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What hope do any of us have? | Phil Smith tackles your business issues…

June 07, 2022

As one of the most respected names in the hairdressing world, Phil Smith has built salon empires, launched multi-million selling haircare ranges and won countless awards for his business acumen. Here, he tackles your tricky post-Pandemic business issues…

“I was completely shocked to read that Nicky Clarke has closed his Mayfair salon. The report I read claimed the salon was no longer economically sustainable. What hope do any of us have if one of British hairdressing’s biggest-ever names has shut up shop?” 


“I must admit, I was shocked too. But sadly, not entirely surprised. It’s a tough landscape out there for us salon owners at the moment. As far as I know, this particular closure was down to a combination of the Covid pandemic, declining passing trade in Mayfair and rising rates. Nicky apparently said himself that the last two years have been the toughest he has ever experienced. 

There is no doubt about it, some salons will still be fighting for their lives after Covid. I’m seeing for myself we’re at tipping point and it’s scary. But there are some fundamental ways we should all be supporting each other and ensuring our survival. It is only by doing these things that we can all guarantee economic sustainability. Here are my thoughts…


As far as I’m concerned, when you own a salon, you take on a duty of care to the industry as a whole. Some decisions you take not just to protect your own business, but to enhance the profession of hairdressing and safeguard its future.

One thing I feel very strongly about is that we have to invest in education. There seems to be a dwindling focus on training our next generation. When it feels like you’re fighting for every penny of profit margin, it may seem like you can’t ‘afford’ to fund apprenticeships or decent wages but trust me it’s a short-term gain if you cut corners on this vital dimension.


It’s true that training school leavers will hit you in the pocket and in the current climate that hurts. But when you educate, you invest. Choosing to train someone up from ground level means that you are turning someone into a hairdresser and securing their future. You won’t see the return immediately.

In fact, you won’t make a profit from them at all in the first three years and at best you’ll just about be recouping your investment. But we can’t disregard the long-term benefits of encouraging commitment and loyalty. 

That’s why I’m furious when other salon owners poach team members just as their apprenticeships come to an end and cash in on your time and money. I’m seeing far too many staff being lured away by packages dressed up with extras such as beauty treatments, a slight increase in wages but no promises on any future development. Not only is it not right, it’s unsustainable and we’re ultimately shooting ourselves in the foot if we turn a blind eye to it.


Teach your team that the more you turn over as a business, the more they can potentially earn. It’s simple economics but I’m not sure most employees look at it this way at all. Transparency is absolutely key. For instance, educate your team on where every pound that they take through the till is spent.

Do they know that 20 per cent of it immediately is paid to the taxman as VAT. Are they aware how much rent and rates are and what about the energy bills that have increased astronomically since April? It doesn’t leave much spare and there’s no point being secretive about it. 

In simple terms, give your team members a tangible figure to work towards. For instance, they might be able to earn 40p for every £1 they take. How do they increase their wages while boosting the health of the salon at the same time? I’ll tell you…


Visiting the salon should be a luxurious experience for your clients and nobody likes to feel rushed. But if your team is carving out an hour for each cut in this climate, you could be in the danger zone. When you switch an appointment time from one hour to 45 minutes, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you’ll take more in a day. I never cut corners with customer service but I also run my salon as a business that benefits every person in the team. Everyone needs to understand that time is money.

You can make a great living working in a salon but it requires hard work and dedication. Every member of your team is responsible for its success and you have to get them to buy into that.

Yes, it’s still a rocky road but there are no quick fix solutions. Losing sight of the long-term in a quest just to keep our heads above the water today will be disastrous for everyone.