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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 15:46 GMT
Jacks your man

Are you a man? And if so, are you too intimidated to go into a unisex hair salon?

Well if you are, you're not alone.

When Sue Whitehead found she could count the number of male customers coming into her salon on one hand, she knew she'd found a gap in the market.

So she drew a deep breath, gathered all her savings and started Jacks of London - an upmarket hairdresser's with a modern twist.

It's a modern barber's shop where men can hang out with other men, watch football and get a beer with their salon-style haircut.

Free beer

By observing the behaviour of her clients over several years, Sue was able to research her market.

And finding that lots of men seemed to want something other than a unisex salon or a traditional barber's, she came up with plasmas screens, internet access and free beer to keep her customers happy.

In doing so, Sue followed the first steps to creating a successful business.

Patrick Allen is a marketing consultant and outlines some of these crucial steps.

"First there should be some kind of market research taking place to identify consumer needs," says Patrick.

Find your market

"If you find these and can provide a solution, there will be some kind of genuine marketable proposition.

"Most companies try to identify a need or what people are asking for.

"Consumers don't always realise there is a need for something and so don't ask for it.

"You should then quickly get your products replicated in the market place.

"Things like going down the franchising route or offering consumers a better experience through websites so you've got a word of mouth element into the marketing mix.

"That quickly gets your brand established.

"Once that is established the next top tip is to think about how you are going to defend it from competitors.

They'll be hungry to take your market share away from you so you must build some kind of barrier to prevent competitors stealing your market share," adds Patrick.

Ahead of the game

Sue and her team are always looking for new ways to stay one step ahead of the competition.

They've installed a webcam so customers can click onto the salon's website and find out if there's a queue.

Another hit with the punters is that they can get their hair cut in the morning before they go to work or well into the evening.

And Sue's well thought out selling points have brought in a steady stream of regular clients - among them premiership footballers and film stars.

"We have 10,000 on our database and we've only been running it for a year. We're now looking to franchise," says Sue.

And Sue hopes that by going down the franchise route, she can expand her business quickly, giving her the best possible chance of keeping copycats at bay.

Student Guide

Sue Whitehead ran a successful hairdressing salon in Wimbledon.

It occurred to her that, despite the fact that the salon was unisex, she hardly had any male customers.

She looked at other salons in the area and discovered that there were salons like hers and basic barber shops which didn't look very cool.

She had found a gap in the market and wanted to make the most of it.

What does the market want?

Sue had already done quite a lot of market research but had some more to do.

She discovered that men really wanted:

  • their hair cut in a male environment

  • to be able to walk in and get a hair cut

  • a hair cut before and after work

Just think...

How do you think Sue gathered her information?

What difference does it make to the service she aims to provide?

What other sorts of research are available to businesses which want to develop a new product?

Planning the new business

Sue had realised that her new salon needed to be quite distinctive so Jacks of London looks very different from the average hairdresser's.

It has plasma screens, internet access, free beer and the right sort of magazines.

Sue even installed a webcam so customers could log on and find out if there was a queue so they wouldn't have to wait.

Staff are employed in shifts so the salon is open twelve hours a day to meet the needs of customers who want to have an early or late haircut.

All these factors give Jacks of London a very different feel.

However, just one feature isn't enough. Anyone can quickly take on staff to open twelve hours a day or get in some beer.

It takes much longer to copy a product with a clear identity. That's why Sue made Jacks of London so special.

She captured a market before anyone could catch up with her.

Just think...

What sort of environment was Sue trying to provide?

Why do you think she called it Jacks of London?

The market research gave Sue lots of information. What would she have to be careful about when setting up the business?

How could she measure her success?

Bigger cuts?

Having set up a successful business in Wimbledon, Sue is thinking about expansion.

The niche she has found has a lot of potential. Half the population is male!

She might not catch them all but there is certainly a big potential market.

She could set up more shops and develop a chain - or she could decide to sell franchises.

This would mean providing a support package for other people who wanted to run a Jacks of London somewhere else.

They would pay her a fee and a proportion of the profits for doing so.

Just think...

What are the advantages and disadvantages of developing a chain of hairdressing salons?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of selling franchises of the business?

The BBC's Liz Wallace
"They've installed a webcam so customers can find out if there's a queue "


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