Nails Inc and the rise of the nail bar

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Tuesday 31st January 2012

It’s not just the weather that’s chilly right now. The economic climate is bleak too, and shopkeepers are struggling to make a living.

But there’s one bright spot on the horizon – and that’s nail bars. Apparently we can’t get enough of them.

Up and down the country they’re among the fastest-growing businesses on the high street. Sales of nail varnish soared to a staggering £179 million in 2010, while in the last three years nail bars have accounted for a sixth of all new retail outlets. Actually, I can vouch for that. A local town near us boasts four nail bars in one short street!

Former Tatler fashion editor Thea Green spotted the trend way ahead of the crowd. She set up Nails Inc in 1999 after visiting nail bars in New York and realising that customers on this side of the Atlantic would love them too. Nails Inc now has 59 stores across the UK and is making plans to expand abroad.

I’m a big fan of Nails Inc (especially the witty London-themed names of their polishes). My idea of a real treat is to walk into Oxford, sit at the sleek white Nails Inc desk on the first floor at Debenhams and have my nails painted a chic grey shade called Porchester Square. For next time I’ve got my eye on a silver-blue glittery one called Maida Vale or Portobello Polish, which is bright orange. You can even buy an aptly-named base coat called Harley Street and hand cream called Kensington Caviar.

I was a nail-biter as a child and even now, seeing my nails buffed to perfection and expertly polished feels special. Even better, it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, fat or thin. You can still have style at your fingertips for a fraction of the cost of a new outfit or handbag.

PS. If having your nails painted one colour is old hat, try Wah Nails. Founded in London’s East End in 2008 by Sharmadean Reid (who wanted to open a salon where you could have “whatever you wanted on your fingertips”), it turns nails into work of art. You can have everything from gold glittery leopard print nails to miniature stars and stripes. I might just give it a go…

Picture:  SFriedbergPhoto on Flickr (Creative Commons)

4 comments so far

  • When I went to the nail bars on my visits to New York, I used to wonder why they didn’t introduce nail bars into the UK. I’m really glad that they have done now. Although I haven’t deserted my regular, excellent, very nice manicurist, it’s nice to know that the nail bars are there if she isn’t available at a time that I need.

    Liz – typed with nail tips of the deepest plum. X

  • I love gels but have them done sparingly and rest the nails in between. This way I have strengthened my very week nails. Nothing else lasts longer than a few days with me. Yes, I have been known to visit the nail bar in Debs too.

  • I’ve tried gels too, Carol, but you’re right. They do need a rest in between. And I might bump into you at the nail bar one day!

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