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Confessions from the barber's chair

By James Pugh | Shifnal | Business | Published:

Barbers are returning to the high streets as men look for value from their haircuts – Mark Egerton tells us the secrets of life from the cutting edge.

Owner Mark Egerton

In the grip of the recession, one high street staple received an unexpected shot in the arm.

Barbering has become big business once again. While unisex salons became the destination of choice for men wanting a fresh look for the weekend in the early part of the century, now they are looking out for the candy-striped pole once again.

That's something that is benefiting the likes of Mark Egerton a former landlord who went on to enter the world of modern male grooming.

So much so that Mark, owner of Egerton's Barbers, is now taking the show on the road by launching a touring American-style Airstream trailer to take his team's scissoring skills to music festivals around the country.

Mark Egerton is off on the road as barbers make a comeback

The mobile business will run alongside his 1940s-themed shop in Shifnal, which he took over in 2005.

Barbers were the second most common type of business start-up in the UK last year, and there are plenty of hip new locations appearing on our high streets all the time, even while other types of business flail.

"Barbering has got massive since the recession in about 2007," says Mark. "Blokes were going to women's hairdressers, getting their hair washed and paying 30 quid.

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"They then realised could go to a barber to get a better cut for under a tenner."

He adds: "Over the last few years my business has increased massively, even with other barbers coming into Shifnal.

Robert Wilkes at work

"I have always reinvested in the business. This year I have put in three male Belmont Legacy chairs. Last year I had the front of the shop fitted out.

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"To take on another shop would be a massive commitment. With the high street going the ways its going it is very difficult. The footfall on the high street is going down.

"But I do want to venture out. I'm a business and am proactive looking for new business. People might have their own barber, but if I can go out to where the men are like factories and festivals, I will offer them something different, whether it is a shaving facility or shoe shine.

"I can't wait to take the American-style trailer around the UK to give even more clients a fantastic barbering experience. I will be able to go where I want."

Even though the regeneration of the barbershop has been based on people wanting a cheaper hairdo, Mark says that there is still a certain amount of loyalty in his customer base.

From left, Robert Wilkes, Charlotte Winters, Mark Egerton and Sarah Barnes

"There are people out there who are trying to reinvent the wheel, but you have to go back to basic values about making people feel important," he says.

"I have got one regular customer who lives in Derbyshire and travels on a Saturday for a hair cut and then travels back. There are other people who move away from the area then wait until they come back to see their family to have their haircut."

And perhaps his best piece of advice is this – never lie to your barber.

"People tell you lies in the chair, they then find out you know the truth and then they don't come back in," says Mark. "Never lie to your barber because they will always find out. And a barber can never lie to a customer.

Barber Robert Wilkes at Egerton’s in Shifnal

"There was a guy who came in and he said he had booked to go over to his château in France. He said he was about to go over with his father-in-law to do some work on it.

"A few weeks later his father-in-law comes in who didn't know I had cut his son-in-law's hair. He said he had just been away with his son-in-law. I asked him where had he been and he said to his son-in-law's caravan in Scunthorpe."

At 53, Mark, who has taken business advice from Stafford-based Howards Chartered Certified Accountants to launch his expansion plans, says he has no plans to hang up his clippers just yet.

"I want to die with a pair of scissors in my hand," he adds.

Egertons in Shifnal

"Barbering is my passion, it runs in my family. My grandad was a barber and I thought what a great guy he was and what a lovely simple life he had.

"It's not just about looking better, it's about feeling better too. When guys come here they want a special experience, whether it is a shoe shine or a haircut.

"You are only as good as your last haircut and only as good as your last customer who walks out."

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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