When I was in Mumbai earlier this year, I had an interesting franchise encounter. I was a bit lost on a Sunday afternoon, wandering down a wide, main street towards Cuffe Parade. The neighborhood was quite poor on one side of the road, but on the other side, it was quite wealthy. After passing a large high rise apartment, I noticed, tucked into a small, cube-sized building one of the most well-known hair salon franchises in the world: British hair experts Toni and Guy.
I stopped for a second and looked in the window. It was busy. The store had the same distinctive Toni and Guy sign with the large photos of models with angular haircuts. It could have been any Toni and Guy in London or New York. Seeing it made me feel a bit more at home.
A few month later, I met a Toni And Guy stylist who said they even have units in Kazakhstan. The lesson I took from it was this: around the world, when people want a haircut - whether it's a stylish cut or an affordable one - they want a brand they can trust. You wouldn't trust your hair with just anyone, would you?
Toni And Guy are just one facet of the diverse hair salon franchise industry, which is growing stronger and stronger by the day. When I was a kid, my dad used to like going to the same Italian barber every other Saturday because all he wanted was a little off the top and a bit of conversation. Since then, the hair salon franchise industry has exploded to suit a far more diverse market. Thanks to franchising, you can pick out your hair salon based on the kind of cut you want or the kind of experience you would like. Sport Clips target the American sports-watching demographic, State Street Barbers provide an old school experience, while Sharkey’s Cuts For Kids work with the profitable children’s haircutting market. So there’s a hair salon franchise for just about everyone.
And here's one interesting fact about the hair salon industry in 2010: they are one of the few industries not to be affected by the internet.
As Boynton Weekes, master franchise co-owner of Fantastic Sam’s in Northeast Pennsylvania and Northern New Jersey told the Trenton Times:
"(People) still have not found a way to do anyone's hair on the Internet".
Weekes's story tells another important truth about the hair salon industry: you don’t actually have to know how to cut hair to work in this field. Weekes used to work in insurance and was “looking for a mid-range investment, something within a $150,000 to $200,000 range” in a field that was “recession resistant and with high customer loyalty and demand”.
There were no Fantastic Sam’s in the populous northern NJ region, and Weekes’ investment has proved savvy. He is living proof that there are profits to be made from hair, even if you're not the one holding the scissors.