Manicure mania: The business that nailed the beauty boom

As the high street suffers, the growing market for glamour has given one trade a remarkable lift

Tima Reshad opened Coco Nail Bar in west London in 2011, “right in the middle of the recession”. It was a gamble – all the more so given that she was six weeks pregnant at the time – but two years later she is cashing in, having successfully clawed her way into one of the few booming industries left in the UK.

Careful consumers and competition from online retailers continues to chip away at the traditional British high street. According to a report published today, town centres have lost 5 per cent of their outlets in the past two years and 5,000 more stores are forecast to close in the next five.

Yet the number of nail bars emitting wafts of acetone fumes and displaying outrageously-decorated talons in town centres across the country has risen by 10.4 per cent in the past two years, according to research by the Local Data Company and Oxford University’s Said Business School.

On London’s Portobello Road, while businesses around her fold at an alarming rate, Reshad, 36, who originally trained as a nutritionist before deciding to opt for “something more fun”, is planning a major refit of her store to accommodate the growing custom.

She is unperturbed by competition from a new American-style nail bar which opened a few days ago only a few shops along.

“We get all sorts of people: women, men, children (their youngest client is three-and-a-half), all from different backgrounds”, she says.

From the early hours until 10pm, customers can be found brightening their talons from a selection of 222 shades of varnish (“we’ve run out of space for the rest”) – and an extensive range of gels and nail wraps – and soaking up the fully-stocked bar and regular DJ.

Weekends are packed with hen parties and birthday bashes – often children’s parties. For Emily Garrett, 30, who has been getting her nails done – first with acrylic, now gel – once a week, religiously, for three years, it is “an affordable luxury”.

“I spend £60 a month on my nails,” she says. “Manicures used to be more for the rich and famous but now all the girls I know get it done. It makes me feel like a proper grown-up. If my nails look wicked I feel more in control of my life.”

Helena Biggs is deputy editor of specialist nail title Scratch Magazine and author of the forthcoming book Nail Art: Inspiring Design by the World’s Leading Nail Technicians.

To accommodate the spiralling number of different types of nail art, the industry’s “Scratch Stars Awards”, which started two years ago in recognition of the boundless trend for fancy nails, has had to add new categories.

“The products being used are consistently innovating,” Ms Biggs explains. “On top of the traditional polish using paints and strips, there are various ranges of false options to consider – be they acrylic or gel – not to mention decals and add-ons such as crystals, rings and plastic bows.”

The demand is so high that after dominating the market for a few years, brands such as OPI and Essie are facing new competition in UK salons from American professional brand Morgan Taylor. But it is the British economy that is seeing a lift. Ms Biggs argues: “With so much on offer, your nails can make or break an outfit. Even when we are going through the worst parts of a recession and you can’t afford a new outfit, for £25 you can still get new nail art and get a whole new image.”

For Don Wilson, who works as a carpenter nearby, the changing face of his local high street is not a reason to be cheerful. “You used to be able to buy stuff you needed. Now if I need a bag of screws or a spanner, I can’t find one but everywhere you look there’s a bloody beauty salon,” he says grimly.

But for the ladies (and occasional gent) at Coco, where treatments start at £7.50 for a polish change, and the controversial Little Hands Manicure – “tailored for younger skin finished with a fun polish (for those under 13)” at £5 – it is all very jolly.

Beautician Miriam, who is from Spain and had been working in salons around the world for 13 years before joining Coco a year-and-a-half ago, thinks the rise of British nail culture is remarkable. “I say to my friends at home, you can come here and have a drink, meet friends – it’s a social thing. It’s fun, it’s crazy,” she said.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living