The professional hair care industry thought they were completely recession-proof because during various times in history when the economy was in the tank, consumers still continued to take their hard earned money to the salon for their regular cuts, color and texturizing services.
Current Economic Downturn Surprises Hair Industry
The current 2008-2010 economic downturn has proven otherwise to a surprised professional hair industry.
What has changed? Sociologically there have been a lot of subtle but significant changes over the past ten years which have resulted in the current downturn in the professional salon trade.
Is the downturn tied only to the current economic recession or have consumer hair behaviors changed in such a was as to define the current salon industry slowdown as a result of much deeper trends in the hair world?
It's possible, based on the ongoing evolution of consumer's mindsets, that even with a change in the economy, salons will not see a significant resurgence in business.
DIY Hair Consumer Mentality
Due to a new Do-It-Yourself (DIY) hair consumer mentality and access to never ending information on the Web, previously devout salon clients are spacing out the time between cuts, color and texture unlike ever before.
Even when new treatments are cooked up as a way to encourage a return to the salons, it's only a matter of time before the consumer hair influencers figure out ways to re-create those treatments at-home.
Blogger Brigades And Social Media Networking
Hair consumers used to depend primarily upon their professional hairdressers to provide information about emerging hair fashions, colors, trends and new products.
The rise of the Blogger Brigades and social networking mini-bloggers have transferred this knowledge directly from the hairdressers to hoards of consumer beauty bloggers all fighting for web traffic and ad dollars from product companies wanting a piece of the blogosphere and social media product pie.
But don't blame the bloggers. Both professional and consumer hair and beauty companies have hired even bigger hordes of public relations pros to cozy up to prominent bloggers to promote their brands directly to the consumers, sometimes even bypassing the professional hairdressers in the process.
Consumers have been retrained to go to the Web for hair, beauty and related product information which encourages a rampant DIY mentality and naturally diminishes the role of the professional hairdresser in many cases.
Dark Roots Have Become Acceptable
As part of the rise of Blogger influence, certain hair trends which encouraged consumers to religiously keep up with regular salon visits have been shattered.
Case in point, dark roots. Whereas it used to be considered unthinkable to allow visible root line to overtake highlights and lowlights, Hollywood blazed the new era of the fashionable dark roots.
As a range of celebrity names such as Cameron Diaz, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson showcased their obvious dark roots on top of their blonde tresses, it became fashionable to let your roots hang out.
Sultry Brunette Has Edged Out Beautiful Blonde Hues
Whereas beautiful blonde tresses used to be It Color to achieve other celebrities like Jessica Alba, Demi Moore and Victoria Beckham ushered in the error of the sultry brunettes.
While hair professionals understand that a gorgeous brunette often requires depth producing highlights and lowlights, hair consumers see brunette as a way to avoid hair color appointments at the salon.
Textures In A Box
Natural texture has also become a hot hair ticket eliminated the constant demand for chemical straightening, relaxing and retexturizing.
For hair consumers who can't live with their textures, there are a myriad of at-home DIY kits offering texture salvation in a box.
Professional Products Available To Consumers
Although the professional hair care industry aggressively promotes anti-diversion practices, consumers completely ignore the philosophy. They want what they want and they will find it online at the lowest possible prices.
Some of the biggest on-line professional product diverters are actually tied directly or indirectly to the professional hair care industry looking to keep revenues flowing. Even salons are setting up e-stores at a phenomenal rate to try and recapture some of their own lost product sales.
Styling tools formerly only available to the professional hairdresser such as professional irons and blow dryers are not readily and easily available online.
Hot styling irons and related hair tools have become such a major consumer hair commodity that some web sites devoted only to those items have sprung up in alarming numbers.
The Rise Of The Celebrity Hairstylist Hawking Their Products
Whereas it used to be that you could count the number of celebrity hairdressers on one hand starting with Vidal Sassoon, nowadays anyone who can afford to hire a PR firm can instantly transform into a celebrity hairdresser, whether they've working with "real" celebrities or not.
Once they have assumed the mantle of celebrity hairdresser the next step is to start hawking hair care lines, hots tools and whatever else the consumer hair care market might bear.
While professional hairdressers might find this practice appalling, in reality it is eating into the amount of money hair consumers normally might have invested into visits to their own professional hairdressers.
The Curly Girl Movement
As the Curly Girl Movement which preaches Love Your Curls took hold, hair consumers with natural curls who used to flock to salons for chemical straightening, relaxing and styling to manage their frizz, learned to love their curls right out of the salon.
Websites which promoted curl power also promoted DIY curl treatments, managements and styling. Consumer based talk forums bred like rabbits as fellow natural curlies shared tips on how to care for their own textures with minimal visits to the salon.
When they do venture out to the salon it's curl approved professionals who provide specialized curl cutting techniques. Even still, many curly haired consumers minimize those customized cut visits to stretch for extended periods of time.
Natural Hair Movement
Similar to the Curly Girl Movement has been the rise of the Natural Care subculture which is very prominent on the Web. YouTube is jam packed with DIY videos on every imaginable hair care technique from how to apply at-home relaxers to creating perfect rag roller sets.
Natural hair care services which used to be doled out at the local hair salon has become a casualty of blogging, talk forums and consumer to consumer (C2C) hair advice and support.
Long Hair Lovers To 360 Wavers
Long hair has its own unique following on the Web as does other hair subcultures ranging from dreadlocks and DIY hair extension fans to young men who adopt the popular 360 wave hairstyles.
Professional hairdressers who spend any amount of time reading hair forums devoted to specific hair textures, styles or movements will understand the slowdown in the professional hair salon industry.
Hair consumers are learning all the basics from trimming their own split ends to applying a range of at-home hair extensions. Long hair lovers rarely visit salons and when they do, they have to meet specific long hair approved criteria.
The same philosophy is followed by other hairstyle wearing subcultures whether its people sporting dreadlocks or men who have adopted the shaved head fashions.
Increased Competition In Professional Hair World
Over the past ten years the number of cosmetology schools which have sprung up across the world has dramatically increased the number of licensed hairdressers vying for customers.
Newly minted hairdressers with a license are finding a professional hair world with shrinking job opportunities. Those new hairdressers are looking for alternative ways to grab a piece of the professional hair care pie and are opening their own hair-in-a-box pop-up salons with deeply discounted prices for services.
Some are going into the business of offering streamlined services such as blow out only salons or lunch time extensions. And speaking of hair extensions, the explosion of clip-in and related add-on consumer hair options have put a big dent into the previously lucrative in-salon hair extension business.
While many salon professionals and industry watchers may believe that the current economic downturn is temporarily causing a slowdown to the professional hair industry, changing sociological trends may be the real culprit.
If current consumer hair trends continue, it's possible that an improved economic climate may not actually lead to a return to the days of busy salons where hair consumers visit on a regular basis for cuts, color and a range of hair styling and treatments.
In the past the majority of hair consumers saw the professional hairdresser as the experts they could trust to make them over and provide all the hair services they needed. That trust has been slowly eroded over the past few years. Now the hair consumers trusts themselves to find the answers to their hair care, color, styling and make over needs.
While some hair consumers will continue to visit professional hairdressers for certain needs, those priorities have changed and not necessarily just because of a weak economy.
The big question at this point is not what will happen when and if the economy improves but how hair consumer behaviors and trends will continue to evolve and impact the professional hair world as a whole.
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- Revised Date: 10/24/10