Christchurch hair salon chain removes gender-based pricing

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RU&CO owner Reece Unahi, left, and brand manager Jordon James have introduced gender-neutral pricing for their haircuts.

CHRIS SKELTON / Stuff

RU&CO owner Reece Unahi, left, and brand manager Jordon James have introduced gender-neutral pricing for their haircuts.

A Christchurch hair salon has dropped its gender-based pricing and instead charges the value of the service rather than whether the customer is male or female.

RU&CO hair salon owner Reece Unahi said it was about creating a culture where “everyone feels welcome” and prices focused on “what the person needs, not who She is”.

Instead of referring to gender, it would better reflect the value of the service itself, the time it took, the skills required and the skill level of the stylist, he said.

It was important to think about why pricing had been gender-based for so long, when it was “so wrong”, he said.

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Unahi said he has been considering making the change since he opened his first salon on Rutland St in St Albans two years ago.

Reece Unahi, left, says it's important to move away from gender-based labels to be more inclusive and welcoming to a diverse clientele.

CHRIS SKELTON / Stuff

Reece Unahi, left, says it’s important to move away from gender-based labels to be more inclusive and welcoming to a diverse clientele.

Before the first lockdown he had one employee, but the salon has since grown to five stores – four in Ōtautahi and one in Wānaka.

Lockdowns and restrictions due to Covid-19 have created challenges but also allowed time to reflect and “realize what is important”, Unahi said.

Brand manager Jordan James said it also highlights the vital role hairdressers play, when people rush to book appointments after lockdown comes out and the importance hairstyles play for the self-expression of people.

Unahi said the “fixed” gender-based pricing did not reflect its diverse staff or clientele.

One of his regular clients, who was going through a gender transition, had made him strongly question the pricing of haircuts between “ladies” and “men”, making him realize “that’s actually wrong”.

“I spend the same time on their hair, but now it’s $85.”

The experience was “uncomfortable” and a push to move away from a culture that normalized alienation from others, he said.

The new pricing was launched last week and the salon has received a lot of positive feedback, he said.

The new pricing has resulted in about a 15-20% change in regular customer prices, with some increasing and some decreasing.

James said getting rid of gender labels taps into their core values ​​and makes more sense when people of all genders get a variety of haircuts that aren’t stereotypical of their assigned gender.

“Half of these things can take the same amount of time,” James said.

It was about “giving people the opportunity to feel equal”.

The new prices are based on the skills and time required for an appointment and are free of gender labels.

CHRIS SKELTON / Stuff

The new prices are based on the skills and time required for an appointment and are free of gender labels.

Although they weren’t the first to introduce the concept, James hoped it would encourage others to do the same.

It also allowed the salon to open up its clientele to those who previously thought the cuts were too expensive or, in other cases, to compensate where stylists were underselling, Unahi said.

The hair salon was also planning to introduce “silent dates” which would allow clients to have downtime where conversations would not take place during the appointment.

Both changes were part of a larger focus on the mental health and wellbeing of staff and customers, Unahi said.

Hair and Barber New Zealand executive chairman Niq James said it was still “not very common” for many hair salons to have gender-neutral pricing in Aotearoa. However, there was “more and more conversation about it” within the industry.

He expected to see more salons move away from gender-based pricing and instead encouraged focusing on time spent and products used for appointments.

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