for men.
Yeo purchased the rights in June to develop the franchises or sub-franchise the stores in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. He plans to open his first store in Greater Boston by the end of this year or early 2008. He is looking in Allston-Brighton, among other areas, to open the first store, though no lease is signed.
The franchise agreement gives him 15 years to roll out 20 stores; but Yeo, a business consultant, said his goal is to roll out that many in five years, focusing on the eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire markets.
Yeo did not disclose the cost of his agreement. Knockouts’ one-time franchise fee is $20,000 per location, with a 6 percent royalty fee thereafter. A 1 percent national advertising fee is also implemented after a store opens.
To date, some Knockouts franchisees have reported brisk business and profit margins exceeding 20 percent.
The concept comes at a time when other salon chains geared toward men are entering Greater Boston. For example, Floyd’s 99 Barbershop opened in Boston earlier this year.
However, none require the stylists’ uniforms that Knockout does.
“I wouldn’t deny the sex appeal,” said Yeo, who lists his wife, Winnie Yeo, as the director of the company on his Web site. “It’s certainly part of the branding.”
Yeo confirmed that the stylists, all women, are professional and certified, yet need to be friendly and attractive. He conceded the short-shorts worn by Knockouts stylists in Texas may not go over well in New England, and he’s deciding on an alternative such as dresses that are worn by stylists in Atlanta. “That outfit works in terms of the girls willing to wear those, and the customers really appreciate them,” he said.
Yeo said the target demographic for customers is men, ages 18 to 55, though women and children are welcome.
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The stores, with a boxing theme, are 1,000 square feet to 1,500 square feet and feature eight to nine haircutting stations surrounded by a boxing ring. Each station has a medium-size flat-screen TV. In other states customers are offered a free beer, but Massachusetts’ stringent liquor laws prohibit that service. Complimentary nonalcoholic beverages will be offered instead.
Most haircuts cost $25 or more and include two washes, consultation and head and shoulder massages; other services cost between $3 for a beard trim to $90 for a massage.
Build-outs, which include the lease and remodeling, cost between $15,000 and $40,000. Total startup costs, including equipment, are between $90,000 and $190,000. Each store employs five to seven people.
Retailing expert and lecturer Rick Segel, based on Cape Cod, called the concept “inevitable” given the growth in the adult entertainment industry and extensions of it, such as establishments like Hooters. “If it’s done right and done professionally and tastefully … they’re a huge success. The old line, sex sells — it really does.”
“We’ve done an excellent job of not crossing the line,” said Tom Friday, CEO of Knockouts Management Company LLC, the chain’s parent company, based in Irving, Texas. He founded the concept when he opened the first store in Addison, Texas, in 2003.
Knockouts has nine locations nationwide with 123 franchises, including Yeo’s, slated to open over the next few years.
Texas-based Sports Clips Inc., another sports-themed haircutting chain geared toward men, is Knockouts’ main competitor. It currently has 447 franchised stores nationwide; it employs men and women stylists and does not require them to wear skimpy outfits.
Cross Posted at: Let’s Talk Franchising