The retail sales of the commercial hair market will take a truly dramatic turn in the year 2016. The principle reason for this tremendous shift is that sales of commercial hair has grown to such tremendous proportions that it has attracted investors and speculators who formerly had no knowledge of the massive trading that takes place all over the globe.
Although the craft of making hair pieces and wigs has existed since prehistoric times, it has never been as lucrative as to be compared with the colossal international monetary exchange that is happening through the world today. Even the popularity of wigs and hair pieces that dominated throughout the 1960’s—when just about every woman of any race would not leave the house without the use of some sort of hair additions. Even the popular movement of Black pride brought about new fashion ideas that created stunning imitations of wigs and postiches that were perfect replicas of the unique characteristics of African hair.
Today the overwhelming fads of any current fashion begin and end with the hair. Even amongst the most youthful looks—like those teenagers that wear the Gothic look, the skateboarders and those that are fanatical about the Hip Hop culture—depend on colors as declarations of their social orders. Often the colors that they favor are unnatural, like iridescent blue, vibrant purples, startling magenta or blood red. Each day brings about new and exciting color combinations that may be as astonishingly wild as they are breathtaking.
Another reason for the new interest in human hair is that the world has never been so engaged in international trade. In the 21st century there has been a massive increase in world commerce. The industrialization of China (who are the biggest producers of commercial hair) has had a huge impact on making the hair more readily available to countries that had only known a limited amount of the hair trade before now as either consumers or suppliers. China, because of her massive population, her newfound riches and the position of leadership that she has always occupied in hair production will continue to dictate a great deal of the policies in the global hair industry.
The intense recent commercialization of this manufacturing giant has permitted her to be the largest purchaser of hair from India and throughout Asia. Currently all these factors has had a profound influence on every aspect of the hair business. The most recent one being the alliance of individual companies and Alibaba—the Internet’s most prominent company for trading in just about everything produced in any country of the world. Presently they have a new wing that is called “AliExpress” that deals with every item of the beauty trade and most particularly HAIR. This is a means that offers the opportunity to any person to purchase commercial hair at prices that are far below those offered by beauty supply stores that have been the traditional source of just about all of the hair purchased in the United States. This is a means that not only offers all the tools and hair products of the beauty industry to the individual hair designers, but it is also open to every single person that desires to order one or two bundles of hair. It is becoming the means by which small salons, boutiques and the average consumers are acquiring hair for selling or personal use.
At last year’s (2014) Bronner Brothers show in August AliExpress occupied a large space and was enthusiastically received by a great many hair designers. Even though the hair that they offer is generally considered to be of an inferior quality, it is nevertheless gaining popularity every day. Many consumers of hair among the Black population are totally unconcerned with whether or not they buy hair of poor quality, because their main interest is how cheap it is. They feel that it is in their best interest to purchase hair and throw it away after a limited use rather than to buy expensive, long-lasting hair that keeps its texture and will return to its original wave or curl pattern after it is wet.
With the curling irons (particularly the ones that are heated by the stove) they can make the hair do whatever they wish, no matter how coarse or poorly manufactured it may be. When you consider this and how common place it is to purchase it off the Internet these days, we wonder how this new trend of greatly increased sources of human hair will affect the traditional hair stores—especially those that are as big as a super market, many of whom have begun to import this poor quality hair in an effort to compete with this situation.
Commercial Hair Trade Newcomers
The next largest newcomers to the commercial hair trade on a worldwide scale are the Indians who have for some time been selling hair to Chinese manufacturers. In turn these manufacturers process and package it, making the variety of colors that we have become so familiar with in our everyday dealings. For about the last 10 years they have made an effort to sell directly to the consumers who are basically the Black people of the United States, Canada, England, the West Indies and the huge African markets. These are all places to which the Black people of the world have immigrated in mass.
Like everyone else, they (the retailers of these countries) have witnessed firsthand the astonishing amount of money that China and Korea has made over the last 60 years in the Americas and now through their ever-expanding world markets; they have remained in a position of leadership in the overall international trade. Though India and some of the other Asian nations (such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines) that have entered the ever-growing hair industry as suppliers are working quite diligently, they are still a good deal behind the Koreans, who own just about all of the retail outlets in this country.
It is when the Indians and other Asian cultures came into the industry that the old standard weight of a bundle of hair dropped from four ounces to three and one half, which is now the accepted measurement. While the more polished manufacturer’s hair of China issues perfect renditions of every color imaginable, the Indians and other nations can basically only provide the dark colors that are natural to their people. This means that most of the consumers outside of the Black race cannot use their hair because they do not offer the multitude of colors that are so essential to today’s fashions and those that are needed to match the natural colors of the Caucasian and Hispanic customers. Although they are moving up in technical understanding, it will be many years before they will be a dominant force in the international hair trade.
Black hair designers and their patrons do like the Indian hair because of the soft texture and consistent wave pattern. In many cases they (the hairdressers) have developed an understanding of coloring techniques that allows the stylist to add on additional charges for their skills that they have developed in the creation of the colors or color combinations possible when using virgin hair. Also, as a direct result of these skills they are able to accommodate the rapidly growing demands of the better paying Caucasian market. In many cases the consumers are aware of the virgin (or near virgin) hair that is being shipped from India and demanding it so that the salons have to provide it; often packaging it with the salon’s name and logo. This adds tremendously to the salon’s prestige, enabling them to promote their own quality brands.
Technology and the Industry
Quite possibly the most economically significant groups to make a grab for the money in the hair industry are the speculators that utilize the modern technological means to reach the consumer. One of the most frequent advertisements to pop up on my computer without being sought are those that are selling wigs and bundles of hair. These use the loveliest models in devastatingly beautiful hair fashions, sometimes at reduced prices that are very tempting to the consumer. They promote websites that will offer hair and other beauty products at phenomenally low prices. Of course this hair is either synthetic or extremely poor quality—a fact that they usually neglect to mention—but the buyers feel that they have the word of a popular celebrity on the quality and that’s enough for them.
A perfect example of this can be seen nightly when hair sales infomercials come on the television. Merchants should not consider this new wave of television promotion to be a serious threat because we have many examples of these companies repeatedly failing, miserably, in the past. Customers know what they want and will search until they find it and are satisfied with the product.
All of this is not necessarily negative to those that are already established in the retail hair business or those who will go into the industry in the future. First of all, there is a tremendous amount of advertising of hair fashions and products that is reaching a multitude of new potential customers who were not formerly into wearing commercial hair. Secondly, this excessive promotion has come about because of the increased acceptance of hair as an essential part of fashion and a reflection of social attitudes. Consequently these factors translate into greater sales that increase the overall growth of one of the most exciting and fastest expansion of commodities in the world. The vast amount of new sales that is available to everyone, on every level of the hair industry, is insured for the coming day. There are precious few products that are being traded internationally over the last 60 years or more that can compare with the steady expansion of the commercial hair trade globally.
There is plenty for everyone. In addition to this, the ever-growing human population is comprised of both contributors of raw materials and new customers. Our industry is one of the most promising of opportunities in existence today. Look to the future for prosperity and a secure living.
(Left) Handwritten signs placed in the windows of prominent, very large beauty supply stores in Brooklyn, New York, offering wigs at astonishingly low prices. (Photo on front) A model flaunts suave, tasteful, soft Indian hair in a natural reddish-brown color with a delicate spray of gently lightened strands at the hairline above the forehead. Hair designs of this nature are favored by the many career women today.