Cutting Through Recessionary Times with Tonsorial Artists

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"Forget diamonds, a girl's best friend is her hairdresser”, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, as she talks to top tonsorial artist, Aidan Fitzgerald.

For most women their hair is their crowning glory; it's the last thing they would 'let go'. From grannies with the perm to the childhood trim, it's been part of our lives from early on. There's a feel-good factor about having your hair done - you go in bedraggled and emerge renewed. So, how did hairdressers fare in recessionary times? Did people cut back on their visits? Were they getting the hubby to apply the colour at home? I spoke to four of our top hairdressers on coping with the recession.

Aidan Fitzgerald has enjoyed a reputation as one of Ireland's top hairdressers for over 30 years,

When we opened in Blackrock 33 years ago, it was in a recession. We had bank interest rates of 17.75pc and I was paying 4pc over, as they said I was a high risk. We opened in June 1982 and then they put 25pc VAT on a haircut. My accountant said, if a bomb dropped in Blackrock, he'd know which building it hit - mine! We knuckled down and got out of it. This is our third recession - there was a blip in the 90s. It came back in 2000 and it went off the wall. We were doing appointments at 8am and we were still in the salon at 7pm. It was a boom, and then we went through the late 2000s and we were all millionaires! We had DB9s, Ferraris and Bentleys parked outside here; it was a great life. Then, we fell off a cliff! - Laughs Aidan

Again, Aidan saw the same pattern. Specialising in hair colouring and styling, they were used to seeing people 6-7 times a year. Those visits began to stretch out to 3-4 times a year.

We're in the service business, we look after people. The last thing the client does in this salon is pay the bill and I want to make sure that she or he is happy paying the bill and that they are going to come back to my salon.

Aidan employs 22 people over three floors in Blackrock. "We were very lucky in the boom and I didn't buy the Ferrari, but I reinvested in the salon two years ago spending €200,000 upgrading in water and energy." Aidan's efforts were rewarded when he took the EnviroCom Award 2013 for environmental performance for small businesses with less than 50 employees.

We saved 282,000 litres of water in a year, we also went for low-energy lighting and we stopped laundering our towels, going instead for disposable, biodegradable ones. We have always invested in retraining our staff. We're the last stress-free zone because life is busy. It should be a comfort zone, a pleasure to come to the salon, and that also comes into service. If you are paying a little bit more of your hard-earned cash, you have to get the quality of service.  We also have a new private salon for people requiring wigs or hairpieces.

In Blackrock, we've had a new library, a new college with 1000 students, 200 teachers, a new coffee bar, a new tearoom and new auctioneers. We are not out of this trough yet, it's going to be a slow journey, but hair is still growing!

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Photo by Tony Gavin
This article was featured in the Sunday Independent on the 26th October 2014

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