October 1, 2023

Essential Guide: Starting a Barbershop Business in the United Kingdom

Essential Guide: Starting a Barbershop Business in the United Kingdom

The barbershop industry in the United Kingdom is experiencing a remarkable renaissance. Steeped in tradition yet attuned to modern tastes, British barbershops have become hubs of style, grooming, and community. In cities and towns across the UK, these establishments have evolved from mere haircut destinations into thriving social spaces, where gentlemen and, increasingly, ladies, congregate for more than just a trim.

If you've ever considered starting your own barbershop, now might be the perfect time to turn that dream into reality. As the pursuit of personal grooming and self-care gains ever-greater prominence, the demand for skilled barbers and welcoming, stylish spaces to indulge in grooming rituals has never been higher.

This essential guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive roadmap for setting up and managing a successful barbershop business in the United Kingdom. From the initial stages of market research and planning to navigating legal requirements, designing your barbershop space, hiring skilled professionals, and creating a thriving, customer-centric atmosphere – we'll cover it all.

The journey of establishing a barbershop is a rewarding one, and it's a testament to the enduring appeal of classic craftsmanship in an ever-changing world. In the following sections, we will delve into the intricacies of this venture, equipping you with the knowledge and insights needed to navigate the vibrant and competitive barbershop landscape in the UK.

Join us as we explore the art of the shave, the mastery of the cut, and the creation of a welcoming haven for all who seek the timeless rituals of grooming and the camaraderie of the barbershop. Whether you're a seasoned barber looking to take the next step or an aspiring entrepreneur with a passion for style, this guide will provide you with the tools and guidance to make your barbershop business a shining success.

Do your research

Do your research

Before you dive into the world of barbershops, it's crucial to research your local market. Understand your target audience, their grooming preferences, and the specific needs of your area. When you understand your ideal target customers, you’ll have a much easier time trying to sell to them.

Your market research should also include taking the time to pick the right location for your business. There’s no denying that location matters. Choose a spot that's accessible and visible to your target customers. 

A strategic location can significantly impact foot traffic and the success of your barbershop. You could also consider setting up a location-independent business. There has been a sharp increase in mobile barber shops offering services from the back of fully kitted-out vans.

The final stage of your market research will include competitor analysis. Conduct a thorough analysis of existing barbershops in your area. Identify gaps in services or opportunities for differentiation to set your business apart. You might need to visit each one to find out how they treat their customers and what they do to set themselves apart.

Create your business plan

Create your business plan

A well-crafted business plan offers a multitude of invaluable benefits to entrepreneurs and business owners. Firstly, it serves as a roadmap, providing a clear and strategic vision for the business's future, and helping to set and prioritise goals. 

It also aids in securing financing, as it showcases the viability and potential of the venture to investors or lenders. Furthermore, a business plan enhances decision-making by providing a structured framework for evaluating opportunities and challenges. It fosters accountability within the organisation, ensuring that everyone is aligned with the business's objectives. 

And finally, it also acts as a dynamic document, allowing for continuous monitoring and adjustment as the business evolves. Ultimately, a business plan instils confidence and clarity, equipping entrepreneurs with the tools to navigate the complexities of the business world and increase their chances of long-term success.

With a business plan in place, you can move forward with confidence, whether you are funding the venture yourself or seeking investment. In general, your business plan should include:

  1. The executive summary. This is a brief overview of your barbershop concept, its location, and your goals. In short, it is a concise summary of the key points of your business plan.
  2. Business description. This includes details about your barbershop, including its name, location, and legal structure. You should also include information about the services you'll offer (haircuts, styling, grooming, etc.). And finally, define your unique value proposition and what sets your barbershop apart.
  3. A market analysis. This is a thorough analysis of your target market, including demographics, preferences, and behaviour. It should include an assessment of the demand for barbershop services in your area. And finally, a competitive analysis, identifying other barbershops and grooming businesses in your vicinity.
  4. A brief marketing and sales strategy. This is your plan for marketing and advertising your barbershop. It could also include strategies for attracting and retaining customers, including pricing, promotions, and loyalty programs. Online and offline marketing channels you will utilise.
  5. Operational plan. This includes details about your barbershop's daily operations, including opening hours and scheduling (and any barbershop software you'll use), plus staffing. You should also outline the equipment and supplies required for your services. And finally, offer an overview of your health and safety procedures and COVID-19 safety measures (if applicable).
  6. Location and facilities. Include information about your barbershop's physical location, layout, and interior design. This can include consideration of factors like foot traffic, visibility, and accessibility.
  7. Financial projections. This might include financial forecasts, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. You could also provide projections for your barbershop's revenue, expenses, and profitability. You can also create a break-even analysis to determine when your business will become profitable.
  8. Funding request. If you are raising financing, specify the amount and how you plan to use it. Make sure you explain the terms you're offering to potential investors or lenders.
  9. Include information about management and staffing. This could include plans for hiring and training barbers and support staff. You can also include any employee policies and standards for customer service.
  10. Risk assessment. For this part of your business plan, you should identify potential risks specific to your barber shop business. You can also include contingency plans for addressing these risks.

Remember that your business plan can be continually evolving and growing as your business matures. You don’t have to be bound to the plan forever, but you should refer back to it when you are struggling to maintain focus. It can help you to remember your original goals and intentions, ensuring you remain on track with your objectives. 

Check the legal requirements 

Check the legal requirements 

You’ll need to register with your local council and they might check if you are following hygiene and safety protocols. This is the absolute minimum level of legal requirement, but there are other steps you can take to make sure your business is reputable and reliable.

You’ll need to follow health and safety regulations to protect customers and your staff. Check with your local council to find out what checks and procedures you need in place to run a successful business. 

You’ll also need to think about insurance for your business to protect yourself from legal action. The minimum insurance you will need is public liability insurance and employer’s liability insurance. You could also invest in insurance to cover the equipment in your salon against loss due to theft, fire or flood.

And finally, you’ll also need to consider the regulatory side of hiring workers. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers have the right to work in the UK, so you’ll need to check residence documents and have a system in place for keeping track of this information. You’ll also need to create regulations for hiring workers fairly, without discrimination. 

Setting up your barbershop

Setting up your barbershop

At this stage, you will have a location for your shop secured, so it’s time to think about the layout. You need to maximise the space available, with clear zones for the barber stations, waiting area, merchandising and a storage/staff area. The decor and layout will be a key part of the branding for your shop, so don’t let this become an afterthought. 

You should invest in the best quality equipment and supplies that you can afford. You might upgrade certain items in the future, but the overall feel of the venue should be premium and high quality. If you skimp on things like barber chairs in the beginning, you risk ruining the customer experience. 

Design the interior of your barbershop to reflect your brand's aesthetics. A well-designed space can enhance the overall customer experience. It can also make customers more likely to mention their experience to friends or post about it on social media. If you’re not confident in this area, consider working with a specialist interior designer. They can provide expertise on things like layout and lighting that will make a world of difference to the finished result. 

Hire your team

Hire your team

You might start out running the place alone, but eventually, you will need to consider hiring more team members. There are many ways you can expand your team. You could take on an apprentice barber and be part of their training and development. This will allow you to teach them your methods and shape them in your image. It can also be a very cost-effective way to get additional support around your barbershop. 

You could also hire employees and pay them a salary or an hourly wage. With this route, you will shoulder the greatest financial burden, as you will be responsible for their salaries, even if you don’t have the customers. 

The final option is to rent chairs in your salon to established stylists and collect a chair rental fee every month. You will take a fixed fee for this arrangement, so if they are very successful, you won’t see an increase in profits. You won’t have a say in how much they charge, so this can leave salon owners feeling very out of control. And finally, there is also a risk they will move on and take their customers with them. 

There are many different ways to expand your team, so you’ll need to consider what works best for your business model.

As part of your hiring plans, you should also think about staff training in essential skills and techniques. You could also offer training in secondary skills such as customer service and marketing. 

And finally, you’ll need to think about how to create a positive work culture. When you foster a positive and collaborative work culture, you can help to keep your staff motivated and engaged. Happy employees lead to happy customers.

Deciding your services and prices

Deciding your services and prices

Barber services have come a long way in recent years and there is now a wide range of treatments you could offer. Determine the range of services you'll offer, from traditional haircuts to grooming treatments. Make sure that you tailor your offerings to your target audience.

Once you know the services you offer and how long each of these will take, you’ll then know how many customers you can book per day. From here, you can then determine how much you need to charge to be able to cover your expenses. The more you charge, the harder it will be to secure customers. But lower capacity can be sustainable if you are charging enough to cover your expenses. In short, you need to establish this balance.

When setting your pricing, you’ll also need to think about how much your competitors are charging. If you charge a lot more, you might struggle to compete. But if you undercut their prices by too much, you could devalue your services in the eyes of the customer. You want to be seen as offering good value for what you offer, so make sure you aren’t overpricing or underpricing your services.

Your location will also play a big part in how much you can charge. City centre locations will command higher fees than those in the suburbs. Again, you should look at what nearby competitors are charging to help influence your pricing strategy. 

Market your business

Market your business

You’ll need a comprehensive marketing strategy to help spread the word about your business in the early days. As your business grows, you’ll need to adapt your marketing activities to include customer loyalty programmes and initiatives to encourage repeat custom.  

You will need to create a comprehensive marketing plan that includes both online and offline strategies. You might utilise social media, local advertising, and promotions. If you don’t have the skills in-house to make this happen, you might need to hire a freelance marketing manager or outsource your marketing to an agency. This will incur an additional cost, so you need to keep a close eye on your return on investment (ROI).

At the very least, you should invest in a professional website and social media profiles. Use these platforms to showcase your work and engage with your audience. You could also implement loyalty programs and incentives to encourage repeat business. Happy customers are more likely to become regulars. Asking for reviews from happy customers should also feature heavily in your marketing plans.

When customers leave reviews, you need to show that you are taking this feedback on board. This is an often neglected part of the marketing process, but it is very important for service industries. Respond to every review and make sure you have procedures in place to take constructive feedback on board. You don’t have to adjust your business based on every piece of negative feedback, but you should be seen to be taking note when your customers raise legitimate issues.

Think about the customer experience

Think about the customer experience

Barbershops are a service-based industry, and the customer service you provide will be pivotal to your success. Think about how you can provide exceptional customer service to build strong customer relationships. 

A positive experience keeps customers coming back. If you’re not sure what this should look like, think about the good customer service experiences you have had in the past and try to understand what made it a positive experience. Once you switch on to the concept of good customer experience, you will notice it everywhere. 

Unfortunately, we typically only notice customer service when we have a very bad or a very good experience, and everything else slips through the net. You should aim to provide a good customer experience as standard but also aim to provide exceptional customer service where possible. 

It could be that you need to offer personalised grooming advice and services based on individual customer needs and preferences. Or using reliable and straightforward booking software to make arranging appointments a breeze. Good customer service can also be seen in the way you handle customer feedback. You should actively seek and respond to customer feedback. Use reviews and suggestions to continually improve your barbershop.

Keeping track of the figures

Keeping track of the figures

Financial management is a key part of running a successful business. Create a budget and financial projections to estimate how much you could make as a barber and guide your business's financial health. You should also monitor expenses and revenue closely. If you aren’t confident with the money side of things, work with an accountant to get a better grasp on your financial position. 

Alongside long-term financial planning, you also need a good grasp of cash flow management. You will need to manage cash flow effectively to ensure you have the funds needed for day-to-day operations and growth. Short-term cash flow issues can be addressed with short-term lending like overdrafts, while long-term cash flow issues should be addressed with lending such as loans or investments. 

And finally, make sure that you understand your tax obligations and maintain accurate financial records. Consider consulting with an accountant or tax professional. While it is certainly possible to manage your taxes and accounting on your own, you’ll be putting your skills to better use if you focus on being a barber and leave the accounting to a professional.

Staying ahead of the curve

Staying ahead of the curve

Your barber business needs to be continually evolving if it is going to stand the test of time. You can achieve this by making it more sustainable and making sustainability part of the appeal. 

You could incorporate sustainable practices into your business, such as eco-friendly products and energy-efficient equipment. You could also take steps to make your salon operate in the most eco-friendly way possible. Consider offering environmentally friendly grooming products and services to appeal to eco-conscious customers.

You should also make sure you are offering an up-to-date service that is in line with current trends. Keep a finger on the pulse of the barbering industry and undergo additional training as and when required. You should also look for ways to offer the latest trends and techniques to attract and retain a diverse clientele.

Scaling your business

Scaling your business

There are many ways to expand and grow your barbershop business. This could include:

  • Increasing your prices and attracting more exclusive clientele.
  • Expanding your premises to offer more barber stations, either for employees or rental chairs.
  • Expanding to an additional site, or multiple sites around the country, allowing you to grow your brand.
  • Expanding your offering to provide a wider range of services, such as hair removal or spa services.
  • Franchising your business to secure future growth without continued investment and personal risk.

Before you can take any of these steps, you need to be engaging in a process of continual evaluation of your business performance. Regularly assess the performance of your barbershop using key metrics. Identify areas for improvement.

Once you know you’re in a strong and stable financial position, you can then explore opportunities for expanding your business, such as opening additional locations or introducing new services. Just be sure to stay adaptable and open to industry changes and innovations. Flexibility is key to long-term success.

Closing thoughts

Starting a barbershop business in the United Kingdom can be a rewarding endeavour. By following these essential steps and guidelines, you can embark on your entrepreneurial journey with confidence. To find success in this sector, you need to have strong barbering skills that are continually evolving with the latest trends. Your service is the core of your offering, and how you deliver it should be a key consideration.

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