British Nail Salon Chain Townhouse Plots Major US Expansion

Townhouse is setting up shop in the United States in a big way.

The British nail chain is set to open its first stateside salon off of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills next month. The 1,500-square-foot space will offer what the company calls signature and luxury manicures and pedicures as well as nail color refreshes and gel treatments priced from $40 to $100. Five to six additional locations are scheduled to open in the Los Angeles area this year before the concept expands to a second U.S. market in 2025, when another 30 locations are in the pipeline. 

Townhouse’s premium yet approachable positioning played a key role in determining the locale for its debut location in the U.S. Miami was considered before Los Angeles won the top spot. “Our brand is aspirational,” says Juanita Huber-Millet, founder and creative director of Townhouse. “So, it’s really important when bringing in a new brand from the U.K. that we go for that aspirational market, and we really felt like that’s what LA is to us.”

Townhouse aims to plant a location in every major metropolitan area in the U.S. over the next five years before pushing into suburban neighborhoods, a strategy that it’s followed in its home country, where it has dotted locations throughout London, Guildford, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham and Wilmslow. It plans on shifting to a franchise model in the future to supercharge U.S. growth.

Huber-Millet identifies labor and costly construction as Townhouse’s primary challenges in the U.S. In the U.K., freestanding locations generally take 25 days to build from start to finish. Townhouse’s forthcoming LA salon has been under construction for almost two months.

Townhouse founder and creative director Juanita Huber-Millet
Townhouse founder and creative director Juanita Huber-Millet

As Townhouse enters the largest beauty market in the world, Huber-Millet is confident that its high-quality service and Instagram-worthy interiors will distinguish it from the competition. “It’s not just about having a beautiful salon and the latest technology or seamless online bookings,” she says. “We’ve got the customer care element. We’ve got reliable treatments that really last. We really care about our team members, and we want to provide a space that they love working in where they feel like they can grow and they’re valued. I don’t see all of those aspects put together in any other brands so far.”

Premium nail salon chains aren’t a novelty in the U.S., but they represent the minority in an industry that’s largely dominated by individual mom-and-pop businesses. The chains Prose Nails and MiniLuxe, which went public on the Canadian stock exchange in 2022, are going national via franchising while regional companies like Bellacures and Nailbox are clustering within cities. For the 39 weeks ended Oct. 1 last year, MiniLuxe saw $18 million in sales and nearly $6.1 million in net losses. It has 21 nail salons, including three in the LA area. 

Following a pandemic-related 19% dip in 2020 sales, the U.S. nail salon industry rebounded in 2021, when sales totaled $8.53 billion. The industry is forecast to reach $22.6 billion by 2025. As of last year, there were almost 1.5 million hair and nail salons in the U.S., a number that rose 3.7% per year between 2018 and 2023.

Launched in 2018 with three U.K. locations, Huber-Millet created Townhouse to challenge negative associations that have plagued the global nail salon industry for decades. She self-funded the company for its first three years. 

“It’s not well-regarded in any way in beauty. It’s almost the least regarded sector of the beauty industry, and it is associated with those really low quality nail bars that I’ve experienced throughout my life,” says Huber-Millet. “I launched Townhouse because I wanted to revolutionize the nail care sector because I felt like it was so left behind.”

By 2022, Townhouse had added six more locations to its U.K. fleet. Last year, it secured a $9 million series A round led by British family office Stonebridge and venture capital firm JamJar Investments as it opened 31 additional doors. At present, Townhouse operates and owns 40 locations in the U.K. According to financial information resource PitchBook, the company has raised just over $14 million to date. Its headcount encompasses 80 corporate staff and over 500 salon workers who have access to healthcare benefits, free training and paid time off if employed full-time.

The majority of Townhouse locations in the U.K. are freestanding, although there are a handful of mall locations. In 2019, Townhouse opened a concession inside luxury department store Harrods after Huber-Millet reports it fielded interest from the likes of House of Fraser, John Lewis and Selfridges. It’s opened concessions in two of Harrods’ beauty-specific H Beauty locations, too. 

Huber Millet says that all of Townhouse’s U.K. locations are profitable, and the company’s sals overall increased 300% in the past year. Similar to its plan in the U.S., Townhouse is shifting to a franchise model in the U.K. It intends to open 75 franchises in the country over the next few years. Huber-Millet says, “We’ve built a good structure, and we’ve proved our concept. We’re confident to hand that over to franchisees now to carry on building the business.”

Townhouse nail salon in Beverly Hills, California
Launched in the United Kingdom in 2018, Townhouse will plant its flag in the United States next month when it opens its first location off of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Ca. The premium nail salon chain has an aggressive expansion plan to open five to six additional locations in Los Angeles this year as well as 30 locations next year.

Townhouse has largely relied on organic marketing, celebrity buzz and strategic partnerships to build awareness in the past and its U.S. marketing strategy is no different. A press and influencer launch event for the forthcoming Beverly Hills location is on the docket, but, at present, Townhouse has no paid influencer strategy in place. In the U.K., Huber-Millet says that influencers have discovered Townhouse through Instagram and typically share their experience organically. Visits from celebrities like Margot Robbie and Emilia Clark have helped generate buzz.

Townhouse expects to partner with beauty brands on exclusive services and treatments to rev up its U.S. business. Last summer, it collaborated with Chanel on a six-week exclusive manicure treatment featuring nail stickers, skincare and nail varnish products from the luxury beauty brand. It previously partnered with Givenchy on exclusive nail art designs and gifts-with-purchase.

Townhouse is looking to grow its product business as it expands locations. Last year, it introduced a small product line with a $16 cuticle oil and hand cream priced at $14 for a 30-ml. size and $28 for an200-ml. size. The products are sold on Townhouse’s website and in its locations. Representing a tiny fraction of Townhouse’s sales today, the company intends on extending and marketing the product line in 2025.