Will trading in Stortford be a close shave for Mr Barbers?
Bishop's Stortford Independent's man on the street David James ponders the ever-increasing demand for male grooming after Mr Barbers set up shop in North Street with the help of a grant from East Herts Council in the form of a £10,000 business rates discount.
The authority is keen to encourage new traders and owner Karl Foster said: “We’re enjoying being in Bishops Stortford as it’s my hometown - I was actually born here. It will also be our base for the head office. We have two great local barbers working out of the shop, so the grant has helped us improve their start in North Street.”
David writes: “I’ve been going to Belmonts Barbers, South Street, for at least a decade. Apart from the odd occasion, that’s been it. I am not a person that’s ever been overly concerned about hairstyle or, well, fashion in general. So, when I stand outside Thirst Cafe and I can walk to seven barbers within five minutes, I wonder how they can all support themselves? Then I find out that another option, Mr Barbers, has opened a new franchise at the far end of North Street and with a £10,000 grant from East Herts Council.
“Now I have a lot of questions. Primarily, how many puns about hairdressing can I get into this without them getting snipped or trimmed? But more importantly, can the town sustain so many of the same type of business and why would the council support this with a grant?
I spoke to Chris Smith at East Herts Council about the grant and he explained the complexities of the business rates system to me. To boil it down, it’s not money upfront as if it were a loan, but a reduction in the business rates over the first year.
“This gives companies a chance to build a brand and establish themselves in the market. A good scheme in general, with the long-term aim of lowering the empty shop rate across East Herts, thus producing more business rates to the council overall. I wonder if a similar scheme exists for first-time homeowners in this area?
But with so many other barbers in town, does this give Mr Barbers an unfair edge in a cutthroat industry? Well, it seems not. I’ve spoken to a few local barbers about the extra competition and they seem completely unphased.
“People don’t just get a ‘short back and sides’ these days and more so, they’re willing to spend two or three times what they did just a few years ago. While time in the chair isn’t much longer, barbers being able to charge more and introduce new services has meant there’s seemingly been enough local business to go around. I see a lot more full and styled beards and moustaches in town now adding more to a barber’s income stream. With the influx of new housing to that end of town, I’m sure Mr Barbers won’t be cutting his losses in the town anytime soon.”
To find out more about East Herts’ help for new businesses see www.eastherts.gov.uk/businessgrants