When passion, real affection for traditional crafts and raw creativity are combined, the results can be explosive. Here at Salons Direct, we love introducing you to the experts who are trailblazing our industry.
Whether you join us here for inspiration or further education, we aim to bring you something you can take away for your own career or salon business.
In this month’s edition of ‘Ask the expert’ we meet Joth Davies, master barber and founder of Savills Barbers, an iconic male grooming institution based in Sheffield. Here Joth tells us more about his career in barbering as well as his thoughts on the way the industry is moving.
Tell us more about how the salon began?
I entered the barbering profession nearly 30 years ago. In 2006 I opened my first shop and then my second in 2009. In 2014 both shops were merged into one and Savills was born, resulting in an image and an ethos, which I had had in mind since being a trainee hairdresser back in 1988! I designed and project managed the refurbishment of a stunning new 10 station Barber Shop and then moved both shops into it.
With Savills I am proud to be creating something that is unique. A one stop man shop, created from antique and vintage fixtures and fittings. I have hand picked every item in the shop from the barber chairs to pictures on the walls and every thing in-between. Every single item in the shop has a story attached to it, so as the business grows, the collection grows with it, creating memories with history.
How do you remain competitive with other barbers in the area?
I try not to get drawn in to concerning myself with what anyone else is doing. Our prices and services are set by our standards and the time spent with each client. I know we’re not the cheapest nor the most expensive.
My focus is always on our customers and doing the best we can to improve our services to meet their demands. Doing your best is better than trying to be the best. It’s not the employer that pays the wages, we only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages.
What aspects do you believe make a salon successful outside of London?
There are hundreds of successful salons and barbershops outside of London. Living in a major city should have nothing to do with how successful your business is, it’s all down to hard work, dedication and believing in what you do. I know of salons and barbershops that have tried and failed in London but have been a success in other cities. Do your research, know your town and your market, make goals and work hard to achieve them. Savills was not an overnight success – it’s been nearly 30 years in the making and we are still learning, changing and evolving every day.
To answer your question, the only thing that makes a salon successful outside of London is you the business owner and the team you choose to surround yourself with .
You’ve got some amazing YouTube content, do you think YouTube is a marketing weapon to attract new clients?
The content we currently have on YouTube is an accumulation of videos from the last 5 years. Facebook and intros for our seminar work was never created especially for the purpose of YouTube, although now more than ever it seems YouTube is a great way to market yourself. I’m not sure it’s the best way to market your business, but more to ‘create a business from’. But for now it seem like a great place to keep storing our content with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so many other social media platforms. To promote your business now is a full time job trying to keep different content across all platforms. YouTube has accidentally been a great way for our work to be seen by other barbers and hairdressers but I don’t think it will ever be used to attract new clients.
What trends have you seen evolving within the barbering industry over the last decade?
The classic haircut, the beard and the revival of the barbershop has definitely been the biggest trend in the last 5-6 years. At Savills Barbers we are probably most well known for the classic short back ‘n’ side haircuts e.g. The pompadour, the quiff, the 50’s jelly roll, basically any haircut that stands the test of time . If you go back to photos from the 1920s, 30s and 50s and also look at Hollywood icons like Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, James Dean, Marlon Brando, etc, even now in 2017 they still look cool. Fashions come and go but the classics never die. This is why we love these haircuts .
In my 30 year career I have seen hair fashions change a lot. I too have always moved with the changes – long hair, bleached hair, big 80s hair, even permed hair – but the classic cut has always remained a constant throughout my 30 years in the industry. I will just leave you with this to think about … .. take a look at those Hollywood icons from the 50s and see how cool they still look now, then look back at photos from 80s and 90s and see if you can say the same. I know I can’t say that about the photo of me from the 80s!
What inspired you to set up the Savills Academy?
The Savills Academy was born out of requests through our social media channels. I dismissed it for a while but the amount of requests for us to train other barbers became too great to ignore so we set up 1, 2 and 3 day courses for qualified barbers/hairdressers wanting to up skill or just to learn “the Savills way”. The response was greater than we ever expected.
Savills Academy receives qualified barbers from all over the world to spend time on our courses. It is truly an honour for us, we have had barbers traveling all the way New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, China and all over Europe. I have never worked so hard and had so much fun at the same time. We are very fortunate to be working with barbers from all the world right now. It’s certainly a great time to be a barber.
How do you feel social media has changed the salon industry?
Social media has changed the dynamic of the industry in a massive way. The barbershops used to exist on returning clients from up to a 7 circa mile radius. Now people do not mind traveling far and wide to visit barbershops all over the country and even abroad. Barbers and barbershops are using social media to promote their work and gain huge followings. They can be seen working all over the world in different barbershops as guest barbers and also teaching in shops, exhibitions and seminars.
Savills Barbers started using Instagram as a look-book for our clients as there were no barber magazines or decent men’s hairstyle books around for us to use for references for our clients – also mobile phone storage was also very poor then. Little did I know just how instrumental this would be for our business. Savills’ social media coverage on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is now over 260k followers. Through this notoriety, clients and barbers have traveled from all over the world to visit our shop, and our academy is booked up months in advance. We are now ambassadors for some of the UK’s most iconic brands such Dr Martens and more recently Crombie.
How do you keep up to date with new trends?
It is hard to be in this industry and not keep up with the trends. It’s kinda what we do. I am always looking for new ways to create styles even after nearly 30 years in the industry. This is what keeps us moving forward, taking inspiration from TV, film, fashion, trawling YouTube and Instagram, following other inspiring barbers/hairdressers and basically getting creative. After all, this is why we chose the profession in the first place.
How do you see men’s grooming evolving over the next decade or so?
The barber shop is back in a big way and here to stay. The more I travel, educating in different countries, the more I realise just how small the world is and how big barbering has become. When I started Savills Barbers in 2009, there were only two barbershops in the city centre. In the last two years alone nine barbers have opened their shops around us. I believe there is a statistic that in the UK more barbershops have opened in the last two years than coffee shops!
The global male grooming industry is a multi billion pound industry. The UK alone estimates it’s worth in 2017 to over £700 million and global predictions for 2022 are to tip 166 billion dollars……. WOW!!
So my predictions for the barbershop in the next few years is that it’s popularity will continue to rise. However, the down side to this is that certain countries (the UK being one of them) still do not have any legal requirements for the necessity for qualifications in order to open a barbershop. This lack of regulatory protection allows anyone to set themselves up as a hairdresser or barber even if they have no qualifications, experience or training. The vast majority of the public are not aware of this and to those who are, it cheapens the public’s perception of our industry.
What inspired the aesthetic of your salon?
The Barbershop was inspired by my love for 1920’s fashion and architecture. I grew up watching iconic films like the Godfather, Untouchables, Once Upon A Time in America and Bugsy Malone. I fell in love with the style. I then commenced collecting antique barber furniture, manuals and old barber distributor catalogues from the late 19th to the early 20th century for years prior to opening the shop.
I used collections of images from the books and other related references to piece together my own version of the barbershop that I wanted to work in. I also wanted the shop and style to reflect what we continue to strive to be, a place of above average traditional barbering and wet shave services alongside an apothecary of grooming aids hand picked for their results and unique appeal. A place where guys can just relax, switch the off button and enjoy the service.