CHAPTER 18:

CHANGE OF FOCUS… 1996 ONWARD

It was around the time we relocated the Academy to brand new premises that we decide to focus on the training side of the industry. We still had six salons, but we decided to sell them off or close them as the leases expired. In retrospect, the worst thing we ever failed to do was not to buy any of the freeholds. With the rent we paid to various landlords over many years we could have bought the Taj Mahal!

The Carphone Warehouse took our salon in Hampstead, & over the ensuing years we sold our Albemarle Street premises to Pret a Manger. The most interesting, time consuming & ultimately the most frustrating thing of those years leading to the turn of the century & beyond, was the compulsory purchase of our remaining Croydon site which we had opened back in ’78.

The area of Croydon that we were in was dilapidated by virtue of a lack of foresight by the town planners who had invested very heavily in a tram link which effectively cut off our end of the town from the main shopping area. We knew that at some time in the future we would be in a position of strength regarding town planning, but meanwhile we had to keep trading somehow. You know the score, special offers, cheap haircuts, anything to keep going until such time as we could engage with the local authority & try to negotiate a buy-out package.

The process of compulsory purchase is laborious to say the least. The first thing we had to do was to enter into a brand new lease as our old one from ’78 had expired. We had to protect our position otherwise we would get nothing when eventually the legal arguments had been settled.

I reckon it took around four years to get to a settlement after round after round of legal mumbo- jumbo. We had to appoint our own specialist surveyor & our solicitor, no matter that we’d been his client for years, wouldn’t act for us as the whole aspect of compulsory purchase is so complicated. We were then recommended to a firm of solicitors who were specialists in this field; & so the circus started to roll.

Can you imagine the costs that we started to incur all the while trying to continue to trade? At every step we had to be represented in court, & the gamble was that the compensation that the courts would award us would more than cover all the legal fees. Some of the surveyor’s costs were paid for by the local authority as they were obliged to do, but, as we were to find out much later, our legal fees were unbelievable. As I said, the whole process took around four years & I think it was about ’08 when we finally got a result.

After assessing the expenses & all the numerous arguments were settled we closed the doors with a massive sigh of relief. You notice that I haven’t referred to the amount of compensation we got because, quite frankly, was it worth it? In retrospect, the answer is no! We took our eye off so many other aspects of the business that if we’d done a real cost analysis we would have never got involved in the first place.

So there we were, by the mid noughties, trading from a School of Hairdressing in London’s West End, a single salon in Kensington & gradually more & more reliant on our education program; And change was afoot in the training & education format that we were starting to get involved with.

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