top of page

WSJ: Home Barbering Grows in Recession, With Hairy Results

The following article was published by the Wall Street Journal August 31, 2009. You will note sales of Wahl clippers up 11% this year. Since our sales are flat to salons, take a guess where consumers are buying them? If you guessed Sally Beauty and ULTA, you are probably right. And Sally Beauty who also owns BSG and Cosmoprof stores are laughing all the way to the bank. I wonder how many professional stylists buy at Sally, BSG and ULTA?

Jane Angelich used to joke about her husband, Mark, going bald. Then with one faulty flick of the wrist, she made it happen.

Mr. Angelich had begun cutting his own hair to save money. His wife offered to trim a spot in the back he couldn't reach. So she picked up an electric razor, "put a little too much oomph into it," and carved out a "giant chunk" of hair. The fix: She shaved his entire head.

The downturn has created a nation of cost, and hair- cutters. To help pare their budgets, more Americans are bypassing the salon and opting to lop off their own locks. The results, can be shear disaster -- clogged drains, fresh cowlicks and crooked trims.

Watch excerpts from Micah Wojnowski's YouTube demonstration of a flowbee home haircut gone bad.

"It may look easy, but it's not," says Gordon Miller, executive director for the National Cosmetology Association, which represents more than 10,000 U.S. salons. He says that middle- and high-end shops are feeling the pinch, as consumers come in less frequently or go to lower-priced salons. In a January poll of 600 salons, about 72% said they have seen a dropoff in customer spending.

Regis Corp. just reported its first negative annual same-store sales in the company's 87-year history. Regis, which operates big salon brands such as Vidal Sassoon and Supercuts, expects to see more shrinkage in the next year, as opposed to the usual 2% growth. "We generally do okay during recessions," says Chairman and CEO Paul Finkelstein. The drop in business this time around is "different than anything I've ever experienced." (Please see related article).

The aptly named George Trimm, a 22-year-old graphic designer in Dana Point, Calif., has scissored his hair more than 20 times in the past year. He started a "I Cut My Own Hair" Facebook group shortly after his first trim, and it is now 145 members strong. "Hair is a work of art," he says. "No one has mastered cutting it but me."

One commenter offers her secret for cutting long hair. "Make sure your hair is straight," reads her post. "Then use a striped sweater, match all the hair to one of the stripes in the front and cut. It will layer very nicely in the back."

Saving time and money are the chief benefits of the do-it-yourself 'do, says Mr. Trimm. His "multimillion-dollar secret" is placing a towel over the sink to catch hair clippings, thus ensuring an easy clean up and preventing drain clogs.

<home barbering grows in recession></home barbering grows in recession>

Owen Watson, 4, receives what his parents call a recession haircut this summer in St. Paul, Minn. Nicole Watson purchased electric clippers and set up shop on the family's back porch.

Heather Barmore of Albany, N.Y., who used to spend $200 a month on hair cuts and various hair treatments, takes a different approach when shearing her curly locks: "I keep the Drano around."

Sales of electric hair clippers expanded as the U.S. economy contracted. Wahl Clipper Corp., which claims over half the consumer market, said sales of hair clippers rose 10% in 2008 and are projected to rise 11% in 2009. Normally, the clipper category moves only a percentage point or two, up or down each year, says Pat Anello, Wahl's director of marketing.

Last month, Nicole and Pat Watson gave their two four-year-old twins "recession haircuts." Mrs. Watson purchased electric clippers and set up shop on the back porch, saving the St. Paul, Minn. couple the $25 they would normally drop every couple of weeks for the twins' trims.

Friends and neighbors watched as Owen and William took turns wiggling through their cuts. At one point, Mrs. Watson, who works at an art gallery, says one of the twins asked, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" She said she did.

Other self-styled stylists are turning to devices like the RoboCut and the Flowbee, which combine vacuum suction and electric scissors. The RoboCut, priced at $44.99, has seen an uptick in sales since the recession began, according to RoboCut founder Alfred Natrasevschi, but he wouldn't say how much.

[ Hair Clippers]

The Flowbee System goes for between $69.99 and $99.99. Micah Wojnowski started using one to save money two summers ago while between jobs. After two successful self-cuts, he made a "tic-tac-toe" board in the back of a friend's head after an attachment to the clipper kept slipping. Flowbee declined to comment.

Mr. Wojnowski posted the videotaped mishap on YouTube and overnight received over 25,000 views and hundreds of comments from angry Flowbee fans, he says. Most of them criticized the angle at which he approached his friend's head. Mr. Wojnowski now spends $50 a month at a San Diego salon.

Meanwhile, a mini-industry has sprouted up in salons: fixing botched at-home cuts.

John Barrett has had many clients who take matters into their own hands, achieve miserable results -- then quickly return for some tress relief.

"I've seen women come in, crying hysterically," over things like too-shorn bangs, he says. "It's a big deal." Sometimes, the scene at his eponymous salon, located on the penthouse level at Bergdorf Goodman on New York City's Fifth Avenue, can resemble an emergency room: Clients with hair-dye hazards, wrecked layers, and visible signs of emotional distress. "It's a psychological disaster," says Mr. Barrett, who caters to socialites and "America's Next Top Model" contestants.

A few blocks away, at the Minardi Salon, co-owner Carmine Minardi warns against the "at-home" method. "We get a lot of people who screw up their hair," he says. He estimates that roughly a third of all business now consists of "corrective" styling. There is no mercy reflected in the bill, which dings clients as much as 50% more for a corrective color than a regular dye job.

In Idaho Falls, Idaho, Melodie McBride's salon handles three or four repair jobs a week. One client "looked like his head had been through a thrasher," she says. Another man came in with an eyebrow that had been mistakenly shaved off.

The salon, called Lifes Balance, recently slashed eight inches of hair off a teary-eyed 18-year-old client's head after the teen's own creative attempts backfired. Huge chunks were missing, Ms. McBride says.

Some areas, such as the back of the head, can be particularly treacherous for amateurs to navigate, notes "Haircutting For Dummies" author Jeryl Spear. "If you could just take your head off and put it in your lap, you'd be OK cutting the back on your own," she says.

As for Mark Angelich, he has kept his head shaved since his wife's slip-up. "He's still got a mustache," Mrs. Angelich says. "But he's not letting me anywhere near it."

Happy Tuesday!


bottom of page