Information provided in this article was collected during a recent Hair Society discussion round table. These hair experts are located in many regions of the United States. Representatives from Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas were represented.
At the beginning of 2020, a few salons were seeing increased revenue in comparison to 2019. One hair salon reported, “We were up 25%. And then we were shut down for six weeks.”. The pandemic has not only made local impacts, but it also hit us all globally. It is important to remember the repercussions of covid-19 are happening worldwide, not just in our communities. From lockdowns to border closures, the coronavirus has disrupted the system of trade for goods and services in the hair industry around the globe.
Hair operations watch as the hair supply chain changes daily. Wigs, toppers, and other hair commodities are in high demand more than ever. Longer length women’s hair and gray percentage systems are harder to find than most. Hair professionals are trying to accommodate the lack of custom options, but finding ANY hair has proven challenging. Business owners are not lying to clients when they say they can’t get their hands on viable solutions. Vendors are running out of stock systems, so orders are pushed farther back and sent months after a salon’s request.
Hair requests vary, but the production process remains an age-old practice. It is an artisan skill to stitch (ventilate) processed fibers into a hairpiece base. The ventilation practice and the hair itself are both equally as important in creating a natural look. When the strands of hair are thicker and healthy, they last longer. As the hair shuffles through the production process, it can match a standard quality to face the test of time or at least the expected life span of the unit. With the rise of pandemic workplace limitations, the production process of sewing hair into mesh or polyurethane has slowed dramatically. Even if bundles of human hair can be collected and ventilated into a wearable piece, the hair often cannot continue its route from one country to another due to border closures. Frustrations trickle down the supply chain, ventilators who sew the products, hair vendors, the salons, and clients.
When asked about each salon or clinic’s hair supply issues, the responses were almost the same word for word. As professionals in hair restoration, the goal is not just to gain income. It is a commitment to supporting clients during stressful health concerns and changes in the client’s lives. Many hair restoration professionals utilize the services themselves, so we understand firsthand how impacting personal image plays in our lives. We want to help all who walk in our door. But when the supply isn’t readily available for current clients, how do we take on new customers? Like many others, this hair restoration clinic owner stated:
“We were growing both shops in 2019, and now we’re struggling to get a product in for our existing clients.”
There’s no doubt the need for speed is embedded in our culture, and many customers walk into our hair operations expecting the rate of trade to be instantaneous. For some, we can offer walk-in services. For others, we have to start the waiting game of ordering hair. The timeline of hair delivery was already weeks out in the years before covid for custom hair. The hair restoration world has never really been a next day transaction, especially for custom wear. Hair clinics and salons are now waiting several months to receive an order from vendors. Recent communications with hair vendors suggest a waiting period of up to a year after placing an order due to the spontaneous pandemic shutdowns and workforce shortages.
The demand for hair directly increases the price of the commodity. Vendors don’t have it easier on their end by any means, but price demands can make salon owners feel like they’re being taken advantage of. Hair professionals across the U.S. are feeling pressured in all directions. From wanting to maintain good relations to providing their business with adequate overhead revenue, and we can only be a part of this tug-of-war game for so long. A salon can ask clients to help pay for this price increase, or the business can swallow up the cost. Either way, this negatively impacts the client’s satisfaction or the business’s overhead.
We understand our clients’ frustrations. Not only do we empathize with the loss of hair, but we strive to make hair goals affordable to reach as many people as possible. There’s simply no room for salons to accommodate for this push for a higher dollar sign without the possibility of losing revenue. Business closures are real possibilities, especially for our mom-and-pop operations. Authors of “How Covid-19 is Changing the world of Beauty” note the beauty industry as a whole is experiencing a more significant impact than experienced during the recession:
“During the 2008 financial crisis, spending in the industry only fell slightly and fully bounced back by 2010.” (Gerstell et al.)
Read the article here
Covid relief loans have temporarily helped small businesses. But eventually, the money loaned will need to be returned. As we push into the future, we all must have a plan of attack in motion now. If we are going to bounce back this year or two years from now, there must be an accumulation of small efforts to chip away at the weight on our shoulders. There is a deep concern for our clients’ needs, and we are working diligently to put out many small fires. What do we have to offer if their orders are not available? The next step might look slightly different for each hair operation, but what has been beneficial so far?
This discussion round table all noted honesty is the best policy. Keep your clients in the loop with open communication. If a client can hold on to their current hair system longer, advise they keep it. Talk about flexibility and the possibility of acquiring hair that might be slightly lighter or darker depending on what is in stock. When faced with the option of hair or no hair, sometimes we all have to make do, and it is no one’s fault in particular.
Lastly, build up your arsenal of services. When you can offer a quick solution, what can your business do during the waiting period? The Hair Society wants to remind all business owners, we see you! We know that you’re trying your best with the cards dealt. Be transparent with your clients in your efforts, and stay tuned for “An Industry In Crisis: Part Two.”! A special thank you to those who participated in our discussion round table! We are all walking through these new chapters together. Hang in there!
Gerstell, Emily, et al. “How COVID-19 Is Changing the World of Beauty.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 14 Dec. 2020, www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/how-covid-19-is-changing-the-world-of-beauty.