Have you ever had an argument, maybe with a friend or your spouse, and after going round and round, you realize that you’re actually on the same side of things? Or that when you said a particular phrase it meant one thing to your partner and a completely different thing to you, even though it was the exact same phrase? Isn’t it funny — and frustrating — that despite how well we know each other, the fact that we speak the same language, and maybe share a lot of the same experiences, acquaintances, and goals, we don’t always communicate very well? That’s how I sometimes feel when I’m working on the Big Book and trying to figure out the figures.

Saying anything with absolute certainty is difficult when you’re relying on an entrepreneurial industry that’s  selfreporting this data. We look at the numbers in aggregate, but we also go in and look at individual records from our surveys. We can assume, for example, that someone who wrote “3500” as her pedicure price probably just forgot a decimal point, but what about the person who wrote “250”? Is she working at a high-end spa or did her finger slip  on the keyboard? In either case, she’s what we call an “outlier” so we end up not counting her. And what about those contradictions? If someone says she works 20 hours a week but sees 40 clients, we scratch our heads.

We try so hard to provide data that can be relied on, backed up, defended, and used as a benchmark. And every year, we feel like we improve our methodology a bit more. This year, we think we’ve made some big improvements so  we’ve actually gone back in time and re-created some of our prior data related to Market Size (see sidebar for a thorough explanation). In prior years we didn’t feel that we fully accounted for the size of the Vietnamese market and as a result may have overestimated the industry size in the early 2000s. So the information presented below is  an adjustment to prior years, and flawed though it may be, it’s the best we have right now and we feel confident  we’ve moved the bar up with respect to statistical standards.

We appreciate your support and your feedback on the data. I’m especially grateful to our sponsor, OPI Products, George Schaeffer in particular, who uses this information in his crusade to heighten awareness of professional nail care around the globe. This data has caused not only mainstream media but governmental concerns and even other industries to look at the professional nail industry with a higher level of respect. I sure hope you look at yourselves that way.





Although admittedly imprecise and a mixture of guesswork, gut instinct, and survey data, developing these statistics is nonetheless complex, professional, and scrupulous. An explanation of how we come up with the numbers is  explained below.

We did a survey in September 2008 of a representative sampling of professional nail technicians. We received 2,377 responses. We did another survey to Vietnamese nail technicians and received 791 responses. Most of the data in these stats is based on this survey; some figures are based on a survey done in 2007.

The Market Size Projection on this page is developed with a formula we’ve refined over the years, and it’s based on the average number of services performed and the prices for four key categories (basic manicures, basic pedicures, acrylic full set, acrylic fill). We multiply that by the average hours worked times the number of practicing nail techs.

Then we do the same calculation for the Vietnamese market because Vietnamese salons are known for having significantly lower service prices, and we add these two large totals together to come up with our Market Size Projection.

We have two ways of verifying this information, and when crosschecked, these figures still hold up: We can calculate the total amount of earnings by nail technicians and check that against their percentage of service tickets.

The second verification method is we know what nail techs pay for supplies and have a pretty good estimate of what their  “cost of goods” is. Again, when we do that calculation we come up with a number for market size in the same ballpark.

That’s a lot of explanation and perhaps more math than you’ve done since high school, but we share it to show you the seriousness of the data, the scope of the project, and the true magnitude of this great industry of ours.