Inside a red brick building with Juliet balconies on a charming block in Winchester, England, is a place of total serenity. Incense wafts through the air, a natural vine climbs across emerald green walls, and light pours in through floor-to-ceiling bay windows on each level of the four-story space.
Welcome to Sarah Barrett, a hybrid hair salon, spa and lifestyle store run by “like-minded individuals who share a lifelong passion for organic products, hairdressing and well-being excellence, and ethical and sustainable sourcing.” They offer services such as ammonia-free hair dye treatments, massages with essential oils and makeovers using organic products.
The luxury space’s relaxing design is a physical manifestation of a philosophy of care via products that are good for the planet and customers. And though the salon has offered its signature organic services and products since 2009, when CEO Jack Parnell and his mother, Sarah Barrett, opened the business’ doors, the trendsetting appeal of their model became more apparent as the Covid-19 pandemic increased consumer interest in organic products and wellness.
Jack Parnell is the CEO of Sarah Barrett.
“People are living healthier, greener lifestyles,” Jack said. With more time to think about their relationship with the environment, “they understand the value of what we’re doing for them and the planet."
Indeed, four out of five adults in the United Kingdom reported adopting a more sustainable lifestyle during the pandemic, according to a Deloitte UK survey. It found that about one-third of adults seek brands with strong sustainable and ethical credentials.
Interest in organic and “clean” wellness has likewise been gaining greater attention. A recent McKinsey survey reported people increasingly prioritized wellness over the past two to three years, including for “natural/clean” skincare and cosmetic products.
It’s a notable change from when Sarah Barrett first opened. Back then, Jack had to invest time educating stylists on new products and techniques and selling clients on why all-organic treatments were better for their hair and the environment.
Sarah Barrett’s four-story salon offers a variety of spa and haircare services.
The business is continuously innovating by always vetting new products and offering experiences to set a standard that goes above and beyond for clients – whether they’re getting a facial, haircut or other treatment.
During shampoos, for example, clients receive a tension-releasing head massage that’s become a crowd favorite. In 2017, Sarah Barrett started offering six tiers of spa and hair membership plans, allowing clients to pay an annual fee for unlimited hair and spa treatments. By doing so, the salon is encouraging members to frequently treat themselves to a day at the salon without worrying about post-relaxation payment. The salon also introduced manicures and pedicures after clients said that they wanted safe, organic nail treatments.
“We’re not the type of salon that just takes your money and provides a service. We want to actually improve our customers’ lives,” Jack said.
Salon guests can sit around a table facing one another during services.
It promotes a sense of community, Jack said.
Perhaps the business’ most important innovation was creatively adapting the business during the pandemic to continue to care for clients. It did this by adjusting services, opening an online store, reinventing its social media presence and adding PayPal QR codes and Zettle by PayPal to allow customers to pay for services from a safe social distance.
As England went through a series of on-and-off lockdowns, Jack and his team acted quickly to make their clients and staff feel safe. They opened an online store, offering PayPal Checkout, so clients could easily buy their favorite products to use at home.
During brief reopenings, the salon staff took extra precautions to keep clients safe,
including providing them with biodegradable capes and PPE.
Longtime customer Nina Beck said the online store was her pandemic savior. “I’d never purchased [beauty supplies] online before, but it was marvelous – and it kept me going in between lockdowns,” she said.
The salon also started a virtual well-being series on its Instagram page, sharing yoga video tutorials and guided meditations that generated grateful responses. “In crisis there’s always opportunity,” Jack said. “If you adapt, and you’re open to change, then you can actually thrive.”
As Covid cases declined, clients were eager for the salon to reopen once more, which it did in April 2021. Before it reopened, “For the first time in 38 years I let my wife cut my hair,” said Robin Britton, a regular client. “I still have both my ears, but I was so glad when the salon reopened.”
A PayPal QR code on the salon’s mirrors allows guests to pay quickly for their service.
In keeping with its business philosophy, the salon used non-toxic cleaning products for reopening, plus personal protective equipment made entirely of recycled materials. Jack also ensured the easy payment technologies were available on-site to support safe and secure transactions. Initially, the salon affixed PayPal QR codes to its mirrors, allowing guests to conveniently scan and pay for their service right from their chair.
The addition of Zettle card readers provides another payment option for guests who may not have the PayPal app. Stylists typically bring the card reader to clients 10 minutes before an appointment ends, and clients simply tap their card to pay. The quick payment options allow clients to make the most of their time at Sarah Barrett and avoid delays.
“A business like ours is always forward-thinking, always wanting to innovate, bring new things to the table and excite people,” Jack said.
The technologies benefit the business, too. Using PayPal QR Codes and Zettle card readers allows Jack to track services and purchases in real-time, from anywhere in the world. This enables him to fulfill his role as CEO while tending to business elsewhere, even when checking in during vacations.
A salon guest pays for their haircut using the PayPal Zettle reader.
In the future, Jack hopes to open a 5,000-square-foot Sarah Barrett wellness center with hairstyling, spa treatments, health foods and an organic café and library. He envisions it as a place where people can come, take a load off and purchase products that are good for them and the planet.
“As things change in the economy and the industry, we feel that communities and cities around the world will need sustainable wellness centers,” he said. “The sky’s the limit on what we can achieve.”
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