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How to run a Barber Shop

Male grooming is big business so now is the time to get barbering!

Have your Beard oil, badger hair brushes and Brylcreem at the ready - with the male grooming market set to hit £1 billion by 2018, there’s never been a better time to start running a barber shop.

It’s no secret – men have well and truly reclaimed the verb ‘to pamper’ from the opposite sex, and there’s now no stigma whatsoever attached to blokes spending as much on their appearance as their female counterparts.

According to a recent report by Salon Services which surveyed over 2,500 salon owners, nine out of ten of these hairdressers experienced an increase in takings from men last year and a quarter of customers are now male, compared to 19 percent a year ago.

A 2014 report conducted by, and analysed by Industry magazine HJI revealed that 57 percent of men surveyed use 6 or more grooming products a day, an impressive quarter of them used between 11 and 16 items and a staggering 7 per cent claimed to use over 16 products to perfect their look each morning!

So with a market ripe for preening, let’s get down to logistics – how do you run a successful barber shop?

Right location

Location is absolutely vital to the success of a barber shop. However many regular clients you may clock up, passing trade will be a key factor in achieving healthy profit margins.

City centres and commercial districts are prime locations but you will pay a premium in rent – if you go for the big-time, you’ll need to be sure you’ll have enough custom to balance the books.

Setting up shop on a busy commuter route is a good idea, as you get the footfall without having to fork out town-centre prices. Renting a small space on a ground floor of an office block, where you are visible to workers from all around is another way to run an affordable business, although you may need to adjust your opening hours to coincide with pre and post-work traffic.

Locating yourself near student accommodation is always a good idea as you will have a regular flow of image conscious young men.

Also, never forget the power of association – if you can place your barber shop next to or near stylish and successful businesses your will have instant kudos as well as a ready-made clientele.

The Legalities

So here’s the boring bit; brace yourselves – it’s not all hipster beards and barber shop banter! There are a fair few legal requirements in running a male-grooming business.

As well as having appropriate insurance in place, as a barber shop owner you will have to adhere to the latest health and safety regulations.

You will be legally required to ensure the wellbeing of employees and customers alike so before you start business, you should carry out a thorough risk assessment of the premises, draw up a policy for all involved in the business to adhere to and make sure you are providing more than the minimum standards in comfort and cleanliness.

Guidelines relating to environmental health must also be followed – local authorities are strict about this and if your business does not comply with occupational health and safety rules, it can be closed down.

It pays to keep one step ahead when it comes to health and safety – conduct regular assessments, especially when hiring new staff or installing new equipment, keep employees up to date with the latest policies and involve them in identifying potential risks. Whatever insurance you have, it will be unlikely to cover the costs of a serious incident and don’t forget - nothing can repair a damaged reputation.

Training and staff

Of course, to run a good barber shop, you and your staff must have up to date training. Taking a course at a leading hair academy that leads to a recognised qualification – such as an NVQ level 2 in men’s hair dressing – is essential, although not cheap at around £4000 for a 10 week course.

Competent barbers should have the following skills: • Cutting techniques • Clipper work • Razoring • Moustache and beard trimming • Style, dress and finishing techniques • Colouring • How to shampoo and condition the hair and scalp • Consultation skills • Reception duties • Customer care • Health and safety

Refresher courses are also available at around £2500 for six weeks training and even the most experienced barbers should consider the odd day course at a leading academy to keep up with the latest trends in men’s hairdressing and how to adapt them to different hair textures and clients.

For those who have never run a barber shop before but plan to do so, bear in mind that some academies offer management courses that administer comprehensive business training.

Outfitting and decor

The traditional barber shop has a look that hasn’t changed for decades – clean lines, a two-tone colour scheme (usually black and white), practical tiles, the classic barber chair and mirror and the all- important red and white stripy pole on the shop front.

This is an image that is appealing to a more conservative clientele who like to know what to expect; a short back and sides, a clipper cut or a cut-throat shave.

If, however, you are aiming to follow the latest trends in male hair-dressing and want to appeal to a more diverse or younger demographic, the design of your shop should reflect that. Anything goes in terms of décor – but do consider a theme that is warm and inviting and can be replicated easily if you decide to open another shop.

And instead of tatty old magazines, how about having hand-held games consoles, free, fast WIFI and great coffee?

Your barber chairs will likely be your biggest expense when outfitting the shop – they can cost anything from £100 to over £1000 - and scrimping at this stage might not be for the best in the long-run.

Image is very important in attracting customers and as the ongoing costs of running a barber shop are relatively low, investing in a stylish brand from the outset will serve you well.

Pricing and pitching

Knowing what to charge for your haircuts and who you are trying to appeal to are two of the most important factors of running a profitable barber’s.

There would be no point, for example, in plonking yourself down in a sleepy Surrey suburb and charging the earth for the latest looks seen on Shoreditch High Street!

The bottom line with choosing prices is that they must be higher than the variable cost of providing the service. You must also keep a keen eye on what your competitors are charging.

Fixed and ongoing costs such as rent, business rates and salaries as well as variable costs such as increased labour requirements must be accounted for above and beyond how many cuts and shaves a barber thinks they can achieve in a month.

The two usual methods of pricing are ‘cost-plus’ and ‘value-based’. The former starts with the cost of providing the service and an amount is added that becomes profit. This method is popular with barber shops as they are dealing with high volumes of sales in a competitive market. It’s important when using ‘cost-plus’, however, not to overlook hidden costs that can be detrimental to your profit margins.

Value based pricing is focused on the amount a customer would be willing to pay based on perceived benefits. If you are running a cutting edge barber’s in a relatively wealthy area – you can cash in on this method.

Be sure to look at the different segments of the male community surrounding your business and pitch your marketing accordingly.

How about buying an existing barber shop? Take a look at our listings at

Nicky Tatley

About the author

Nicky contributes articles to all titles in the Dynamis stable, primarily, and and is a regular contributor to other business publications including Talk Business, and NuWire Investor.


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