As we close off 2021 and hope for more freedom and profitability for our industry in 2022, we must recognise that the reboot of hairdressing comes with a big shift in mindset. A significant, and arguably growing, number of hairdressers and clients alike are drifting away from the salon. Get to grips with the reasons and, whether you’re a salon owner/team-leader, or independent stylist, you have a better chance of using the trend to your advantage.
The flexibility of working for yourself, with arguably greater autonomy in career progression and direction is proving highly attractive. Currently, 60% of people in hairdressing and barbering are self-employed. Salons report worrying numbers of staff not returning from Furlough, or choosing to move onto freelance or mobile working patterns. It’s no good just railing at the stats and fretting about which of your team might resign next. Don’t curb your investment in training, or come off Instagram so nobody can see who your clients are and nick them! Rather, you have to understand the changing world and reboot your business accordingly. It’s important to have to look at why going freelance is proving attractive, and then deal with the way this current trend might impact your business and our industry for some time to come.
Dropping on our Respect for Hair in-tray this week, we spot an interesting new piece of research from Capital Hair & Beauty. The company is one of the largest independent suppliers to hair and beauty professionals in the UK, so they have a great overview to draw upon. A recent survey of 2,000 UK adults made by Capital, found that more than 33% of respondents struggle to book hair and beauty appointments that suit their schedule, with haircut slots being the hardest to come by. Many said they are now considering turning to independent, mobile or freelance hairdressers and practitioners in the hope that it could help them get an appointment when they want it. The majority (51%) said they would prefer to have their hair or beauty treatment done in the comfort of their own home, rather than head to a salon.
The survey also revealed that people will pay more for at-home appointments. Almost half (46%) of clients stated they’d be willing to pay more than usual (salon prices) for an appointment with a mobile hairdresser or beauty therapist at their home, with more than a third (37%) happy to pay up to 20% more for this luxury.
Over half (50%) also said they’d spend more to get an out of hours appointment. Forty per cent said they value this flexibility so much so that they would pay 20% more for an appointment in an evening or on a Sunday, when most salons are closed.
What can you do?
It’s uncomfortable reading, but clearly there’s a correlation between the effects of the Covid Pandemic and consumer behaviour. Using local salons close to home rather than previously visiting those near the office is one. And altering the frequency of visits is a clear trend. Equally, some consumers are now more more fearful of visiting any salon premises at all, while others now want to have appointments out of hours or weekdays rather than weekends. It all adds up to a massive shift in behaviour. Salons needs to keep up and reflect this in their offering.
• make yourselves as visible as possible – are you maximising your website, promoting your services on social media? Are you seen in local press enough?
• work with a booking platform perhaps? Booking appointments online is massively popular and there are great services to help. [Visit Fresha for inspiration]
• do your opening hours reflect demand? Is the weekend still the most popular time or has midweek become the new Saturday? Conduct surveys of your clients, study your appointment book, ensure your opening times are the best for you.
• don’t be afraid to raise your prices to ensure you can still offer the optimum service standards. Offer new services, add-ons and options.
The temptation of freelance
Similarly hairdressers themselves are looking to change their work practices. Many salon owners report staff requesting to cut weekend working, or late nights, and questioning whether they can earn more by going solo. The compilers of the Capital Hair & Beauty survey note that a surge in demand for at-home appointments and out of hours treatment may have some professionals now prompted to go solo or mobile in 2022. Equally, we have lost some 7,330 businesses within hair and beauty since March 2020 [ref the British Beauty Council: Local Data Company May 2021 report]. Some hairdressers will have seen their salon close and need to work freelance.
Rather than shying away from the subject, it’s important that we have frank and open discussions in the industry about the challenges of going independent or freelance. Costs of equipment, the need for insurance or licences, the expense of travelling to clients and the need to plan finances to cover holidays and sickness must be addressed. Running a home salon requires more consideration still regarding utilities, water and hygiene regulations. Ensure you maintain your investment in training and create good career opportunities. You can’t withdraw from this and expect your team to stick around.
It’s not interesting to shy away from the realities of our changing work force. To retain standards and continue to instil professionalism in practicing hairdressers, we must resist this grumpy divide between salon based hairdressing and freelancing.
For a good, well set out overview, here’s a suggestion: Earlier this year the British Beauty Council, BABTAC, The UK Spa Association, and the NHBF released a report called Self-Employment in the Personal Care Sector. It highlighted in stats what we know to be happening – that increasingly the self-employed business model is drawing hairdressers out of salons. And it proposes areas for us all, collectively and singly, to work on.
Change can be painful. But it can also make us revisit and revise our practices.
The Respectfully podcast is a hairdressing podcast hosted by Respect for Hair editors, who chat to hairdressers, salon owners and influencers from all industry sectors. These hair conversations appeal to everyone from creatives to educators, marketeers and business people! If you like what you hear, leave us a review HERE and browse our wide library of podcasts HERE.
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