The business needs of the changing barbershop

The beauty industry’s evolution extends beyond the scope of salons and spas. Barbershops have become an integral part of this space, growing at an impressive clip. Charles Kirkpatrick, National Association of Barber Boards of America executive officer, estimates a roughly 10 percent increase in barbershops since 2013 – as barbershops continue to meet the demands of different, younger clientele.

In-and-out trips for a quick, cheap cut and style are becoming a thing of the past, replaced by hour-long sessions with customers that have standing, bi-weekly appointments. Much like salons, the service experience is becoming just as important to barbershop clients as the services themselves. Many barbershops must meet these expectations or risk losing customers.

One way they’re doing this is by selling a trip to the barber as part of a masculine lifestyle. This begins the second a client walks into the shop. Vintage cabin furniture, dark colors, mounted pieces of taxidermy, massive TVs tuned to ESPN and even billiard tables decorate these spaces. These are just a few of the many design elements that create an environment where masculine clients can feel comfortable enough to stay and relax.

This environment sets the tone for the rest of the client’s experience at the shop, making services like facials, skin care and hair coloring less intimidating. Whether in a private suite or in the main work space, offering services like these will improve your bottom line. “Why would clients pay for these services when all they want is a haircut?” The answer is simple: There’s no such thing as a cheap haircut any longer. Expensive trips to the barbershop are becoming the norm, and clients are willing to pay.

This is also a reflection of the men’s grooming industry as a whole. Statista reports the men’s grooming industry was worth $20.3 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase to more than $26 billion by 2020. The belief that glamorous or pampering treatments are purely feminine is fading, and fast. Barbershops can capitalize and welcome the opportunity to add additional services.

Providing these services, however, requires trained professionals and appropriate education. This starts with hiring the proper employees. A staff member without training in esthetics is not the best match for offering skin care treatments. The decision to allow an untrained employee to do so may put a business at risk. People without training may not perform services safely, and some services require certification or licensing (like barbers, of course).

When planning new service offerings, it is a good idea for managers/owners to consult with their broker or insurer to learn about any potential coverage gaps. A shop’s insurance policy may change to account for services like skincare and waxing. In fact, for coverage purposes, we will rate a barbershop offering skincare services as a salon, which means a new policy is in order.

A well-rounded, spa-like experience at the barbershop may encourage customers to pay higher prices. As mentioned before, people today are expecting to pay more for a haircut than their grandparents did. Throwing in incentives such as discounts on services or products sold at the shop is just another one of the many ways to improve business. A simple discount on moisturizer offered with a facial can help boost sales.

More than anything else, a strong social presence can drastically improve your barbershop. Berman Rodriguez of Roc’s Barber Shop in Orlando, Florida says focusing your shop’s social media is a key step to increasing income and clientele. He does this by taking photos of his clients with their precise, finished looks and posting them online, encouraging potential clients to come in to the shop and see for themselves.

All told, these trends tell us that barbershops are moving beyond their shave-and-haircut past to compete with salons and spas. How are the trends playing out in your community? Do you work for a shop that’s expanded its services? Tell us about on Twitter (@SASSI_Brownyard).

Kathy Lopez, Account Manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Insurance program at Brownyard Group. She can be reached at klopez@brownyard.com.