Who Controls The Hair Salon Industry? – Salon Punk Shop
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Who Controls The Hair Salon Industry?

Tamara Forrest-Smith

Who controls your salon?

There is a huge problem in our hairdressing or salon owners industry. It is good to know what that problem is and how it began. You probably are affected.

When the modern salon began it was all about the haircut. Precision, perfection style and just cool. The scissor was the tool and the hairdresser was a king. Everyone loved Vidal Sassoon (and others) and the rise of the super hairdresser began.

Once salons were opened, the salons needed products. Large corporations in our industry or the product companies saw a huge opportunity to fill that need. They began to supply the salons with what the salon needed. As time went on the product companies created more product lines. The best way to sell the product was to educate the salon owners and staff to use and ultimately sell more of their product. The companies would then introduce all kinds of clever training to help the salon owner ultimately sell more of their products.

IMPORTANT: This gave the companies more power until ultimately …

the supplier companies have more power over the salon than the salon owner themselves.

Today it’s OUT-OF-CONTROL! For example, you are a salon owner that wants to build a wonderful life in your salon. This is your business and brand. Yet your mind (like all salon owners minds) allow the corporate companies to advertise their product in your salon so the client will make them their first choice (even though it might not be the right choice).

They supply huge glossy posters with the COMPANY name at the bottom all over your salon or in the window. Why? They are suppliers and yes, they support you but you also support them. You are the paying client NOT the other way around. They also have you in contracts that are tough to break. They also furnish salons to tie you in for years. And strangely they can deliver advice that will not only NOT help your salon but could put your salon at risk of failure.

Think about this: Would you also put a large poster of the company that supplies you electric in your window? Of course not.

The corporations know how to sell. They also know that we as creatives that thrive more in chaos than order. So they introduce an order that make sense for their sales but doesn’t make sense for our salon business.

They will even say outrageous statements like…

Sell more will pay your rent

Retail more will cover your outgoings

This will fly off the shelf

And then 30-60 days later you suddenly have a large invoice that cannot be paid.


The massive amount of energy that can go into selling a bottle of something for a minimal return is insane. That same energy could sell a colour that will give you a very healthy amount of cash in your bank. (sell a bottle of shampoo for £4 profit or sell a colour for maybe £100 – makes no sense)

Let me be CLEAR – we need amazing products to sell. Clients will buy more if the service is the focus – NOT the retail – NOT the corporation – NOT the glossy posters.

But …

This doesn’t mean we don’t need them it just means we have to remember that they need us more than we need them.

It isn’t uncommon for me to meet salons owners who’s salons are structured around selling retail and product. This is hailed as a holy grail in the industry yet it isn’t and shouldn’t ever be sold this way.

Yet it is sold this way to us as salon owners because the corporations realise that the truth is we are not business people and what we mostly know is how to do amazing hair. We feel supported (they know that because we are cosmetic and visual by nature so they provide cosmetics and visuals) yet what is happening is an advantage is being taken of salon owners and has been taken for decades for the sakes of increasing the value of a corporation within our industry.

Years ago I was always a sucker for a cheesy smoke and coffee stinking sales rep. The conversation always went around how retail sales would pay my rent so everything from my salon would almost be profit.

I would then sign up for a huge order, the huge order would then arrive and guess what? We would put time, energy, training and so much effort into selling retail and then the retails sales would increase but never enough to pay for rent that’s for sure.

Eventually, I discovered this.

If I controlled the companies and not them me.

If I drove my salon through my higher skillsets and not retailing or spending my days selling another companies stuff I would actually sell MORE stuff like shampoo, colours etc. We sold tons of retail and colour but on MY TERMS not the corporations. They loved my salon for the simple reason we sold tons.

NEVER ONCE did I have corporation posters all over my salon. The salon was about MY SALON not the corporation or huge hair supply companies.

In other words, when my salon focused on being an amazing salon rather than a shop selling someone else products and building someone else’s business.When I say someone else’s business I, of course, mean the big companies.

Be totally honest … we are NOT BOOTS the high street shop – we are a salon.

Now we do need these large suppliers and do want them. But they train us in a corporate style way that doesn’t really fit the hairdressing chaotic by nature way. They also train us because they know we need to be trained (and we do). The big problem really is they train us to fundamentally by, sell and promote their brands.

Clever right. But see it this way. They would also love you to know how to run a salon properly. They would save a fortune on training and people offering training and the reality is if salon owners really knew what they were doing they would sell more retail or product anyway.

You should never forget the companies and reps really do have their place. I had my guys in my salon and I loved them but I always made sure they understand that they worked for me and never for them.

Recently I had a (MENTOR EXTREME) salon that had gone through major changes. It looked like for the better but it wasn’t. A major supplier and huge brand had helped reconstruct every element of their business. The problem was turnover was high but profits had gone through the floor. Rather than create a large creative environment the corporation was trying to create a mini version of its own corporate structure. BIG MISTAKE!

This is because the companies know zero and understand nothing about the chaos by nature of a hairdresser. We are not corporate drones we are creatives that should not be overly controlled. Once controlled the spark vanishes because the corporation approach slowly kills the creative approach with numbers, complexity and almost always confusion. (can you imagine what would happen if we tried to control DaVinci?)

So – if you control the company and tell them what you need to happen you will create the most amazing relationship with them. This means you have to know what you want but at the same time stay in control of your salon, your future and your dealings with the big boys. They will respect you more for this.

We need them but they need us more. It is a fool’s way to run a salon around the brand of a company when you should be focused first and foremost on your own salon, your own business and your brand.

By the way, my favourite rep of all time was Paul Hetherington (today Lanza and Le Biosthetique). We met in 1989 and still work together today. He knew what I was trying to do with my crazy salon, listening to what I was trying to do and supported us – NOT with how to sell shampoo training – but to stay in harmony with my bigger goal of building my business.

Be honest – Who Controls Your Salon?

I think the marketing materials spread around your shop will answer that (as will the outstanding invoices).

Are you ready to take back control and build a real business?

Let’s talk about mentoring you and doing just that.


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