The Voice of the AHLC
Professional Hair Replacement Studios Are We on a Path to Self-Destruction? Michael Leigh, Founder, Joli Caméléon
THE THREATS CONTINUE: • Hair wearers “researching their choices” AKA shopping online for price... • Then pitching multiple studios against each other to extract “a deal”. • Many hours wasted by multiple studios, until one gets the sale at a reduced margin. • 5,000 Chinese trading companies, invariably representing themselves as “manufacturers”, approach every hair replacement studio they can find. They are trolling experts: all over our social media followers and our interactive studio locator. • Amazon helps spread the myth, because they know nothing about wigs yet, so there’s no penalty for promising bogus “virgin European hair products” at impossibly cheap prices.
WHERE IS IT ALL GOING?
The Chinese factories are not just about email any more. And they are not stopping with phone calls either. They are coming to the USA to “persuade you” in person. (No real factory owner has the time to do that incidentally). But that is not their end game. They want to sell to the hair wearer direct. And they are online everywhere, especially on Amazon, advertising fantasy products at fantasy prices in flawed English. And they are doing it because an increasing number of Hair Replacement Studios (HRS’s) are enabling their success at their own peril. More about that to follow.
THE RESULT: • Increasing demand for human hair is driving quality down. • Hair origins are often pure fantasy: Brazilian, Peruvian, Italian, Mongolian, “European”.
40 Issue 29, Spring 2019
• New product innovation is declining. • Customer service is often administered by software and call distribution systems. • Studios are cheating. Vendors are cheating. Lying is a de facto industry standard. • Civility and loyalty towards legitimate hair vendors is at an all-time low. The sad reality is that the Hair Replacement Industry - as a generalization – is selling impossibly cheap products, made from swept off the floor processed hair, and advertised as virgin Indian Remy or Brazilian, or Italian or European. We are talking about hair that can be purchased for less than $200 per kilo, acid bathed, cuticle stripped, vat dyed, silicone soaked, being presented as >$3,000 per kilo European hair – that’s what it would cost if they were actually selling what they were presenting. And between these 2 extremes are various quality levels in between, but the overall effect is the same.
WE’RE LIVING IN AN UPSIDE-DOWN WORLD... • Where United, Delta and American offer “basic economy” where you pay for EVERYTHING. Supposedly, so they can compete with the leader of no frills “peanut flights” – Southwest – whose cheapest fares included 2 free bags (add about $100 on the others). • Where Kia offers you a 7-year warranty and most of the extras included. While Mercedes proliferates multiple editions to add extra, after extra for 50%+ more than the base model and a much shorter warranty. • Where “real sugar” is actually a thing, because the major food manufacturers, like Heinz, have been contributing to diabetic America with massive amounts of high fructose corn syrup for 50 years. • Where legitimate hair manufacturers are being pushed to the fringes because an industry chooses not to defend itself and accelerates its implosion into generic mediocrity.
THE RAINBOW IN THE STORM CAVEAT EMPTOR: LET THE BUYER BEWARE
Perhaps through fear, desperation or customer intimidation, some studio owners find it easier to give a discount than to substantiate their added value. They lack a personal Brand-following that adds value to what they do and justifies charging a rightful price for a high-quality total experience. They also don’t take the time to educate their client on how to care for, style and maintain their fine European hair wig. And, when it comes back full of residue from dry shampoos, or saturated in Moroccan oil, or with dry split-ends from bleached highlights, they will look to the manufacturer to take responsibility.
Fortunately, there is still a strong cadre of very smart, talented hair replacement studio owners who know that they can only be #1 in their available market by delivering beautiful products, quality service, large helpings of needed empathy, AND a stand out Branding Strategy. Many of them are AHLC Members and they have a vision. They know that the way to lead in their available market is to create their “Personal Brand”. They leverage one or more high quality, ethical, creative US-based, direct-to-factory “hair partners”, who understand that only the right symbiotic relationship creates a lasting success. Why? Because, in 2019 you are either “generic” and you have to discount your prices. Or you
The Link Magazine is a quarterly trade publication for the Hair Restoration Industry, published by the American Hair Loss Council, www.AHLC....