DOWNSIZING OF THE GROUP OF SALONS…1997
We now move on to the mid-90’s. We still had around ten salons & the school, but rents were rising to astonishing levels, interest rates had risen to 17% & we had the IRA threatening to blow us all up. There was also the small matter of the first Gulf War.
Central London was fairly depressed because a lot of the tourist trade, something we relied on very heavily, had taken fright as they thought London was dangerous. So it was around this time we decided to try & sell or close some of the more expensive sites. In fact, just to clarify our position, in those days all our salons were on major high streets in more or less prime locations. They were expensive to run because of the huge rise that had been taking place in rental levels in central London & the suburbs, as well as business rates being re-valued upwards, naturally. Quite frankly, hairdressing salons occupying the kind of locations we had could never really generate the kind of money that clothes retailers or restaurant operators could.
I had re-negotiated some of the rents after taking over the group of salons back in 1991. However, now as rental levels were rising again, we knew we couldn’t sustain some of the prime locations we had. For example, I’d negotiated a rent reduction at our Regent Street premises in 1992, a masterpiece of negotiating skill if I say so myself. It couldn’t last & it didn’t. By late 1995 I’d decided to start moving the business in a different direction.
We always had two sides of the business, salons & education & at some point we had to decide which direction to take. Let’s look at the Salon side first.
Because of the kind of locations we had, our expenses were always going to be enormous. We had a unit in Lewisham, not a very glamorous area but always busy & very profitable. However, as the effects of high interest rates & a general credit squeeze took hold, the clientele that we had, mainly local working people of every ethnic mix you could think of, gradually disappeared. The same thing happened in Ealing. We tried to negotiate with our landlords, but they refused to listen. The truth was they didn’t want hairdressing tenants unless you were Toni & Guy! By refusing to offer reasonable rental levels, businesses like ours, trading as much off passing trade as regular clients, couldn’t possibly survive.
We also opened a new site in Albemarle Street, Mayfair, in anticipation of the sale of our Regent Street premises back to the landlord. That was in June 1995 & we eventually closed Regent Street a year or so later. However, the best thing that happened during 1994, & proved to be a watershed in the future direction of our business, was that we got involved with government-funded training.
More of that later, but before I finish this chapter I must tell you about a trip we made to the Far East by our Education team. We were sponsored by Schwarzkopf to appear in Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand & four of us went more or less knowing that unless we were absolutely useless we could really enjoy the warmth & friendliness of South East Asia & offer our brand of “usable & commercial” hairdressing training to a wider audience.
Anyway, the tour was a great success & I decided to stay on in Singapore for a couple of days r & r after the team went back home. I did some shopping, chilled out & thoroughly enjoyed my couple of days. Eventually I checked out of the hotel, got in a taxi to take me to the airport & started to speak to the driver who asked me what I’d been doing in Singapore. I explained that we’d done some shows but wasn’t specific about exactly what we’d done.
He then started talking about the very famous Saxophonist, Kenny Gee, that he’d taken to the airport two days earlier. He described him exactly, you know, blonde curly long hair travelling with two other colleagues. What he didn’t realise was he was describing Edward, who unwittingly became part of a joke that was set up by the other two members of the team who were asked by their cab driver if the other guy in the other taxi was Kenny Gee. It was only when I got back to London that the whole story became apparent.
For my part, I broke the news gently to my taxi driver that Kenny Gee was in fact my son, Edward & the other two weren’t his make-up artist & manager. He was even more disappointed when I told him we were Hairdressers & had just finished a tour. When I got home, the whole story came out & has been inscribed in the Alan d annals as a historical event never to be repeated again.