Hair business booming

HARARE - If there is any business that is doing well in Zimbabwe at the moment when the economy is declining, it has to be the hair industry.

Recent statistics from the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (Zimstats) show that local women spent $13 million on hair and hair products between January 2013 and July 2014.

A short research done by the Daily News in the country’s major cities indicates that the hair salon business is booming in Zimbabwe with many small scale entrepreneurs and large corporates opening up the business in strategic places around the metropolises and towns.

Last week, diversified conglomerate Meikles Limited — known for its elegant household products and hotels for the affluent — indicated that it was venturing into the lucrative hair industry and is targeting to open its first hair salon this month.

“We view this as a rapidly growing market,” said John Moxon, Meikles chairman adding that the group had “the capacity to establish businesses in spaces that are not fully utilised by TM Supermarkets and Meikles Mega Market, the object being to secure beneficial occupation with our various properties”.

The company is investing $4 million in the hair business as well as the expansion of its retail businesses.

Market experts say today, hair is more than just a symbol — it is big business. From India to Peru, the human hair trade has spread across the globe, and it has Africa in its grasp.

“The African hair care industry has become a multi-billion dollar business that has drawn global giants such as L’Oreal and Unilever to the continent,” said economist Ronica Mavhudzi.

Market research by Euromonitor International recently revealed that last year, women in Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon alone spent a whopping $1,1 billion on their hair. This also includes purchases of shampoos, relaxers and hair lotions.

The study noted that despite limited financial resources, African women were spending a combined $7 billion on wigs, hair extensions and relaxers every year.

Not to be outdone by their African counterparts, Zimbabwean women are going out of their way to enhance their beauty.

“I understand that the economy is not doing well and things are getting tough, but once in a while would like to treat myself to a nice hairdo,” says 24-year-old Rebecca Dube, a mother of two.

“Hair extensions make me feel glamorous, and I have to make sure that each month I set some money aside for my hair,” she added.

Information gathered by the paper shows that an average Zimbabwean women spends between $50 and $300 a month for a new hairstyle — a figure described by social commentators as very high in a country where the majority of people live on less than $2 a day.

However, hair salon owners believe that trips to salons are seen as essential, rather than an optional extra.

“Many of my customers have come to view their spending on new hair and styling services as non-discretionary expenditure causing demand for the industry to remain more resilient than in previous years,” said David Nyakabau who owns a salon in downtown Harare.

“In fact, asking how women can afford the cost might be missing the point. Because extensions, like long fake nails, are status symbols,” he said.

“If you have long nails, there is a suggestion you have a lot of leisure time. If hair costs a lot to do, and to keep up, there is the same suggestion. It’s almost as though you are living the life of a celebrity or glamour model,” added Nyakabau.

Mary Muripo-Banda, a working mother of three, spends about $300 on a good quality weave and another $50 to have it fixed.

“I can stay with it for long but I have to do treatment every two weeks which costs me $20 per visit. When I want to have my hair relaxed especially when it’s summer, I spend about $60 which can last me six months. If I want to braid my hair, it costs me about $35 and this will last for two weeks.

“Most of the hair products I use to relax and treat my hair cost me between $15 and $35 here in Zimbabwe but if I buy the products from China it is much cheaper,” she said.

Banda noted that women have to look good and must save money to buy quality products if they need to keep their hair strong and attractive.

Tara Donna, a single mother, who started working with hair in 2009 after her career as a stockbroker stalled, said the industry is unlikely to be affected by the economic decline.

“Women may slow down with how often they get their hair done, but they’ll always get it done,” said Donna, 35, who runs a beauty and hair salon in Eastlea

She added that getting one’s hair done “is like when your house is clean. Everything seems better.”

However, while formal hair salons are recording brisk business, the story is not so rosy with informal hair salons in high density suburbs.

“Most of our customers usually don’t have money to spend due to the worsening economic situation in the country,” said Martin Zengeya who co-runs a backyard hair salon with his sister in Budiriro.

“Depending on the preferred hairstyle, our prices are pretty reasonable ranging from $10 to about $50, but still business is down. We would be lucky to get three customers during the week,” he said.


Comments (2)

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