"Recession Haircuts" and the New Normal

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted September 8, 2009




I’m dating myself a bit here, but one of my all-time favorite TV shows is still “Leave it to Beaver”.

And while the adventures of the Cleaver boys may seem dated in today’s world, watching the Beav take his lumps every week still makes me chuckle.

In fact, Beaver Cleaver’s run in with a pair of scissors is the first thing that popped into my mind when I came across this story last week.

It’s about the times being so tough these days that some people we starting to cut their own hair. I kid you not.

From the Wall Street Journal by Mary Pilon entitled: Per Capita Savings: Home Babering Grows in Recession, With Hairy Results

“Jane Angelich used to joke about her husband, Mark, going bald. Then with one faulty flick of the wrist, she made it happen.

Mr. Angelich had begun cutting his own hair to save money. His wife offered to trim a spot in the back he couldn’t reach. So she picked up an electric razor, “put a little too much oomph into it,” and carved out a “giant chunk” of hair. The fix: She shaved his entire head.

The downturn has created a nation of cost, and hair- cutters. To help pare their budgets, more Americans are bypassing the salon and opting to lop off their own locks. The results, can be shear disaster — clogged drains, fresh cowlicks and crooked trims.

“It may look easy, but it’s not,” says Gordon Miller, executive director for the National Cosmetology Association, which represents more than 10,000 U.S. salons. He says that middle- and high-end shops are feeling the pinch, as consumers come in less frequently or go to lower-priced salons. In a January poll of 600 salons, about 72% said they have seen a dropoff in customer spending.

Regis Corp. just reported its first negative annual same-store sales in the company’s 87-year history. Regis, which operates big salon brands such as Vidal Sassoon and Supercuts, expects to see more shrinkage in the next year, as opposed to the usual 2% growth. “We generally do okay during recessions,” says Chairman and CEO Paul Finkelstein. The drop in business this time around is “different than anything I’ve ever experienced.”

Sales of electric hair clippers expanded as the U.S. economy contracted. Wahl Clipper Corp., which claims over half the consumer market, said sales of hair clippers rose 10% in 2008 and are projected to rise 11% in 2009. Normally, the clipper category moves only a percentage point or two, up or down each year, says Pat Anello, Wahl’s director of marketing.

Last month, Nicole and Pat Watson gave their two four-year-old twins “recession haircuts.” Mrs. Watson purchased electric clippers and set up shop on the back porch, saving the St. Paul, Minn. couple the $25 they would normally drop every couple of weeks for the twins’ trims.

Friends and neighbors watched as Owen and William took turns wiggling through their cuts. At one point, Mrs. Watson, who works at an art gallery, says one of the twins asked, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” She said she did”.

Meanwhile, a mini-industry has sprouted up in salons: fixing botched at-home cuts.

In Idaho Falls, Idaho, Melodie McBride’s salon handles three or four repair jobs a week. One client “looked like his head had been through a thrasher,” she says. Another man came in with an eyebrow that had been mistakenly shaved off.

The salon, called Lifes Balance, recently slashed eight inches of hair off a teary-eyed 18-year-old client’s head after the teen’s own creative attempts backfired. Huge chunks were missing, Ms. McBride says.

Some areas, such as the back of the head, can be particularly treacherous for amateurs to navigate, notes “Haircutting For Dummies” author Jeryl Spear. “If you could just take your head off and put it in your lap, you’d be OK cutting the back on your own,” she says.

As for Mark Angelich, he has kept his head shaved since his wife’s slip-up. “He’s still got a mustache,” Mrs. Angelich says. ‘But he’s not letting me anywhere near it.'”

You just can’t make this stuff up.

As for the Beaver, here’s how his new haircut turned out….


Welcome to the new normal.  

Instead of granite counter tops and trips to Mexico, it’s about Flowbees and meatloaf.

It’s funny how the times change

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