A London based entrepreneur, Damian Smyth, investing in small UK businesses, Barbershops, Barber training and maintaining the traditional art of the cut throat shave. I have a full-time salaried job, which I enjoy immensely, in the city for a hugely successful investment company called Cofunds but I believe everyone should take control of their own destiny hence my ‘other interests’.
Together with my business partner we run a number of barber shops in the City of London, a highly successful training academy, a business consultancy service, web design and, of course we are always open to new opportunities or discussions.
The background to the market
Few people can argue against the growth of the male grooming market. Led, initially, by the established markets in Europe and the US the UK slowly caught onto the concept of metrosexuality throughout the 1990’s. This growth has continued at a pace over the last 10 years through the rise of celebrity, a distinct awareness of the male model in advertising and, probably most influentially, the crossover of the pampered footballer into mainstream culture. As as result the average man in the street now appreciates that the adoption of a grooming routine is not optional, its essential.
As with any social shift in behaviour this creates significant opportunity for entrepreneurs and business owners willing to identify the opportunity in front of them.
A market in transition
The male ‘grooming market’ is currently occupied by the ‘product’ business and its maturity has been fascinating to watch as it follows two distinct routes to market. On the one hand we have seen large international brands such as P&G, Gillette, Nivea and Avon move into the high street with products to appeal to the man who wants safe and trusted brands. This is a strategy that has seen some success but increasingly we are also seeing a growth of smaller niche providers moving in as the market starts to mature and men take over the purchase of products from their wives and girlfriends. Hence the success of smaller players such as King of Shaves, Woody’s, Fudge and the like.
However in terms of opportunity this growth has yet to be replicated in the professional Barber industry. There are no Gillettes or Avons dominating this area, no brands instantly recognised by the average man. Those brands that are recognisable are principally designed to serve a different core market; ladies or the young, rich and fashionable. The outcome to this is that the market is dominated by a distribution network of many thousand independent barber shops of an indiscriminate quality. As a result it is a fact that men in the UK currently spend more time selecting their hair wax than they do their barber, this is akin to buying your food from the corner shop but your cutlery from Harrods!
Hoffi was set up in 2005 to solve this very issue in the City of London, the highest concentration of male office workers in Europe. Our intention was to build a brand that would be trusted and offer a laid back and reliable barbering service for the men of London, whether they be the CEO or the post boy and whether they are cutting edge or happier cutting a hedge.
We really do believe that the time is now. With the current high levels of unemployment in the UK and a realisation that home ownership and employment is not a route to great fortune or freedom, small businesses and trade skills are increasingly seen as the future. The entrepreneurial community are already spotting the absence of a leading brand in the market, a significant reduction in the commercial rents and lease terms on the high street and a consolidation opportunity to bring the many smaller firms with little professional infrastructure into more powerful businesses models moving forwards.
What this in mind, our shop experience and training expertise is meeting this new growing market head on. What we will need more than anything else is exactly what the academy is now producing; good quality, well trained, professional, energetic, young barbers.
The future Hoffi graduates of 2010 and beyond.