Jason Shankey set up his eponymous male grooming salon in Belfast in 1997 and has since turned the business model into a franchise, with a salon also based in London. ‘What I decided to do, in terms of having a salon exclusively aimed at men, was unusual then. So the whole thing was a calculated risk,’ he says.
Cut above the rest
Shankey says his success has been down to targeting the correct market. ‘I knew the type of client I was going to attract would be fairly well off, so I went through the census to get an idea of how affluent different areas were before choosing a spot.’
Even on a small budget, defining the brand of your salon is very important – whether you are aiming at the under 30s market or the over 60s. This is something Shankey managed to achieve through energetic marketing.
‘I did a lot of DIY PR. This involved phoning papers and magazines to tell them about some of the more interesting things we were doing, such as putting a webcam up so customers could go on our site to check how busy we were before coming in. The press loved our story because it was the first male grooming salon,’ he says.
Related: How to market your small hair salon – Rob Straathof looks at the ways in which to generate interest online in a local salon.
The right style
Mark Coray, owner of Cardiff-based Coray and Co, says that once you’ve decided on your market you need to concentrate on creating the right atmosphere.
‘People expect a lot more from a hairdresser than just a haircut. It’s about creating an experience, so customers will want a drink, head massage and comfortable surroundings,’ he says.
When it comes to the appearance of the salon, it may be worth considering a refit. The main hair product manufacturers will often pay for new mirrors and chairs in exchange you agreeing to buy their products. Then, each time you buy one of their items, a percentage will go towards paying for the refit.
‘It does mean you are tied into paying it off for a potentially long period of time, but getting a big company on board will help to create a professional looking environment,’ Corey says.
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The spot you choose and the availability of parking are also key, says Coray. ‘Having a ground-level and clearly visible shop has also helped me to advertise the business because it is lit by night on a busy road,’ he adds.
Steve Beever, founder of Yorkshire-based City Gent, agrees: ‘If you pick the right location, you shouldn’t need to spend money on advertising. I would say that around 65 per cent of new customers come to us simply because they’ve walked past the salon. It’s really important that the design on the outside looks good enough to get people in.’
Beever cautions that hairdressing is not a profession that is likely to make you rich. ‘My advice to anyone thinking of starting their own salon is: don’t do it to make money. Of course, that should be the byproduct of running a good salon, but the main reasons need to be that you love what you do and that it makes people happy.’
The good news is that for the dedicated there is no shortage of loyal clients. Shankey believes that once the salon gets off the ground it is easy to build up a customer base. ‘There is a certain intimacy to hairdressing because of the level of contact involved with the clients. So if you give a good service and haircut, people will keep coming back,’ he says.