"Hairdryer horror"

Mary Portas takes a little too much off the top?
Mary Portas hairdyer horror in Rochdale” is how ‘Lancashire Life’ headlined a brief interview with John Peers, together with his team at John Peers Hair Studio in Rochdale, was the subject of an episode of “Mary: Queen of Shops” shown on the BBC this week.

I don’t normally watch it, but found the program fascinating and was interested to watch Mary Pontas challenge John and his team worked – encouraging them to embrace a business revamp. Obviously what we were shown was an edited selection of the events filmed over the six weeks of filming – so doubtless this appeared as they were intended to appear by the program-maker…

Initially, whilst sympathetic to John, I found myself siding with Mary – who was trying, amongst other things, to encourage him to rethink his sales of ‘hair products’ to increase his profits; and to encourage him to listen more to his customers. The impression of John I formed was of a skilled hair stylist who quickly saw the artistic potential in each new customer and sort of imposed his creative vision on them – regardless of their personal preferences.

Mary challenged this head on and encouraged the team to adopt a concept based round a small number of ‘signature’ hairstyles that could be offered to customers at a standard price. I thought this was an inspired idea and, at least as far as the program showed, this seemed to make a significant difference to the business.

Success! ‘Well done Mary’! I thought, until I pondered what she had left them with – then I realised that what she had done was push a model of business that took much of the unique artistry of John himself out of the process. Yes, there was obviously creativity on the part of John and the team in putting together their ‘signature’ styles, but from then on they were simply production-line workers reproducing one of that limited number of styles for each customer.

I found myself frustrated and wanted to say to John, she’s taken something special away from you, you’re an artisan at heart!

Hopefully over time John and his team have realised that as well as providing the clever off-the-peg hairstyle service Mary has shown them (to give them a clear opportunity to capitalise on a ready market for that very clever idea) they haven’t thrown the good out with the bad. There is still a place for John’s unique styling service and I hope John hasn’t silenced that part of who he is; there will always be folk who are willing to seek out (and pay top money for) a personalised service, a hair style for a one-off event; a show-stopper; to go with a show-stopper outfit.