In the past 10 years, the barbering world has seen the biggest boom since the 1920’s, when women started visiting barbershops for the precision bob cut that was so on trend at the time. Just as it did back then, the current barber boom will end as nothing can grow forever. So, what can barbers do to ensure the maximum longevity for their careers and their businesses?
I believe that the barbers who are at the top of their game now are the ones that are already doing this – they’re stealing all the best bits from hairdressers.
One of the biggest thing is being able to pre-book appointments. Although walk-ins can be beneficial to fill gaps in your column, most people live busy lives and prefer to book an appointment that fits into their plans. They don’t have the time to sit in a queue for three hours for a haircut. Moreover, who wants to sit and wait for three hours when you can book a specific time to see the stylist you want to cut your hair, not the one who becomes available next.
Thanks to the booking apps that are available now, it’s easy to see what you have in store for your day, week or month ahead and give you an idea of income, as well as managing the other barbers/stylists in your shop. Another benefit is getting your clients to re-book. If you can get your clients to re-book at the end of each appointment you build a consistent column that will guarantee you a projected income, rather than waiting to see who comes by that day.
Another thing we barbers can learn from hairdressing is customer service. In the best salons, the level of professionalism is often at a very high standard – the client’s journey begins when they walk through that door, and how they are greeted and treated from that point until they leave makes a massive difference. It is not all about the haircut; sometimes it’s not even about the haircut. Exceeding expectations can create a loyalty to your brand that cannot be broken. It also means that you can create a point of difference from your local competition with a simple thing that costs literally no money.
And we need to do is to value ourselves. There are a lot of barbershops opening up all over the place – I’m sure that you have seen it in your area too. Often, shops try and undercut each other or create introductory offers for new clients. In my opinion, a big no-no. Firstly, because you are under-valuing your time – the cost of that haircut is not only those 45 minutes (or however long you take) but all the haircuts and experience you’ve got under your belt up until that point. Also, for me personally, if I was walking down a street and saw three shops, one with £8 haircuts, one with £10 haircuts and one with £25 haircuts, I would choose the most most expensive shop. Why? Because I would expect the best haircut and the best experience. Some people will only want to pay £8 for a haircut and that’s fine, but you have to think about what kind of clientele you want in your chair and what kind of experience you want to give them. I know people may say location is an issue, it can be, but I live in Torquay, Devon. It’s a small seaside town and I am comfortable with charging £30 for a men’s haircut and I am busy with it. A guy called Ivan Zoot said recently: “If you’re too busy, you’re too cheap!” I think he is right.
Products. For a long time, product retail has been a huge part of industry. Successful salons do this well and make a huge impact on their annual turnover. If you educate your clients on what you are using, they will buy the product and their hair will look great until the next time they see you. How many times have you heard a client say, “I can never get it to look like you do at home”? When I was I was a new stylist I took that as a compliment; as time went by I realised that I wasn’t educating my clients properly on what to do with their hair when they got home. Once I realised and showed them what I was doing, how I was applying the product and letting them hold, touch, feel and smell what I was using, not only did my retail go up but so did the happiness of my clients.
One more thing (although I feel there is so much more we can learn from each other): longer hair. Men’s hair has been all about the fades and tapers for a long time now, and longer hair will soon be back on top. This doesn’t mean men’s ponytails but anything longer than clipper work. We are seeing guys with fades having a lot more length on top that requires specific personalising and texturising techniques with scissors, as well as skilled styling techniques using lots of different electric tools, brushes and products – something that hasn’t always been a strong part of the traditional barber’s game. However, the modern barber will stay relevant by cutting with precision with scissors and clippers, as well as using sectioning patterns and understanding weight and shape. They will also be able to blow-dry and style with ease.
Consultation is key. If you get a consultation right then you can give your client exactly what they want. If they say they don’t know, ask what they don’t want. They’ll be able to tell you pretty quickly.