Next Stop, Government Run Salons.

Power to the Experts.

It’s no longer Power to the People.

The experts in science are today’s influencers. Whether it’s climate change or Covid-19. They have the keys to influence, distract and insist they are protecting ourselves from ourselves.

The doomsday media narratives have created a fearful shift in customer behaviour towards health & beauty businesses. I wonder if the act of booking an appointment at a salon is now a procedure like going to the dentist. Is it a pamper session or a chore?

It’s true, with no weddings, birthdays and other social events booked into the calendar. Who wants to book an appointment? Of course, you’ll always have your fans and your bread and butter clients, but where is the industry growth going to come from?

I wonder what the effect this ‘New Normal’ will have on influencing the career path of the young people at school?

The careers officer doesn’t necessarily want to encourage anyone to be a hairdresser. They point out to parents the below average wages, unsociable hours and the insecurity of a creative, artistic industry. Average wages in our sector are comparable with a low risk, low skilled manual job. Why become a stylist when we can earn the same stacking shelves at the local Tesco?

On entering the industry the rules and regulations you have to digest can seem overwhelming and they shift and inflate every year. Will too much interference from the suits suffocate our enthusiasm to be creative and in turn will it make society uniform and grey? If so, who on earth would want to join an uninspired and regimented industry? It’s a dystopian outlook for a creative bunch of people.

Freedom of expression is what encouraged us all into this industry. Hair and Beauty is a socially inspired trade. We are a fashion led and fast paced industry where trends change from week to week. So much so that licences, registrations and regulations can’t keep up. We have to reject the invasion of more bureaucracy into our industry. Red tape isn’t practical in a creative and spontaneous workplace. Strong learning foundation and good attitude are key towards a long and successful career.

What has happened to the standards of the industry? Many people are voicing their opinions on social media that things have to change for an industry to go forward yet all I hear is the same argument about registration that has been going on for years. (and that registration argument is no closer now to when it first floated in 2012) How do we get a forward thinking positive change in an industry that evolves annually? Well here’s my two pence worth.

Hair & Beauty contribution to the UK economy. 590k employed & £28.4bn per year and yet average wages as a % is lower than ever. This figure equates to 1.3 percent of the UK’s total GDP.

Minimum wage and it’s unintended impact.

I think it’s common knowledge in the hair & beauty industry that the minimum wage changes in 1997 made it economically unviable for salons to train apprentices. This Government policy inadvertently shifted the education responsibility from actual hairdressers to a more bureaucratic and generic centralised college based system. With an incentive structure that rewarded everyone else in the equation apart from the student and salon owner.

With the flick of a pen, salons were removed from the education loop. Maybe it was a good intention to bring in such a change but data shows it just didn’t work. It has flatlined the humble beauty professionals wage. The consequence may not have been expected at the time of implementation. But now the results are in. The effects have been compounding over the years. And now we find ourselves in 2020 with a pandemic to navigate, against a public sentiment of fear uncertainty and doubt. More salons than ever will close their doors forever. That’s a cold fact.

I think “The lack of salon opportunities is the biggest barrier of entry for young apprentices to get on the path to a long and successful career”

Our Government are not necessary in this equation. They need to keep out of the education loop. If they want to help then they have to give us the autonomy to do what is right for our businesses. Rather than adding more layers of administration and bureaucracy. In saying that have you heard of their latest scheme to encourage salon owners back into the education loop and conversation?

They have begun a kickstarter campaign to try and attempt young people back into employment. Rishi Sunak says the “kickstart” plan is aimed at preventing an entire generation being “left behind” Rishi pledges to provide 30,000 new traineeships for young people in England, giving firms £1,000 for each new work experience place they offer.

It’s a 6 month scheme and the salon will have to commit to spend approximately £3-5k (depending on minimum wage) plus commit their scarce time and resources on training the apprentice. It’s a step in the right direction but does it go far enough? Do they need redistribute the funds they pour into the education system? I think so.

Young people are way ahead of us when it comes to technology and communication. We need their spark in order to help us navigate through the testing times we face today.

Inflation disguised as progress in the creative industries.
Notice the increase in customer spend and yet wages have flatlined. This is the hidden danger of inflation. It takes time to get noticed because the change is small on an annual basis but compounds over the years to reach unsustainable levels. This is where we are today. Our Government earn more out a haircut than the stylist performing it.

Government Interference.

When the Government get involved with individual sectors odd things begin to happen, accountability disappears and they interfere with competition. The balance obscures and the signals become distorted. We are a highly competitive industry that adapts well to changes in trend and technical innovations. Free markets work and we work in one that self regulates on a daily basis.

Financial irregularities come from Government interference. They prop up sectors that would otherwise fail. (I don’t have to remind you of the 2008 banking collapse.) No-one went to jail and everyone received their bonus. Everywhere you look there are examples of over reach. Who can forget the help to buy scheme? It was a scheme to encourage 1st time buyers into the property market. Yet it’s actual effect was to push house prices up further and penalised the very people it was intended to help.

Government funded schemes impact a free market. Prices get manipulated and then people behind these enterprises get rewarded for failure. It’s incompetence from the highest level down and who has to pick up the pieces? The people on the ground, the grass roots. And in our sector it’s the salons and their owners.

How much interference is too much?

In North Korea, hairstyles have to be approved by the Government. Imagine Boris as the oracle of fashion. A guy who hasn’t used a comb in his entire life heading up a quality control think tank about partings. Is this the near future UK Government run salons?

In North Korea it’s said they government have ‘approved’ 18 different hair styles.

Will the introduction of a new qualification or regulation get hairdressing in the UK back to it’s world class levels from before? Or are we going to explain to the powers that be not to make the same mistakes. The mistake that salon owners got blocked from passing on winning techniques and attitudes to our apprentices?

I created GoSalon with one intention and that was to put more pounds in the your pockets. To solve the retail problem. To reduce the admin, make retail easy and to strengthen the connection between Stylist and Client.

Maybe I also need to bang the drum for less policy and interference from above? I genuinely believe that in order to benefit the salons and beauty professionals that are left after the pandemic. We have to rebuild the system from the bottom up. Our foundations are key for the success of the industry as a whole. Salons and their owners have to be in the centre of the conversation as it’s the legacy they leave behind that matters to them. They want to leave the industry in a better place than they found it. Much like it’s the creatives and the risk takers that inspire the young people to join the industry and not the careers officer. That’s a movement I can get behind.

About the author @aarondornhair
Aaron Dorn is a hairdresser with twenty years of experience. A background in finance and computers. He continues to cut hair and is a consultant for several companies within the hair and beauty industry.

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