The beauty business is booming in Northampton.
Since 2010 the number of hairdressers, barbers and nail bars has risen from 100 to 150. That’s an increase of 50%.
Retail specialists say the trend is likely to continue as consumers seek to treat themselves to an experience rather than buy an item on the high street.
Over recent months many familiar high street names have disappeared. Toys “R” Us, Maplins and Poundworld have shut, while big brands such as House of Fraser, Mothercare and New Look are closing stores.
While retailers are being hit by the shift to online shopping, businesses that provide services are proving more resilient.
Across the UK the number of beauty treatment salons has rocketed from nearly 27,000 in 2010 to 43,000 in 2017, according to a register of UK businesses produced by the Office for National Statistics.
The number of beauty treatment businesses has gone up in all but seven of the 391 local authorities in the UK. The number has more than doubled in 50 local authority areas. In Newham it has nearly quadrupled.
An independent review of the high street in July identified this shift on most high streets. It said: “The traditional anchors of many town centres such as banks, clothing shops and pubs have been closing hundreds of outlets and in the case of banks nearly 2,500. Where these shops have been taken over, they are being filled by health and beauty businesses – nail salons, tattoo parlours and barbers – all offering experiences rather than just products.”
The report’s author, former boss of Iceland and Wickes Bill Grimsey, explained: “Nail bars, hairdressers, even spas on the high street are experiential, so they are growing. They are taking on some of the commercial space that is vacant. It is growing at the moment, and with more and more opening across the country it is yet to reach a consolidation point.”
But a tipping point may have been reached in Northampton as the most recent records show that between 2016 and 2017 the number of beauty businesses was unchanged.
Lucy Stainton, head of retail at the Local Data Company, a business that tracks retail occupancy rates, said that one reason for the success of the beauty sector was that it provided a more affordable treat for consumers.
“When money is tight people still want to treat themselves and getting your nails done is a way to do that without spending a larger amount of money on clothes.
“These sorts of things can’t be done online, so people looking for experiences will help the high street
“In 2017 alone, we saw 624 new barbers open in the UK. Every sector has its spikes, but I see beauty sector continuing to grow, and it is being quite largely driven by fashion trends and social media.”