By Kevin Abraham
In my wanderings around a couple of local townships, I see a proliferation of shipping containers on the streets, and many of these house salons and barber shops.
Container or otherwise, these salons are an integral part of the informal economy, and serve as community meeting points, where people gather to chat and keep each other informed.
I looked into our Soweto Retail Census database and this little table provides an interesting view of the market:
Of the outlet types, Frontline quantified for Soweto, over 80% of the outlet numbers are made up of the following (see attached graphic).
Look at where salons are positioned: top 3, at 16%. That is against 33 outlet types, not all of which are informal.
In fact, as a very rough estimate, salons are probably closer to 25% of the outlet count, if formal businesses are excluded.
So are the hair care and beauty brands rushing in to establish a presence? Well… not exactly, and I cannot for the life of me explain why.
However, I have just read that township hair salons are in line for a serious boost with the establishment of a R100-million fund “for the development of local township-based hair salons” through mentorship and up-skilling. [ENCA Money]. That sounds pretty much like a vote of confidence to me.
Any way you look at it, though, not only have the numbers of township salons and barbershops increased over the last few years, but they seem to be generally viable as a service to the community and a source of income.