Hairy times for Wellington barber shops video

David White

Barber Lance Barnard talks about 40 years of cutting hair

Wellington's hairy hipsters have plenty of beard trimming options, as an explosion of barber shops takes over the city.

The number of barber shops within a few block of Manners St has almost doubled to 13 in the past year.

The high density of shops in the inner city has created competition among barbers, with some angry their prices are being undercut by new comers offering cheaper services.

Lance Barnard from Courtenay Barbers gives Matt Kekena a trim during his first visit to a barber.
David White

Lance Barnard from Courtenay Barbers gives Matt Kekena a trim during his first visit to a barber.

The popularity of the barber shop is at levels not seen since the mid-80s, when the trend for long hair was cut back.

The fashion for shorter, styled hair and beards has led to a demand for barbers, where image conscious men don't have to make appointment.

However, there is a shortage of skilled barbers and veteran barbers believe this has led to novices setting up shop.

Lance Barnard, from Courtenay Barbers has been a barber for 48 years and seen numerous revivals of the trade.
David White

Lance Barnard, from Courtenay Barbers has been a barber for 48 years and seen numerous revivals of the trade.

John Mouton from Just Gents, who has been cutting hair for 45 years, said there was no governing body for barbers, which was a problem when it came to rogue 'barbers' setting up a cash only business for a short time.

People who went in for a cheap haircut would end up with a bad cut, he said.

Many thought there was a quick buck to be made, but he warned expensive rent and overheads meant that it was not always a viable business.

It would be hard for a business charging $10 a cut to survive, he said.

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"There were 13 barber shops in the small area between my shop [on the corner of Victoria and  Manners St] and Willis St."

Dukes Barber owner George Janis said he knew of two more barber shops opening in the area soon.

"It's not difficult if they can find the right premises," he said.  

On Boulcott St, Menzone barber Eddie Steer was feeling the pinch, and was considering a move after nine years in the same shop.

"Up until a year ago there were only about seven stores in this area and now there are 13 barbers. They [new shops] might think this trade is a licence to print money, but it's not."

He was in negotiations with his landlord about rent and could not understand how businesses could offer $10 cuts or vouchers and still run a viable business, when many were just getting by charging between $28 to $38.

"I wonder how many haircuts they have to do a in day. I'd like to see if they can stick around with the high rents."

Wellington clients were loyal and came back to a regular barber for good banter, to relax with sport on the TV and a good haircut - and that's how shops like his were surviving the competition, Steer said.

However, Michael Petrie, who owns Courtenay Barbers and Cuba barbers, said business was good in the competitive market.

The Courtenay shop had been around since 1897 and was going strong, so he opened the Cuba St shop three months ago and it was already proving popular.

However, he was struggling to find skilled staff for his new shop.

Lance Barnard, who works at the Cuba St store has been a barber for 48 years.

"I've seen quite a few changes in that time. About 17 shops closed in Wellington within three years after long hair became popular in the late 1960s and the industry died off.

"It was revived in the 1980s with the punk rock scene. It had once again been revived."

The barber school in Auckland could have a bit to do with the revival of barber shops, but there was still a lack of trained barbers to keep up with new demand, he said.

"A few disenchanted employees from bigger places in town have also struck out on their own opening new stores."

The hipster scene had brought some extra business and he was interested to see how long it would last.

Matt Kekena, from Petone, was in the CBD on Monday and found he had a lot of options when looking for a barber for his first visit.

"I Googled 'barber in Wellington' because my beard is a new addition and I thought they could sort that out."

What do you think is a fair price for a haircut at a barber shop?

 - Stuff

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