With 2020 now behind us, it’s time to reflect in what it meant for the industry, and where we’ll be in 2030, writes Antony Whitaker.

If you go back 10 years to 2010 [which only seems like yesterday] and look forward to 2020 it might give you some indication of what the salon industry might look like in 10 years’ from now. In 2010 the iPhone was three years old with a fraction of the capability it has now. Instagram had just started. You probably hadn’t heard of salon suites; ecommerce in the salon industry was in its infancy, the renaissance of the barbershop was only getting started and ‘Corona’ was just a Mexican beer.

So, what will the roaring twenties have in store? Smart phones will be way smarter than they are now, almost everything will involve voice commands or go straight to brain interfaces meaning ‘you think it, it happens’. Artificial intelligence will invade every area of our personal and professional personal lives and make some roles [think receptionists] all but redundant. Cash transactions will be a thing of the past. The desire for more flexible working practices and the ‘business unit of 1’ will continue. Salon suites and other independent working models will evolve and expand and become an accepted alternative business model. The existing employee/employer business model will continue to exist but will evolve to include new co-working spaces, partnerships and employee ownership through stock option models.

Salons will carry much less retail inventory, but instead will all use apps such as ‘Instagram shop’ where clients can purchase direct through the app from the supplier or distributor and the stylist will still receive a commission. Alternatively, behemoths such as Amazon will continue to expand into the professional market and adapt the existing American model whereby salons can have their own shop on Amazon where they direct clients to purchase and Amazon takes care of logistics and delivery and the salon still receives a commission. When it comes to education at least 80 per cent of it will be delivered online but the technology will evolve to become a fully interactive holographic 3D learning experience which will be supplemented with face-to-face learning and shows.

Online learning will become the norm for the industry as not only is it more economical for the salon owner as it avoids the need for travel and time out of the salon but also enables hairdressers everywhere to access the best education no matter where they are located. The barbershop renaissance is here to stay, but regardless of the changes to the salon or barbershop, the client experience will evolve to incorporate additional services and be a showroom for a wider range of carefully curated merchandise aimed at their specific target market.

Data will be king! The salon owners that continue to embrace technology will be able to seamlessly tailor a bespoke experience and product/service offering matching clients with a stylist’s technical and creative strengths their working hours and personality profile. Most salons will be open 7 days a week and be open for longer hours with multiple shifts and an increase in a part time labour force.

2020 will be remembered not only for coronavirus and the economic shock to the world, but also for accelerating the uptake in using technology for learning and teaching and meeting in a virtual world. This will change the work life balance for people everywhere. More people will work from home at least part of the time and this will impact on everything from property prices to an increase of ‘affordable luxury’ salons, restaurants and other service businesses outside of what has until now been seen as the commuter belt. Every product manufacturer will have been forced to be as environmentally friendly as possible without negatively impacting on performance. Salon owners and staff will be more inclined to work with companies that share their values and put a big emphasis on sustainability, environmental impact, diversity, inclusivity and working with companies that genuinely give back to the wider community with the intention to put the planet and people first.

The home hair-colour market will continue to expand. Clients will have even more access to professional colourists consultations online, complemented by artificial intelligence, professional product and personalised formulations that in-salon hairdressers need to ‘up their game’ if they are to compete. The internet-based colour companies such as L’Oréal’s ‘Color&Co’ or Henkel’s ‘eSalon’ or the independently owned ‘Madison Reed’ which are all growing rapidly in the United States and Europe will continue to expand globally and narrow the gap between the salon experience and the home colour alternative which will impact negatively on the value end and the middle market of the salon industry.

Consumers and salons at the middle to the premium/luxury segment of the market will expect salons to be even more of a place that satisfies not only their hair and beauty needs but also the emotional experience of service and connection with likeminded individuals. Like everyone I don’t have a crystal ball but many of these trends are already underway and show no sign of changing direction.

We can’t stop change, and some change we may not like but, like all changes, there will be winners and losers. So, keep an open mind, look for the opportunities and never stop learning and growing. Remember, “the best way to predict the future, is to invent it”.

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