The Shape of Things to Come – What’s the Future of Barbering?
From supporting the high street and opening in supermarkets to diversifying with grooming treatments and barista-crafted coffee – the future of barbering is heading in lots of exciting directions…
We all know the barbering industry is booming – in the past 12 months alone the number of barbershops on Britain’s high streets has risen by 414 units, according to The Local Data Company. Along with vape shops, the barbershop is the fastest growing retailer on the high street with 5,792 barbers at last count*. The big question is whether this growth will continue.
The trend for the traditional high street barbershop could be set to level off as barbers start to set up shop in more unusual spaces such as retail outlets, coffee shops and spas. In fact, there are now 6,307 barbers in shopping centres, which is an increase of 5% in the past 12 months*.
HJ Men spoke to those in the know about the new direction that barbering is taking and how to stand out from the crowd in an era of increased competition.
The prediction: The spa-based barbershop will become a trend Chris O’Sullivan, director of Grizzly’s Male Hair Salon, is opening a salon in the new South Lodge Spa in West Sussex
“South Lodge Hotel is known for its amazing service, high quality and outstanding facilities. At Grizzly’s we share the same brand values so when they approached us with a deal to open a branch in the new South Lodge Spa, we couldn’t say no.
Our existing high street barbershop, which opened a year and half ago offers a high-end alternative to the walk-in barbershops in our area. I can see the new spa branch as a template for future Grizzly’s spa salons, which is why I’m operating the high street business and the spa business as separate entities.
Being at South Lodge Spa will give us a good footfall as our clients will be a mix of spa members, people staying at the hotel on business and wedding guests (there will be roughly 80 weddings a year). When we open in March, we’ll tailor our menu to fit our clientele and offer groomsmen packages and luxury beard grooming, as well as the usual trims and shaves.
I predict that barbering will continue to boom, but we will see barbershops opening in new and exciting spaces – not just on the high street.”
The prediction: Barbershops will embrace the power of the supermarket concession Darran Gould runs Gould Barbers with his brother Leigh and the duo have 18 concessions in Tesco retail outlets
“There can be negativity around big supermarket companies, but we haven’t experienced anything other than support from our partnership with Tesco. We still own our company and Tesco backs our growth and provides us with locations. For example, in 2018 they gave us 100 locations to visit, we selected our favourites and opened 10 shops in 10 weeks!
Our Tesco barbershops are much busier than a high-street shop, because of the condensed footfall from the supermarket. I do understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. For example, we struggled to get some barbers to work for us when we first opened because they thought it might not be cool enough for them. I believe an ‘everyman’ appeal is the secret to our success.
Throughout my barbering career I’ve had customers who are young, old and everything in between. Barbershops who only cater to a ‘cool’ client are only getting a small share of the market. Gould Barbers caters for everyone. We have been likened to Costa Coffee – we have a recognisable brand, and everyone is welcome – I think that sums us up very well.”
The prediction: Men’s hairdressing will be trendy again Ross Charles, owner of Ross Charles Hairdressing in York, has been working as a hairdresser since the early 1990s
“I don’t think the barbershop bubble will burst, but it might start to level off. We are still seeing a lot of fades and line-ups, but they have been around for several years.
Of course, barbers are adding their personal touches, but as a whole I don’t believe there are many truly new barbering trends. Men’s hairdressing on the other hand has changed completely. It’s moved further away from barbering and the rise in men wanting long hair has played a significant role in this growth. At Ross Charles Hairdressing we have a barbering section and a men’s hairdressing area.
We deliberately keep them separate from each other. We have hired members of the team who are solely barbers because we saw the sector growing, but we still invest a lot into our men’s hairdressing service as we recognise its importance.”
The prediction: Barbers will have to diversify to stand out from the crowd Manoj Solanki runs a salon/coffee shop in the City of London called Man.Oj Coffee & Cuts
“The men’s grooming industry has grown over the years and the competition has doubled. This made me think about what I could do to stand out. The enthusiasm for coffee has grown alongside the boom in barbering, so I thought why not blend the two together?
Every client at Man.Oj who has a hair service, receives a complementary hand-roasted speciality coffee. Five years ago, there were three other barbershops in the area and it’s now increased to six. Hairdressing shops, on the other hand seem to have plateaued, so we have opened a women’s salon downstairs to fill that demand.
The continuing increase in rent and rates, especially in London, means barbers and hairdressers will have to look at more cost effective and innovative ways to do the job they love with the least amount of overheads.”
The prediction: Businesses will have to personalise their services Jim Shaw, owner of Essensuals Billericay, believes the industry has to tap into the ultra-personalisation trend
“There’s much more to men’s hair than clippering! We give a full consultation to our male clients taking into account their hair and their skin, as well as allocating them a full 45-minute appointment to ensure we have given a thorough service. It allows time to answer any questions they may have and to recommend suitable at-home hair and skin care products.
I believe barbering and men’s hairdressing will continue to grow as the 21st century man becomes increasingly aware of his appearance. It’s important to stay ahead in this industry and offer services before your competitors. Men no longer want to just come into the salon for a haircut, they want the full experience – to get their hair cut, their beard shaped, their eyebrows trimmed and potentially to have a facial too.”
The prediction: Slow and steady growth will win the race Denis Robinson, creative director at Ruffians, sings the praises of the traditional high street barbershop
“At Ruffians we never rush. We carefully select our spaces and recruit people locally for each store. Each Ruffians has a very specific personality, so central recruitment and mass expansion doesn’t work for us. Our store managers consider whether a person will fit in with the destination. I believe there is room for many different incarnations of barbershops as there are many different types of clients.
Some people like the ease of a walk-in-and-wait service but equally there are many who enjoy the stability of a relationship with one barber they can book regularly and count on. I think it is important to be able to meet the needs of whoever walks through your door rather than being elitist.
Essentially, our stores are a refuge from the hustle and bustle of day to day life so growing steadily on the high street is where we see our future.”
The Future of Barbering – The Fundamentals
Hilary Hall, NHF chief executive, shares three ways you can stay on the right track in an era of increased competition
1. Think carefully about your prices Many barbershops charge low prices which rely on high volumes of sales, but these are difficult to achieve when there are competing businesses up and down the high street. In theory this can send barbershops into a spiral of ever-decreasing prices.
2. Pay employees the right wage The National Living Wage is the rate that employees aged 25 and over must be paid by law. Take note: it will increase to £8.21 in April 2019. The National Minimum Wage has several rates depending on whether the employee is an apprentice, in the first or second year of their apprenticeship and also their age (the rates go up on key birthdays as well as in April each year).
3. Consider a cash-only policy wisely There is evidence to suggest that some barbershops are operating cash-only businesses to save money and work under the radar. Do not ignore the responsibilities you have as a business owner and a tax payer.
*Retail Intelligence Business, Local Data Company, 2019 figures
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 of HJ Men. Find out how to become a member here