The Growth of an American Barbershop Chain
Ron Love’s career in barbering has taken him from London’s prestigious Mayfair, to Southern California, and across the USA. Today he works as the president and founder of 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons, where he has overseen the brand’s national franchise growth since 2002.
After a successful career in Britain, Ron moved to the U.S. in 1981, joining Carlton Hair International as a managing partner and later becoming the chief operating officer of the organisation.
During his time at Carlton, he oversaw the growth of twenty-eight Carlton and Linear salons throughout Southern California and was later named the president of the Jose Eber Atelier salon chain.
Since launching18|8 Fine Men’s Salons, he has helped grow the brand to nearly 100 locations, with each salon offering a full range of services, including haircuts, styling, face, scalp and nail treatments to traditional straight-edge razor shaves, waxing and colour.
Ron believes the main reason for the rapid growth and ongoing success of the brand is that it filled an under-served gap in the market. “We offer a place where men can go to get all of their grooming services in an environment that’s truly customised for them. Over the years, we’ve found that guys really do want to look after themselves. It’s not just about a haircut anymore — it’s about the whole grooming package and experience that comes with it. In the 14 years that we’ve been open, we’ve seen that evolution, and it’s really gained a lot of momentum in the past five years. It’s a big part of why we’ve interested so many franchisees in our brand.”
Under Ron’s guidance, the brand is expanding by between two to five locations each month, with 300 additional salons currently in development. “Our company is constantly in development,” says Ron. “Most of our franchisees own the rights to territories that are quite large, and they’re developing multiple salons within those territories. In the next five years, we’re looking to have at least 500 locations within the next three to four years. It’s a lofty goal, but we definitely think we can accomplish it.”
To expand this quickly means having a clear blueprint of what the brand stands for, both for the client and the teams. Says Ron: “From a consumer standpoint, everything at 18|8 has been designed with a male clientele in mind. Our salons are designed specifically to create a sanctuary for guys — each client has their own semi-private grooming station to relax in. I truly believe that what we’re doing is the beginning of the future for men’s hairdressing, and I think we’re leading the field in creating much more of a male environment.
“From a hairdresser’s point of view, above all we are wholly dedicated to our staff. Our company philosophy is that we exist because of our staff. We know that they are such an undeniably important part of our business, we need and want them to be successful. That philosophy permeates throughout our whole culture and is a very significant foundation for us in developing our company. We insist that our franchisees follow through with this in their own salons, and I’m very proud to say that it’s becoming universal in all of our locations. The development of our hairdressers and barbers is very important to us — we want to help develop their careers. We put a lot of value in changing the lives of our staff.”
Keeping up with trends is also important to the success of the brand, and, as in the UK, the US is seeing an increase in demand from male clients for longer styles. “It’s kind of a fun change from the close-cut, clean hair trends we were seeing for a while,” says Ron.
As to whether he would ever bring the 18|8 brand to the UK, Ron is optimistic. “We would love to,” he says. “We’ve had some interest about expanding into the UK; we’d love to make that happen! Our focus is so much on grooming services and I’m really seeing that trend everywhere. I think that as long as we remain innovative and maintain quality across the board, our brand would definitely make an impact in the UK. Quality is universal – if you have the will and enthusiasm to develop a business, you can definitely make an entrance into any new market.”