Priority Men: 3 Tips for Opening a Barber Shop
When the Neill Corporation decided to expand upon their nine Paris Parker locations in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas, the expansion didn’t follow a traditional path.
Instead of opening more Paris Parker Salons, they decided to tap into a new market—men.
“We called it The Parker, to honor our brand,” explains Garrison Neill. “But it’s still separate. We have many female clients who patronize Paris Parker whose husbands don’t, and we wanted to attract that set of clients.”
In late October, The Parker in Hammond, Louisiana opened, and the second location is set to open this January in New Orleans. Garrison Neill shares his insights and tips on branding for men, as well as why the company decided to expand into the men’s market.
1. Know Your Market
Before opening The Parker in Hammond, Neill first had to decide what type of location he was going to establish—a new, stand-alone salon or a shop within a salon.
In Hammond, he chose to open The Parker within an existing Paris Parker location. There was a nail room that was not maximizing revenue, and Neill realized it could be much more profitable as The Parker. He estimates that the space will profit five to six times more than it did with its previous use.
“Our female clients at Paris Parker want to buy gift cards for the men in their lives,” he says. “It’s a win-win. Their guy gets groomed, but he also gets his own experience. He can hang out in the shop with his friends, having a glass of whiskey while he gets his service.”
In New Orleans, The Parker will be next to the Ace Hotel.
“This hotel group has totally revitalized all the neighborhoods they go into, from London to New Orleans,” Neill says. “They handpick their tenants and in New Orleans, they were looking for a service component to add to the retail mix.”
After presenting his plan for the barber shop to the group, The Parker was accepted and Neill got his dream location.
Going into New Orleans itself was an obvious choice.
“Cities like New York and San Francisco have great barber shops,” he says. “But in New Orleans, we just had one guy doing the traditional men’s barber shop.
“I saw the opportunity for a shop that was very approachable and laid back, but also delivered an excellent service.”
Essentially, Neill wanted to give clients a salon-style service in a barber shop environment. And with the location next to the Ace, he’s attracting business travelers as well as regular customers.
“Some men are getting their hair cut every week or two,” Neill says. “And if you’re on the road, you’ll get a hair cut wherever you are.”
2. Have the Right Retail Partner
One of the catalysts for creating The Parker was the Neill Corporation’s trusted brand, Aveda. The barbering rituals and business plan Aveda created for men were exactly what they needed to jumpstart The Parker.
“After 70 years of being in the industry, we’ve learned that everything centers around great education,” Neill says “And Aveda has a great curriculum and strategy around men’s business.”
The Parker will be structured differently than the Paris Parker locations, with a head groomer who is responsible for service-related duties in the business while Neill will work on the operational aspects of the business with the Neill Corporation operations team.
“Inventory and services are much simpler,” Neill says. “We only offer about six services and we’re pretty much just retailing the Aveda men’s line.”
While the men’s business model is more basic than a traditional salon, color services weren’t overlooked.
“Aveda has developed an amazing five-minute gray blending service that’s done right at the bowl,” Neill says. “The Parker has a sink at each station so every service can live right at the chair.”
Whether a guest comes in for a 20-minute dry cut or a hot-towel service with all the Aveda components, including essential oils and aromas, he will be in a unique environment tailored to men’s specific needs.
3. Nail Your Branding
Because The Parker is under the same ownership as the Paris Parker salons, naming the new barber shops required careful thought.
“Naming them ‘The Parker’ allowed us to honor the Paris Parker brand, but still keep the businesses separate,” he says.
Clients of Paris Parker connect with the new brand and send the men in their lives to The Parker, while new clients also flock to the barber shop in search of a salon-level service in a barber shop.
Rather than tea, guests of The Parker will be offered coffee, water, beer or whiskey. At the Hammond location, the old-world décor is clean, but with a distinct apothecary feel.
“The décor and vibe in New Orleans will be more hipster—I want it to feel like the cleanest dive bar you’ve ever been to,” Neill says. “With all locations, we’re creating a community environment where people will come in just to say ‘hi.’ It’s an old-school barber shop with a modern Aveda element.”
Men’s magazines and TVs tuned to ESPN add to the welcoming environment.
“The TVs were a must for me,” Neill says.
“If we’re going to be open on a Saturday or Sunday, we’d better have the game on. ”
“In New York you might be able to get away with not having it available, but here, it’s a no-go—men want to watch their college football on Saturdays.”
Spending the money to get the brand right and knowing how to promote it is key, Neill says.
“One of the marketing tools we are using is collaboration with local businesses,” he says. “Right now, I have my lead barber doing hair cuts at a high-end motorcycle dealership.”
If you visit The Parker’s Instagram, you’ll see photos of the barber chair next to a Vespa—an attention-grabbing picture to attract The Parker’s target client.
Neill recommends staying true to your vision when developing your men’s brand, but to be open to female clients, too.
“We’re not going to turn women away if they want to come to the barber shop,” he says. “But, they will have to understand what we’re doing—using clippers and providing a certain type of cut. If that’s not what they’re going for, there are other great salons in the city we’re happy to recommend.”
For The Parker brand, Neill feels keeping the salon chain small is key.
“My dream is to keep it unique,” he says. “Maybe open one more location, but that’s it. I want to be an example of how to do it right—especially for other Aveda salons.”
To follow The Parker’s opening in New Orleans,
find them on Instagram at @ParkerBarber.