I was having dinner with a high-profile executive from the hairdressing industry recently and we were talking about the future of bricks and mortar retail outlets and the horrifying prediction that within 10 years estimates suggest half of them will have closed.
This, we agreed, was not good news for the hair and beauty sector.
But who exactly is going to suffer the most? He predicted that the chains, the established brands which had multiple outlets, would be the safest and that the little independent salons (let’s call them ‘Hair by Hellen’) would be the first to go.
I couldn’t have disagreed more. Those salons, I suggested, would be the ones who would survive. Why? Because they aren’t faceless or generic. They are individual, they have one unique asset; their customer relationship. And I know I’m not wrong. Watching an economist on BBC Breakfast this morning, I was intrigued to find her saying exactly the same. The independent sector is in growth – the large, multiple chains, with no client loyalty, are suffering. And our industry won’t be any different.
Difficult financial times are all about survival of the fittest. Its dog eats dog. Only the strong survive. In our sector, those who nurture and encourage real customer engagement, where the staff become the salon or brand in the eyes of their consumer, will outlive those looking to replicate a tired formula – the cookie cutter principal just doesn’t apply in what we do for a living. Those looking to optimise their customer relationship, to use their client data to establish and cement existing relationships will see off any of the big boys when it really matters.
The smart money is on the people who have woken up and smelt this coffee, and are looking at diverse methods to make their salons feel more like an exclusive club than a cut and paste hair or beauty business. They will outlive everyone else. I’ve got money on it.