At hair salons, the bad economy has no effect on business

October 26, 2011 2:26:17 PM PDT
The slow economy isn't keeping people away from their hairdresser's chair. At Fabulocs, a salon in capitol heights, MD, business is booming.

Owner Nimat Bilal says she hasn't seen a drop in her clientele during the economic downturn.

She actually had to move to a larger space two years ago to accommodate the growing number of stylists looking to rent a booth at her salon. Despite the sluggish economy, barbershops and hair salons have grown nationwide, as customers place a high priority on looking put together.

"It's a necessity, because I do want to keep my hair looking like it's well-maintained. I don't buy as many shoes anymore. I do get the hair done," one customer explained.

Nationwide, the number of barber shops grew more than 18 percent and beauty salons more than 14 percent from 2007 to 2009. But even though business is good, the effects of the economic slowdown are visible in other ways. Almost all the stylists have college degrees and spent years working in other fields.

Bilal's sister Aisha currently helps train people who want to become stylists, but she has a Masters degree in Education. She lost her job at a non-profit two years ago.

"Contracts kind of dried up a lot for many of us and just couldn't sustain myself doing it anymore," she explains.

But Nimat Bilal expects business to remain strong. The strong community link formed by a hair salon means it's an industry that can't be outsourced.

Derek Davis is vice president of the National Association of Barber Boards of America. He has a barber shop that's been in his family since 1968.

"Beauty has always been something that the public has always wanted. Everybody wants to look good and they want to feel good."