How to set up shop: As told by The Barbery
If you’ve noticed a rise in male grooming, you're not alone. Barbershops have been growing at an impressive rate, and with The Guardian reporting 813 units opening in 2018 alone, it’s no wonder it was the fastest-growing retail category of the year.
With so many opening, standing out from the crowd is imperative. Most barbershops are marketed as high-octane environments, full of beer, whiskey, and beards that go on for days.
But one shop owner is working away to not only fill a gap in the male self-care market, but to change the way we look after ourselves and inject a much-needed dose of relaxation into people’s lives.
Meet Charl Ackerman. Charl founded South London’s “The Barbery” 7 months ago. His goal? To create a calming environment with a focus on a holistic, organic approach to hair care and grooming. The result? Customers who keep coming back.
We sat down with Charl to discuss how he set up a business with a unique angle, and how you can too.
Do your research
A passion isn’t going to take off without research, and before opening The Barbery’s doors, Charl did some pretty extensive research.
“I studied business marketing and you get told that you have to have a point of difference... there has to be something unique about your business, in order for it to have the best chance of succeeding. And that took me a while. I wanted to understand how I could do things differently. And for about nearly a year, I went to as many barbers as I possibly could in London and I just observed. I just sat there and made notes, often very discreetly by myself on the chair, about things that I would change, things that I would do differently, and also things that worked.”
Wealth of experience in-hand, the next step was getting the products to match it. After asking multiple friends in the industry, attending hair shows in the UK, and conducting market research, he decided on a range of organic products picked and produced on a farm in Bologna.
Don’t just jump for the first thing you see. Put it to the test.
Consider what makes you different
People are paying more attention to what they put in their bodies, if the products they're purchasing are sustainable, and if they’re recycling enough. So if we’re putting all this effort into a greener day-to-day life, why have we been neglecting hair care?
This is where The Barbery really found a way to stand out from the crowd. The combination of holistic hair treatments, discussing and treating often neglected scalp problems, and creating an environment that’s different from London’s “traditional” barbershops is where Charl saw an opportunity.
“I had in my mind the Swedish spa experience. You know, what lengths do we go to, how much do we pay to go somewhere else and relax? And life is really busy, especially in London, you know there’s loads going on every day, and so I decided to create the opportunity, whether it be 45 minutes or an hour and a half or whatever, whichever your treatment is, to come and relax and to be in a tranquil space.”
Instead of following the beer, beard, whiskey formula, The Barbery took a different path that filled a niche in the market.
Create an unforgettable customer experience
When you go into any shop nowadays, you usually leave with more than just the product or service you went in for. You need to give customers something beyond a transaction: an experience worth returning for. You need to be detail-orientated and consider every moment of the customers time with you, from the moment they walk in to the moment they leave.
Anyone who goes to a hairdresser or barber leaves feeling a bit happier with themselves. But The Barbery takes it one step further;
“You're not only coming in for a change in appearance, you also come into relax. You come into drink fresh herb tea and slow your heart rate and be just calm. And that's why I think when clients leave they feel better on the outside, but also on the inside because they feel a bit, recharged.”
To really nail the customer experience, you need to think about the smaller details that are easily overlooked. For Charl, that meant payments.
“If I had to be honest, taking payments was one of the very last things I did. I needed something to be simple and straightforward. I needed there to be good customer service, so if anything goes wrong I needed to know that there's someone at the end of the phone and I can call and explain my issue to. And also I needed something which was aesthetically pleasing. And SumUp just ticked all those boxes.”
Have a little patience
Laying the necessary foundation for your business takes time, effort, and a lot of perseverance. So when it's time to launch your business, it’s natural to expect immediate results.
But there will always be things to improve and new challenges you didn’t plan for.
“You get all these articles on advice about you know, “make sure your client experience is right”, “make sure that your marketing is right”, “make sure your booking system is all in place” but things don't always go to plan so yeah having patience is really important.”
Exercise some patience, know that your work will pay off, and have faith in your product.