Change, they say is constant and the ability to adapt to change is what makes humans unique. It is also what has ensured the survival of the human species for thousands of years. In Feb/March 2020, the world was thrown into a new level of uncertainty that the world had never seen. Public places became deserted as everyone was told to stay indoors to save themselves from the deadly Corona Virus. And the word Pandemic found its way into our daily lexicon. Nigeria’s hair industry has experienced impressive growth in the last two decades, and it is largely buoyed by patronage from the emerging population who place a premium on looking good also known as “packaging”. Despite the struggling economy, the demand for hair products have been on the rise, well at least, until the corona virus struck
The impact which the stay at home order had on the lives of millions of Nigerians cannot be understated and the repercussions will continue to be felt for years to come. These repercussions are not related to a particular field but rather all aspects of life as we know it. Suffice it to say that, while the industries like the aviation, leisure & entertainment suffered pneumonia, the hair industry had severe cold while salons were the worse hit. But as we humans have established down the years, there can be setbacks but we will always find a way to survive. Life Goes On. This helps to segue nicely into the hair making industry.
The hair making industry services a niche that has always needed the services of hair in various forms whether through the hair dressers who make the hair, the hair sellers who sell to customers, the hair manufacturers who make and supply the hair, the hair buyers who their money is vital in the chain of buying and selling and not forgetting the pedicure, manicure service providers and the other various people that are employed by extension in the hair industry such as the cleaners, delivery personnel and the “alabarus”, etc.
These people, employed in one capacity or the other, have had their source of livelihood affected and in the end have suffered. The average hair manufacturer cannot manufacture the volume or quantity of hair as expected because, there is a lack of workers due to restrictions placed by by government as a means of curbing the spread of COVID 19. The average hair seller can no longer open their shops for the usual 6 days a week but rather has to open for just the 3 days and in the process, loose money while running at a reduced capacity. The average hair buyer doesn’t want to spend money buying hair because the social events that hair is needed for are currently on hold due to social distancing rules. Even if the customer isn’t buying the hair to go for an event, other reasons seem null and void because majority of us are at home, which means that we cannot go out.
The main essence of the hair industry is beautification and beautification is often employed when there is someone or people to be impressed. However, when there is no one to be impressed or oppressed, the question of hair becoming a want or a need occurs, and it is left to the discretion of the buyer to decide if she wants it. If the buyer is resistant, the manufacturer will look at the market trend and then decide to scale back on production which means less money, which in turn affects other aspects of lives employed by the hair industry.
WHAT IS HAPPENING
Fortunately, the demand for hair is inelastic and women will always find a way to buy hair because the hair is viewed as the crowning glory of the woman and the average woman will not hesitate to spend a huge fortune just to “slay” or out shine her neighbour. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and the hair industry commands a loyal fan base of customers that would gladly continue to spend on hair, but how are they doing it, in the era of social distancing and restriction of interaction and movement? Most of them dig into their savings, or to be jovial – the man must pay. It is no secrete that, African women spend more money on hair products than they do on their health, food, education, clothing and entertainment, combined. Local Economists have been able to establish an idea which says that, when days are dark or during economic doom, the single women spend more money or hair and some other beauty products to win attention. This, they say, is due to the idea of the survival of the prettiest lady.
Online option. The notion of a store being online is that is eradicates the need for a physical shop that may or may not help in the spread of the deadly Corona virus. It should be noted that an increase in the desire for online business has not been able to offset the decline in in-store sales, and it might take a while for this to occur as the average Nigerian is an on-hand person who, will choose going to Balogun market and feel what she is buying than buy from a store that might come with “baggage” (not that all online purchases come with baggage). Online buying of hair extensions and products seem to be more of a short term solution until the pandemic eases, but what this shows is that the hair industry is still relevant and is also adapting.
The Lagos state government eased the COVID 19 restrictions in March by allowing the opening of markets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Despite this development, the number of hair shoppers has drastically reduced. This was expected and is not a surprise considering that China, which reopened its economy in May, has seen a fall in the number of shoppers too. With time, this hindrance will smoothen out; covid-19 demystified, and people will become more confident, and the market days closing times returned to normal schedule, and the good old times will be here again.
Another notable trend can be seen in the rise of DIY (Do it yourself) hair care. Many saloons remained closed and even in places where they haven’t, people are forgoing salon services because of concerns about close physical contact. In addition, many customers are currently facing economic difficulties because of the COVID 19 crisis, given the loss of jobs and savings.
THE LONG TERM IMPACT
One of the major things that happen whenever there is a crisis is that the process of innovation is accelerated in order to solve the problem. The hair industry is no different and as the COVID 19 pandemic has shown, the world can change quickly, bringing substantial shift in demand. Sometimes even supply cannot catch up. Before the pandemic, many brands were under pressure to overhaul their product innovation pipeline. Now the need for speed is even greater.
Furthermore, the tradition of buying and transporting of hair is now very much affected. The ease of movement among free trade West African countries has become more difficult because of the lockdown of the national borders. Even when eventually reopened, it might take a while for things to come back to normal.
Lastly, with the COVID 19 crisis causing significant damage to the balance sheets of manufacturers, distributors and retailers, many companies will need to find other sources of support systems. These are unprecedented times in human history and with it will come unprecedented changes in how things are done in the hair industry. Either way, I leave our stakeholders with this maxim – there is no business like hair business, as long as women exist.