TELL MB A LITTLE ABOUT SIR & CO’S BACKSTORY…
I own a hair salon already called Heavenly Hair in the Suffolk town of Saxmundham and spotted Alex Sullivan our apprentice was really excelling in men’s hair. So I went out looking for a barbershop to put him in because he was so talented and passionate. (Alex is actually up for Best Apprentice at the Modern Barber Awards!) I saw a shop up for rent in the nearby seaside town of Aldeburgh and thought: “what a great opportunity”. Oddly, Aldeburgh hadn’t had a barbershop for 40 years… And when I found out the landlord was one of my Heavenly Hair clients it was basically a done deal! He said we could have it for 18 months and see how it went from there. I needed a manager for the shop as Alex was still in training so I popped an ad in a local paper and we had a great response. Tris came on board as our manager and we opened in about six weeks. That was October 2018 and now here we are three years later. One of the best things about my job is creating opportunities for others.
WHAT’S THE CLIENTELE LIKE IN A SEASIDE TOWN – CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SPLIT BETWEEN TOURIST AND RESIDENT? HOW DID YOU BUILD A CLIENT BASE?
Aldeburgh is a real mix of locals, tourists and wealthier residents with second homes (a two-bedroom cottage on the high street can be worth in the region of £750k!) There are a lot of high end shops, but also more traditional seaside shops. At SIR & Co we wanted to keep a focus on local people, but at the same time be welcoming to tourists. We’re a contemporary shop, but with traditional clientele. Our two barbers, Alex and Tris, have a really strong local following. Also, our landlord was a really great advocate of our business. He talks to everyone – word of mouth is so important to barbershops.
I IMAGINE COVID-19 HAS HAD A HUGE IMPACT ON ALDEBURGH. DID CLIENTS WHO HAD SECOND HOMES MOVE IN TO THE AREA ON A MORE PERMANENT BASIS DURING LOCKDOWNS? HAS THE STAYCATION-ING MARKET IMPACTED YOUR BUSINESS?
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the area a lot. Now people are leaving London and they’re either moving here or living in their second homes mostly and commuting to London 1 or 2 days a week. Property companies are booming and the caravan parks are full all year round. We have four chairs (three with restrictions in place) and we need a bigger premises as the demand is there from people now holidaying in the UK. So for us being a seaside destination in a pandemic has been really helpful.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM 2021?
We’ve learnt our value. We’re looking at closing one weekend a month to give our staff a long weekend. I don’t think it will hurt business and I think it might even increase our desirability. We also put up our costs by 20% (the locals still get their 10% discount). Post-pandemic (in fact, every year!) you need to readdress your costs and be on the ball. We work with salon coach Jessica Crane and I can’t recommend her enough for keeping us ‘business fit’. You’ve got to be brave in this business.
BEST OF BOTH
How Janene caters to both local clients and holidaymakers – it’s all about balance!
DiscountsWe do a local discount card that offers 10% off – we don’t offer holiday makers those discounts. In terms of attracting holiday-makers you’ve got to have good signage and don’t bury yourself in a position on the high street where you can’t be seen. Honestly the crowds get so big in seaside towns that we’d be buried if we weren’t in a prominent position.
Caffeine We also have a coffee hub which attracts a lot of walk ins – we created an outdoor one after the pandemic. We run it as a not-for-profit and proceeds go to the RNLI. We have tables and chairs out front, a big red umbrella and when we had the first sunny days in May we served 150 teas and coffee in a day! The coffee shop is a great place for clients to get away and have a chat or a quiet coffee.
Grooming goodiesWe stock British-made grooming brand Dear Barber, which has proved very popular with our clients. I’ve found that people have more time for themselves post-pandemic. They’re prepared to invest both time and money into their grooming regimes. Our retail has boomed since lockdown! Roughly 25% of our sales were retail last month and it’s normally 12-15%. People want our knowledge, advice and guidance. We hardly ever get a ‘no’ anymore from clients.