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Male grooming services - a recession-proof business?

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It's very rare to find a genuinely recession-proof business model as a small-business buyer, but hairdressing may prove to be that exact kind of sector. 

In fact, by buying a hair salon, entrepreneurs are now entering a growth industry. 

What's fascinating about this sector is the diversification of hairdressing, notably the rise in male spending on hair care. Recent statistics show that this surge in male grooming isn't slowing down. 

Hair care giant L'Oreal found in 2011 that four in five men had attended a hair salon for a cut or colour treatment in the previous year. 

And a 2012 survey carried out by market research body Kantar International identified the biggest rise in male grooming behaviour involved visits to the hairdressers, which reported a 66% increase in male customers. 

But the real coup is Kantar's finding that one third of existing salon owners are not currently providing any male treatments or services. Therefore it's easy to figure that a salon owner who caters to the male revenue stream will be ahead of the pack. 

Lack of training in male grooming could be what's holding back existing hairdressers in expanding their repertoire. But salon buyers and owners alike shouldn't worry about their lack of training in male hair techniques, as training courses are available, both from training facilities (such as those recommended by the Hairdressers Journal) and from business sellers themselves. 

Vendors frequently agree to stay on in a consultancy role beyond the sale of a business- so don't be afraid to ask. Consult your broker, should you have appointed one.

Many men with a decent disposable income are unfamiliar with home dyes and will attend a hairdressers - instead of their local barbershop (which may not have the skills) - and find themselves sitting alongside their female counterparts

Youth and masculinity

Drilling down into why the male grooming business is accelerating at such an astonishing rate reveals interesting findings. Most interestingly, more men are colouring their hair than ever - especially those aged 40 and above - according to the LA Times, perhaps because of a cultural and media glorification of youth and masculinity. 

Many with a decent disposable income are unfamiliar with home dyes and so will attend a hairdressers - perhaps instead of their local barbershop (which may not have the skills beyond a crew cut and a wet shave) - and find themselves sitting alongside their female counterparts. However, it is imperative that salon owners perfect any new products and techniques before they advertise to the general public. 

Dann Richards, owner of the Cambridge hair salon bearing his name says that the key to buying and running any successful salon is managing reputation. "You need to look into reputation of the salon because if things being said about it aren't good then don't bother," he says. "Because it is all word of mouth, it's all recommendation. 

"If you're keeping staff then you need to make sure it has a good reputation to start with, because as much as rebranding helped me, we started with a good reputation."

It is understandable to be hesitant to try a new area like male grooming - many business models do not take kindly to too much market diversity - but the recession-proof nature of hairdressing should not be underestimated. Finding a good hairdresser is the holy grail of the middle classes, and clients now have their pick of the many salons dotted along local high streets (according to The Telegraph there are more than 34,000 salons currently in the UK). 

Offering something different might help new owners to make their mark in the competitive hairdressing world.

For those still sceptical, online research agents OnePoll's recent survey found that men are becoming increasingly open about their grooming activities, with a quarter of those surveyed having hair and beauty treatments more than once a fortnight. So those business buyers willing to make the leap should also investigate salons that can offer tanning services, body treatments and facials. 

Of course, the needs of the hair salon's core client-base should not be overlooked. While male grooming is booming, it's safe to say it's not going to overtake the female market any time soon.

Kantar also found that 43% of all UK hairdressers were more optimistic about hairdressing business success in general in 2012 than they had been previously; only 17% were less optimistic.

A hair salon buyer with a knowledge of both male and female grooming trends and products will be well set for success.

With male grooming ascendant, now may be the perfect time to get into a growing industry. As Dann Richards says, "Everyone is always going to need their hair done." He couldn't be more right.

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