The Interview: Bridget Healy, Managing Director, Laser Clinics UK

Bridget Healy

Beauty salons opened their doors to eager customers in England earlier this month, after the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden gave the green light.

The green light followed widespread dismay and anger at the Government’s decision to allow pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and barbers to restart trading on 4 July, while beauty salons remained closed.

Treatments on the face, including face waxing, make-up application, dermarolling, microblading and electrolysis are allowed to resume from tomorrow, 1 August.

Laser Clinics UK has a network of 13 individually owned aesthetic clinics across the UK, offering facial and body treatments including laser hair removal, skin treatments and cosmetic injectables.

Managing Director of Laser Clinics UK, Bridget Healy speaks to TheIndustry.fashion’s The Beauty Edit about how the company entered the UK market, demographic, plans for expansion and the impact of COVID-19 on the business.

Tell us about you and your history with Laser Clinics UK. How did you get involved in the business?

I actually was working with a consultancy firm and then joined KKR, which is a large private equity company and while I was working there we invested in Laser Clinics Australia as a majority investor.

At the time there was about 70 clinics in Australia, so it was a significant business but at that point we thought that we could really take this business and its’ model internationally. So, I spent about 18 months working with Laser Clinics Australia, including its international expansion strategy.

I then went to New York to work on a few different things for a year and then I arrived in the UK just before the lockdown to lead the UK operations.

You’ve only entered the UK market in the last 12 months, what has that journey been like?

So there were three clinics that were set up by another business that we acquired, together we built the first 13 clinics and then at that point we took over fully as Laser Clinics UK. When I started in February, we had nine clinics that were operational and as of today we have 13, with four added during lockdown.

We have a huge expansion plan, we want to see 100+ clinics in the UK.

So, you think there’s a large business opportunity in the UK?

We see the opportunity here in the UK as huge. In Australia I don’t know a single woman who waxes – in the UK a lot of women are still waxing, as are men. I think that everyone should have the opportunity to have aesthetic treatments at an affordable price. I think here we have the opportunity to do that really quickly.

As you successfully built the Laser Clinics Australia brand, how does the business in Australia differ to the UK?

I think a lot of the differences in the Australia to UK market is pricing. In Australia laser hair removal is extremely cheap and affordable – an underarms treatment for about £7, here you’re looking at £50 for a medical practitioner to do it. Part of it is the affordability, but part of it is recognition of the treatment – in Australia you see clinics on every high street and there’s just not that level of recognition in the UK yet.  

When comparing to at home devices or treatments, we’re so accessible and affordable – why would anyone put their trust in an operator or device at home? My job in the UK is to dispel the myth that laser hair removal is expensive.

What is the demographic of your customers in the UK?

We do tend to see 90-95% female customers, although increasingly men are interested in our treatments. We treat all skin types, extremely fair skin all the way to extremely dark skin – our treatments and lasers are tailored for all skin types.

In terms of age, for injectable treatments our customers range from 18-75, for laser hair it’s more popular around our younger demographics. We are here to help anyone achieve the aesthetic outcome that they would like – we welcome everyone.  

Throughout business there’s lots of confident women, from staff in the clinics to the management – is that intentional?

It was intentional for our clinical staff to be all female because we treat intimate parts of the body, we find that female customers are only comfortable with female therapists.   In terms of management – I’m the Managing Director for the UK, a 30 year old female who fits right into our majority target demographic.

Most of our clinic owners are female and all of our clinic managers are female. I feel really strongly that having a 95% female customer base, it makes sense for our management team and ownership to reflect that.  

Within that 5% that are assigned male at birth, not all would still either identify as male, or represent the typical heterosexual male, does this come into play with decision making too?

We have a couple of clinics in Australia where over 50% of the customers identify as LGBTQ+ community and that’s a really safe place for them to get any type of treatment.

We also have a number of transgender clients – we really are here to help, make people comfortable without judgement. We haven’t made much progress in the UK with the LGBTQ+ community yet, but it’s certainly a demographic we want to focus on in the future.

If you’re to reflect on these last 12 months, as a Managing Director – how has the business done?

That’s a really good question – especially with COVID in the middle of our first year. I think in our initial months we were really positive and well received. We did see a slow growth as we wanted to test the market and educate, such as to dispel the myth that we can’t treat darker skin types.

Just before COVID we were starting to get real traction, then we were hit with four months of lockdown. We were meant to open on 4 July, the Government said we were excluded which was frankly a discriminatory decision – I was so angry – for them to think that going for the pub for a drink was safer and more important than getting serious acne treatment or removing hair growth…

I engaged with the Women and Equalities Commission (Caroline Nokes), who was absolutely brilliant and a big supporter of our efforts. I think partially due to her and the outrage that was seen from business owners and customers throughout the UK, we were able to open on 13 July.

In our three weeks since reopening, we have been really encouraged by customers coming back in at about 70% compared to previous.

Facial treatments can’t resume yet, has that impacted you in these last few weeks?

The Government were very categorical in saying that we cannot treat the face, so we’re not doing any skin treatments to the face at the moment and that is about 25% of our business normally.

We can start performing facial treatments from tomorrow, 1 August, so I’m really excited and we’ve had a lot of people pre-booking their treatments.

What treatments do you offer in the clinic?

Laser hair removal is our biggest category but within the skin treatment category we do laser facials, micro dermabrasion, peels, vascular reductions and skin needling to increase collagens. We also do cosmetic injectables, so we have a registered medical practitioner at each of our clinics who are trained to do fillers – which is an increasingly popular part of our business.  

If you look towards the next 12 months, where do you go from here?

In the next 12 months I’d like to see another 10 clinics open in the UK.

That’ll rely on continued strong demand from customers and finding fantastic franchisees who want to join our network. We have a 50/50 model with our clinic owners and the corporate office and a fabulous franchisee is incredibly welcome to us.

We’re trying to see COVID as a bit of an opportunity, there’ll be some great retail sites opening up!  

I’m also keen for us to introduce more treatments so we can cater to everyone’s changing aesthetic desires. There are some great innovations in injectables that I would like to see implemented in our clinics.  

We can exclusively announce with you that we will be implementing Candela lasers to our network by the end of August – they are the fastest and best lasers available. The advantage of those lasers is that right now it takes a little bit longer for us to treat darker skin tones, but these new lasers will mean we can treat them in the same amount of time as everyone else. It’s super exciting!

And finally, how does Laser Clinics UK compare to its competitors?

We are the only ones who actively publish our prices – we are affordable, it should be cheaper than waxing and accessible to all.

The friendliness and warmth of our staff is also another important thing compared to other companies – we have very thorough training programmes for all of our staff so customers are in safe and trusted hand.

And finally – convenience. We’re located on high streets and busy shopping centres, open seven days a week during full shopping hours so we’re ready to treat and help customers achieve their objective.