The rise of barber shops: Angry male salon owners say they are being squeezed out by soaring number of competitors with more than 2,300 new barbers opening in a YEAR – and one area boasts more than a dozen within a mile of each other
- EXCLUSIVE: Consumer experts say men enjoy pampering themselves more now
- Comes after data showed more than 2,300 barbers opened in UK over last year
- This has sparked concern from long-standing barber shop owners
Barber shop owners are fed-up and concerned by the drastic number of competitors opening every year, as the men’s hairdressing service spikes in popularity.
More than 2,300 barbers have opened in Britain over the last 12 months, according to a survey by the Local Data Company, making it the fastest growing sector of the retail economy.
While some barbers are thriving on Britain’s High Streets thanks to increasing vanity among young men wanting to look their best on social media, other salons are dwindling.
MailOnline found that both in London and the North, several shops are competing with one another on single streets.
Eltham, in London, has more than a dozen barber shops within a mile, while another area has two that opened at almost the same time adjacent to each other.
But while some locals delight at the plethora of salons and opportunity to indulge in some male grooming ahead of a Friday night out, some have raised concerns of more sinister forces at work.
Earlier this year it was reported that officials fear barbers are increasingly being used as a front for organised crime.
Security sources told The Mail on Sunday that gangs are using some businesses to conceal the proceeds of crime, and that many could be a base for human trafficking and slave labour in the same way nail bars and car washes have been used in the past.
Abdullah Mahmoudi, 36, of Joe’s Barbers has been cutting hair in Eltham for 14 years and says there is a big difference in the local landscape for his business compared to when he started
Barber shops are thriving on Britain’s High Streets thanks to increasing vanity among young men and the desire to look the best they can on social media. Pictured: Barber Aryan Peshraw cutting the hair of Sean Williamson at Rebin’s Barbers in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside
More than 2,300 barbers have opened in Britain over the last year, according to a survey by the Local Data Company, which makes them the fastest growing sector of the retail economy. Pictured: Barber Guven Ozdenir, 31, outside his shop in Eltham, south east London
In one area of London, Eltham, there are more than a dozen barber shops within a mile of each other
The explosion of barber shops in London and other major UK cities has prompted experts to call for an investigation.
Some are being run by Albanian and Kurdish gangs suspected of making money by smuggling tens of thousands of migrants from Calais to Dover on lorries and small boats across the Channel.
Read more: Criminal gangs could be using barber shops as bases for human trafficking, slave labour and drugs, security expert warns
Former Metropolitan Police officer Ali Hassan Ali said: ‘Right across High Streets we have seen a boom in barbers opening up since the pandemic. A lot of these shops have thousands of pounds of equipment but no customers.
‘While in some cases the shops will be involved in legitimate business, from my own experience, there is strong reason to believe a large number, particularly those owned by Albanians, Turks and Kurds, have links to organised crime.
‘This can be people-smuggling and in some cases drugs.’
Abdullah Mahmoudi, 36, of Joe’s Barbers has been cutting hair in Eltham for 14 years and says there is a big difference in the local landscape for his business compared to when he started.
‘When I moved here there were three or four barbers around here but now I counted over 39 in the area,’ he said.
‘The council are to blame. They should not let any more open. They let two open at the same time right next to each other.
‘Some owners around here have four or five different shops around here. It’s because compared to when I started there’s a lot more people around here.’
Lads Barbers worker Arias Mahmoudi has been at the hairdressers for nearly a year despite living in Stratford.
He said: ‘I have no idea why there are so many of them. We opened first and then [Guven] opened next to us. But it is no problem. He does his business and we do ours.
‘I can’t complain about [the money I make]. It’s alright, you know?’
Abdullah Mohammed, 36, of Westmount Barbers, was relaxed about the influx of competitors, saying his shop is still very busy in peak times.
In London, one suburb that has seen several barbers open up – with some even thriving despite being only three doors down the road from each other. Pictured: Arias Mahmoudi standing outside his shop Lads Barbers
Guven Ozdenir, 31, of Grooming Han Atelier, set up his shop just over a year ago – and insists that he is confident in his business being good enough to keep customers returning because of the quality service.
Guven said: ‘The start for me was a year ago when we were based in Canary Wharf. But we live local near Kidbrooke and though ‘why don’t we just bring Canary Wharf and give it a try here.’
‘I know there’s a lot of barbershops but our style is quite different to [Lads Barbers]. I don’t want to give a lot of information out. When the people come in, they can see the difference. You know, when you go to a nice restaurant, they don’t give you the ingredients.’
Guven has been a barber for over 15 years and backed his experience to win out over the saturated local market.
The seasoned barber said: ‘There’s a lot of barber shops out there but not enough barbers. During this barber shop spike, [rivals] think they can go to a course for like a year and they think are a barber and that’s not nice.
‘I think they got the council should do something about this.’
Sean Williamson (pictured in Whitley Bay) thinks the rapid increase in demand comes from the younger generation wanting to look good
Experts, barbers and customers revealed what they believe is behind the rise of the barber shop in Britain, including how ‘men are allowed to be a bit more vain’.
Polly Arrowsmith, a consumer expert, believes that the rise in barbers goes hand in hand with several social trends, including social media, having a piece of ‘me’ time and giving themselves ‘an affordable treat’.
‘It’s about the experience,’ Ms Arrowsmith told MailOnline. ‘For a lot of men, it’s about giving them a bit of me time – if you have kids and family, you can have a bit of time to yourself.’
She added: ‘I think particularly with the younger generation, because women have always had that excuse of pampering themselves, that opportunity is available to men. It’s an affordable treat and I think we will see more of an uptake.
‘I think more men are more image conscious with the likes of Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, all the social media platforms – it’s all visual.’
The rise in barber shops comes in stark contrast to many other retail offerings which are declining on the High Street. There was a net loss of 4,000 retail units across the UK in the first six months of the year.
Ms Arrowsmith also believes that barber shops flooding the UK are good for the High Street. She said: ‘The stores closing have got to be replaced by something, so it’s got to be a good thing to keep our High Street alive.
‘They are making it more experiential. I am seeing a lot more luxurious, its an experience, low level lighting, they can have a coffee and drink and offer a wider range of services.’
Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, is home to five barber shops in a space of just 300metres. Pictured: No 57 barber
Abdullah Mohammed (pictured), 36, of Westmount Barbers, was relaxed about the influx of competitors, saying his shop is still very busy in peak times
Locals in the coastal town of Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, which is home to five barber shops in a space of just 320 yards say the booming trade is down to a rise in male grooming. Some businesses have even had to open second shops to keep up with demand.
One customer Sean Williamson thinks the rapid increase in demand comes from the younger generation wanting to look good.
The 19-year-old local said: ‘I come in to get my hair done every two weeks or so. I like to come regularly to keep on top of my appearance, if I let my hair get too long then I think it becomes scruffy.
‘But if I get it cut often I feel and look better. It’s also important for hygiene and I think men are paying more attention to that.’
Sean currently spends around £25 a month at his regular and also maintains his thick beard at the same time.
Steve Thomas, in Whitley Bay, said: ‘There are too many hairdressers on the streets now in my opinion’
Simon Abduljabar runs K1 Barbers around the corner, which is his second branch. His other store is located a few miles away in North Shields, but business was booming so much he wanted to open another
He added: ‘Going to the barbers is an important part of my routine. It’s always been like that for me. I think there are more opening because people are wanting their hair cut more.
‘There are also more short styles now. If people let theirs grow out then it doesn’t look as tidy.
‘I normally do my beard myself but that’s another reason some barbers are very popular, it’s about the whole grooming process. It’s no surprise they’re on the rise.’
Simon Abduljabar runs K1 Barbers around the corner, which is his second branch.
His other store is located a few miles away in North Shields, but business was booming so much he wanted to open another.
The 39-year-old said: ‘More shops are opening because there’s such a high demand. People are having their hair cut more and are wanting to look after themselves.
‘Since Covid, I’ve seen a massive increase in male grooming and there’s been more shops open because of it. A lot of places are doing appointment-only now but we’re still a walk-in business.
Barbers said that the barber industry is the busiest its ever been, with some deciding to open up second shops. Pictured: Barber shops in Whitley Bay
‘Some are thriving and some aren’t doing as well, but I’ve been in this industry a while and it’s the busiest I’ve seen it.
‘Loads of my regular clients in this area wanted me to open another branch so I took that step for them.
‘For us we don’t have much competition because we have loyal customers but for others it is massive. The industry has shot up in terms of demand.’
Simon added: ‘It’s also a good thing because we can offer more jobs so it has a positive knock-on effect.
‘We have three members of staff at each shop so I think more business is good for the area.’
Despite the industry taking over, staff at other independent shops think the increase can only benefit them.
Sarah Chambers who works at Coffees and Cream, said: ‘Having more businesses is a good thing even if they are mainly barbers.
‘I noticed most of the barber shops around here are Turkish and as far as we’re concerned, they should go for it.
Steve’s wife Kelly, 46, a care assistant, said: ‘It would be good to see more independent shops on the high streets.’
‘It’s the same for ladies’ hairdressing – it gets people into the town. If they’re getting their hair cut then they might often pop in here for a coffee and a cake.
‘There are a lot of cafes in the area and we’ve been open four years but we haven’t had huge problems in terms of business.
‘All high streets struggle but as long as people are coming out to the shops it should survive.
‘I’m originally from Wallsend near Newcastle and their high street is constantly being battered, but I don’t think its to do with the barber shops opening. It’s good for business if these shops are opening more.’
But Steve Thomas, 48, a car valeter from Blyth, Northumberland, was not quite as positive.
He said: ‘I do my own hair because the prices are extortionate. There are too many hairdressers on the streets now in my opinion.
‘Paying £9 for a haircut is too much when I could pick up a pair of shavers and do it myself.
‘I tend to do it every so often but I haven’t been to a barbers for many moons, probably around ten years. It just seems to be hairdressers and vape shops which you see opening now.’
Read more: Schoolboy, 15, is put in isolation and told to chop off his mullet because the hairdo is ‘too extreme’
Steve’s wife Kelly, 46, a care assistant, said: ‘Where we live there is one guy who owns a barbers in the town, but he has another across the road and then one around the corner. It would be good to see more independent shops on the high streets.
‘But the industry is definitely on the rise. Even our son goes all the time to get his beard done. He’s the opposite to us but it’s what younger people do now. The demand is there.’
In London, one suburb that has seen several barbers open up – with some even thriving despite being only three doors down the road from each other.
The shops are peppered along Well Hall Road, Eltham in south east London with several new barbers opening in recent months to join established stylists on the busy retail destination.
Seasoned barbers say that they now have to compete with as many as 39 local barber shops to make their living – but that despite the rivals setting up shop nearby they still manage to make enough money to get by.
One pair of barbers in the area even opened up three units apart within weeks of each other but insist that they don’t mind the competition.
Grooming Han Atelier and Lads Barbers occupy premises just yards apart and local businesses have said that they do not believe the rivals knew of each others imminent opening when they were setting up.
Experts and customers have told of how men are loving being ‘pampered’ at their local barbers. Pictured: Razor Sharp in Eltham
Local hairdressers Chet’s Barbers and Eltham 1st Barbers are also within walking distance in the south London suburb which is awash with the snippers with at least eight more just a short drive away
Mohammed, who set up his business eight years ago, said: ‘It’s alright. The last few years we have got busier after lockdown.
‘We do most of our business at evenings and weekends when it is very busy. Of course, the new guys take some of our customers but we still do alright.’
Local hairdressers Chet’s Barbers and Eltham 1st Barbers are also within walking distance in the south London suburb which is awash with the snippers with at least eight more just a short drive away.
Public speaker James Gore told MailOnline that ‘men are allowed to be a bit more vain, a bit more proud of our appearance’.
He added: ‘There’s also something relaxing and pampering about the hot towel and wet shave and all of the other treatments. It’s allowing people to enjoy a pampering in a nice safe environment.
The 40-year-old from Stanmore, north-west London, continued: ‘There’s not many luxuries we get at the moment. It’s one that’s affordable and accessible.’
Public speaker James Gore (pictured) told MailOnline ‘men are allowed to be a bit more vain, a bit more proud of our appearance’
Alex Douglas (pictured), an entertainment tech entrepreneur for WONA, believes there has been a shift in men going to barber shops because of the ‘disgusting’ cost of salons
Mr Gore, who has been going to a barber over a hairdresser for at least a decade, added: ‘A lot of the time when I do go to barbers, it will be for a quick treatment and tidy up before going on stage.’
He believes that the competition for shops on the High Street is a good thing but he warned it may not continue at this trajectory. ‘Years ago, more and more hairdressers opened, but that levelled up and seemed to stabilise. I suspect the same is going to happen,’ he added.
Alia Waheed, the mother of a ‘fashionable teen boy’, told MailOnline the trend could reflect the generation children are growing up in today.
She said: ‘The new generation of barbers are a lot more trendy and offer more styles than the usual short, back and sides. Also with the growth of social media, people are a lot more image conscious.’
Alex Douglas, an entertainment tech entrepreneur for WONA, believes there has been a shift in men going to barber shops because of the ‘disgusting’ cost of salons.
The 40-year-old said he is saving £300 a year by using a barber now.
Alex told MailOnline: ‘These salons whatever the hell they are called, it’s crazy. Its ridiculous.
‘I live in the East Village at Stratford, you’re looking at circa £40 for a straight forward cut. Not even a shampoo, just a straightforward cut.
‘I just started to get annoyed how they increased the price every three to six months. It was originally £28 or £24 and over the course of the year it has increased to £40. All salons in that area.
‘Quite frankly I started to feel disgusted because it was a good service, I like the guy, they are nice. But I realised, the barber was 10 minute jog away, I can get some exercise as well.’ He pays £15 instead of £40 now.
‘He’s grown so rapidly he’s going to start doing appointment. They should anyway. It’s a no-brainer. They are going to grow rapidly.’
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