3 reasons why some black hair salons do not make money


As I got my hair done last week, while the stylist was doing my hair, I realised that black hair salons are probably not where the money is in the black hair care industry. Providing the products makes cash but the service? Not so much.

Yes, I have not done a survey or empirical research but I will go by my gut instinct of the many years of going to salons in Europe & Africa to get my hair done. When I went last week, here are a few of the conclusions I came up with:

1. No cross-selling: It’s clear I need to get my brows plucked. I was feeling stressed at the salon because of how the stylist pissed me off but she did not cross-sell any of the salons other products such as eyebrow waxing. Cross-selling is important, isn’t it? I am no business guru at all but I do like thinking about ideas, and the fact she did not cross-sell is not going.

2. Limited selling of products: It might seem odd to sell products in a hair salon that provides the service for those products, but then why should I trek across town to buy hair extensions? Surely if the salon sold a wide range of extensions, then customers could purchase from them and are therefore more likely to remember them when they want to put those extensions to use.

3. Terrible customer service: You should have seen the look on the stylist who was doing my hair. She looked so fucked off and angry when I told her I wanted twists. ”It won’t suit your hair because your hair is not straight”, she says, which is clearly code for your hair is not relaxed. The only reason I went to that salon is because the owner is absolutely lovely. I’m going to pull her aside and explain at some point that actually her stylist’s sense of customer service is pathetic.

What are the reasons that you think black hair salons can improve on? Tell us in the comments.

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15 thoughts on “3 reasons why some black hair salons do not make money

  1. Thanks Aurelia. The incident happened in a salon along Tottenham High Road some years ago. What is also interesting is that it takes us right back to how this topic started in the first place: whether or not bad service in black salons drives customers away, and I’m sure it does. As the salons I’ve visited – Tottenham, Brixton, Clapham Common, West End, Walthamstow, Streatham, West Croydon, all and I mean all of these salons no longer exist. I’ve also been to white salons, where I hate to say the service was good but they could not handle black hair.

    Back in the day, I went all over London looking for the ultimate salon that I could continue to patronise but that has not happened. The only salon I have been to where I have had an excellent experience is in New York, but of course, that was just on a visit. As a result I’ve braided my hair for a number of years purely because it’s less hassle in terms of style and less hassle in terms of what I’m likely to endure at the salon. I try to keep away as much as possible. It would be great if some of the salon owners should read your blog and respond.

    • Again thanks for your comment which just highlights that black hair salons are truly going to recline if they don’t get it together. The service is better in white salons because they are more about their business than flexing attitude. Have you ever been to Errol Douglas’ salon? x

      • No I haven’t but I’ve just checked his site – an MBE, recommended by Marie Claire, a clutch of hairdressing awards, and top of all that, a talented photographer – seems too good to be true – I’m impressed!!!

        Have you been there or know anyone who has been there? And if the likes of me went there, would he treat me as well as he treats any of the celebrities who goes there?

        • Okay maybe I take that back. I just read this interview on Lime magazine with him where they asked him the following:

          What is your advice to women with natural hair who find it difficult to vary their hairstyles without committing to a perm?

          Shave it off. Forget it, no ones interested – only joking. Natural hair that is healthy looks beautiful and amazing. Natural hair that is dry, needs combing out and is picky is awful. It’s not flattering is it?

          Is it just me or is that comment sarcastic??

          • Definitely sarcastic!! He doesn’t our hair!!! As I said – too good to be true. Just quickly looking at his site, the location, the models he uses, I don’t get the impression if I were to go there and do my hair that he would be keen. It’s a shame that he feels ashamed of us/himself and that he cannot use his creative genius to come out styles that would be unique to us. Yes, ‘picky’ hair for some of us has been the bane of our lives and I just wish that black stylists would ‘create’ styles that don’t have to be permed, that can work with ‘pickiness’ and can also be practical. Braiding is a style that is unique to us and the ‘Ghana style’ is just mind blowing. I’m wearing a style right now where the hairdresser had to measure and be precise before she started plaiting. But it’s interesting that Douglas has made his ‘name’ from creating styles for white hair.

            • Here is the link to the interview: http://www.comelime.com/interviews/dec-jan/errol-douglas.html

              I actually think it’s in poor taste of him to make a joke like that because it is trying to devalue the natural discussion. I think ED is missing the point because Afro hair is having a huge moment and continues to grow in popularity from a business viewpoint. What about that Junior Green guy? Hmm there is a serious lack of business for black women who want a sleek salon experience.

              • Junior Green is alright.
                Regardless of what Errol Douglas said his salon does natural hair…and they do it fairly well. (I´ve had it done there before).

  2. Yes, unfortunately it has been my experience that there are no smiles (and sometimes i get annoyed with myself for even wanting those smiles, but that’s a separate issue). Reading your post is triggering so much: –

    There was another time I went to a salon for my hair to be relaxed. The salon was owned by a West Indian and the hairdresser was Ghanaian. The Ghanaian lady did my hair and we were getting on fine until the owner said something to her about her timekeeping and before I realised, she removed her gloves, washed her hands and picked up her bag to leave.

    There is me, sitting with my head full of chemical, asking what the hell was happening. She told me the owner had called her a ‘name’ (a comment about her heritage). I looked at the owner, and he denied this. She walked to and fro to the door, almost teasing us that she was going to walk out, knowing perfectly well the owner hadn’t a clue as to what to do with my hair, and that she was the only hairdresser currently in the shop. He just stood behind his counter, resolute and silent. I had to beg them to ‘kiss and make up’ and I told the owner if he made some comment about who she was and where she was from, surely it was out of order, and that this wasn’t the time to do this! He denied and denied and said that he was having problems with her etc. This antagonized her and so the two of them argued while the cream on my head was beginning to burn – really burn!!

    The hairdresser eventually took pity on me and washed the cream out of my hair and said she doing this just for me. Once she had this, I was tempted to up and leave without paying but the owner must have anticipated what I wanted to do by reducing the cost for me. I can sort of look back at this and laugh but at the time it wasn’t funny and I was scared that I could have ended up permanently scarred!! What is interesting is black women must have had lots of stories like this but they go unreported, except to ourselves!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story, plaintain1. I am glad you are here commenting!

      Your story is frightening and terrifying in the sense that how could the owner have such a lack of respect for his customers? Was this in London btw? I am just so shocked at the fact that salon owners are missing the point.

      Also if he is from the West Indies and she was from Ghana….um common heritage! The owner was out of line. I am glad he reduced the cost.

  3. I agree with you and I think you should say something. The stylist seems lazy and like she didn’t know what she was doing. Your hair doesn’t need to be straight for twist as soon as she would of said that I would of told her that her services were no longer needed.

    • I was so tired by the time she finished and in such a bad mood that I couldn’t even speak. I am really sick of these lame stylists.

  4. That’s another reason why I choose to constantly braid my hair. I cannot believe that after the number of years the number of hair salons, especially in West Green Road, in Tottenham, have been around, that you could still end up getting burnt, cussed off, ripped off, refuse to tell you what relaxer they are using, hair literally being pulled from its roots as its being ‘pressed and curled’ – I could go on. Black salons are so confident that customers will patronise them that they don’t have to care about customer service. I took my daughter a few years ago to a salon for a shampoo and set. We waited for an hour for the asst to tend to her. In the end I complained and the asst looked at me as though she was ready to stick her sissors into me! When she did tend to my daughters hair, it wasnt what I had asked for, but would I dare say something?

    About five years ago, a barber was arrested for assalting a stylist and seven years ago, a woman set up her salon and ended up hospital due to an ex-boyfriend not being to able to handle her running a business on her own!! I know I’m off track but my point is black salons have not only become a place of bad customer service but potential aggressive and violent places. I don’t know if these are additional factors as to why black hair salons fail.

    • Many thanks for your comment. I think you raise *such* a good point about customer service. When you went with your daughter, they should have been falling over themselves to help you, not only because you are a customer but because you are with your daughter and therefore she is a potential future customers in a few years as she could go to the salon she went with her mum but as usual, short-sightedness. I also think you are right that many black hair salons are these hotbeds of aggression – have you ever see a stylist smile when a customer comes into the door? It sounds like a cliche but when a business owner smiles, as a patron, I will smile back and feel happy.

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