How Has Beauty Supply Changed over the Last 18 Years?

How Has Beauty Supply Changed over the Last 18 Years?

Comparative Analysis of Retail Store Owners’ Surveys in 2002, 2011, and 2020

How have our beauty supply retail stores changed in the past 18 years? BNB recently asked about the present and future of the beauty industry through a survey of store owners across the nation.

The BNB magazine conducted a similar survey in 2011. Based on the survey at that time, the April issue of BNB in 2012 published a statistical analysis of changes in beauty supply between 2002 and 2011. This time, 10 major items were selected from the survey and were analyzed in comparison. The analysis results are expected to help us understand how our beauty supply outlets have changed over the past 18 years and where they are currently standing.

This statistical data compares and analyzes the survey of 156 respondents nationwide released in the inaugural issue of OTC magazine in June 2002, the survey of 388 nationwide in April 2012 by BNB magazine, and the survey of 155 beauty supply retail store owners nationwide by random sampling by BNB magazine in 2020.
In addition, 2020 data were surveyed prior to the Corona crisis. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that there are limitations that do not fully reflect the turbulent reality of the beauty industry after the Corona era.


1. Aging Owners; average age of 45.6 56.6
Beauty supply owners are aging. In 2002, the average age of business owners was 45.6 years old, but in 2020, 18 years later, the age of business owners increased by 11 years to 56.6 years. Furthermore, the pace of aging is getting faster and faster. In 2011, the age increased 4.4 years from 2002, but in the 2020 survey, it increased 7.4 years.

A 2012 statistical analysis article predicted that the next generation would inherit the legacy of the previous generation. But the prediction was largely wrong. The 2002 survey showed that people in their 40s accounted for the largest percentage (about 35.5 percent) of beauty supply owners. In 2011, those in their 40s became 50s with age and were the mainstay of beauty supply (47.3%). As of 2020, the fifties have aged again, turning 60 and many of them are still in place. As of 2020, the first-generation accounts for 80 percent of beauty supply owners. Only 5 percent of second-generation households operate stores. 12.5 percent of the owners are first and second generations working together as a family.

In response, Skye Hong, director of DoDo Fashion, a veteran salesman with more than 20 years of experience, said, “Many older owners think ‘it’s better to work than retire and do nothing,’ and said, “Although second generations and young people have entered the industry, the first generation is still active and the average age seems to have naturally increased as they get older.” One beauty supply owner said, “Even if I wanted to hand over my store, my children doesn’t want to be owners because they grew up watching their parents suffer,” and said, “My children are properly educated and working in decent jobs, so why should I let them do this?” he added, “I want my child to play in other waters, in the mainstream.”

Eighteen years ago, the baby boomers were in their 40s, and are now in their 60s. This generation still plays a pivotal role in the beauty industry. Due to the nature of self-employed businesses and the increase in average life expectancy, retirement may be delayed to some extent. However, the time is approaching when this baby boomer generation is forced to retire in accordance with the natural course of life. Now, whether you like it or not, the generation change has become an inevitable fate and challenge for the beauty supply industry.


2. Larger Store Area: 3,536 → 5,440sf
The average area of beauty supply stores grew from 3,536 sf in 2002 to 4,585 sf in 2011 and gradually increased over time to 5,440 sf as of 2020.

The average area of beauty supply stores grew from 3,536 sf in 2002 to 4,585 sf in 2011 and gradually increased over time to 5,440 sf as of 2020.
In response to the survey, an official familiar with beauty supply said, “The atmosphere is quite different now than when human hair was the main item. With the advent of the era where items are diversified due to miscellaneous goods and fashion, and especially when braiding hair is sold a lot, we have no choice but to increase the area of stores.” A 20-year-expert beauty supply vendor said, “We need at least 10,000 square feet to properly display things these days,” and added “Because of the corona, it’s hard to secure items from China. Owners try to secure goods in advance, so beauty supply owners have to store items in their own garages because of the lack of storage space in their stores,” explaining the reality of the store area getting bigger and bigger.


3. Standstill of Average Sales over the Past 10 Years, $710,000 $730,000
Although the average area of the store has continued to grow, annual sales per store have remained flat since 2011. The average annual sales per business showed a remarkable increase from $510,000 in 2002 to $710,000 in 2011, but the 2020 survey showed a mere $20,000 increase from 2011.

A representative of a beauty supply franchise said, “The loss of customers to online stores and the decrease in demand for expensive human hair along with the increase in sales of low-priced braiding may have affected the industry,” but also added, “The polarization is getting worse in the industry.” In other words, “The reality is that large stores have seen a huge increase in sales, but small stores have a hard time even surviving in a harsh competitive environment. So overall, sales would not have increased significantly,” he analyzed.


4. Bigger Woman Power! Female Business Owners Rise 22% 40%
Women’s power is growing in the beauty supply industry. As of 2020, compared to 18 years ago, the ratio of female employers nearly doubled from 22.1 percent to 40 percent. That’s an 18 percent increase over the past 18 years.

Considering that most of the beauty supply customers are women, the advantages that only female managers could have in terms of customer service have a positive impact on beauty business management, and the improved status of women in society may have affected this phenomenon.

As regards,  Park Mi-mi, an adviser at Atlanta Beauty Women’s Club, said,  “Women’s social advancement in the U.S. is an extremely natural culture, and more and more ‘housewives’ gradually participated in the management of the store,” and explained the reason for the increase in the ratio of female business owners, saying, “In the field of beauty and cosmetics, there are more things only women can do in stores than men.”


5. ‘It’s Hard to Open New Stores!’ New Business Opening Sharply Decrease 44.7% 22.5%
Attempts to open a new beauty supply store have been found to be significantly less than in the past. The proportion of new stores under five years has been rapidly decreasing over time, with 44.7 percent in 2002, 31.4 percent in 2011 and 22.5 percent as of 2020. The ratio of new businesses out of the total has dropped by half compared to 20 years ago. In particular, the ratio of the most up-to-date stores under three years of business was 16.5 percent in 2011, but only 5 percent as of 2020, making it difficult to even come across a brand-new store.

On the other hand, the ratio of businesses that have been in operation for more than 10 years has more than doubled from 18 years ago to 21.1 percent in 2002, 40.4 percent in 2011 and 47.5 percent in 2020, therefore making long-term operating stores account for nearly a majority. Along with the aging of the owners, the aging of the businesses is also going on.

In response, a Beauty Supply CEO explained, “Beauty Supply business is already saturated, and all the good locations are already taken and settled down. Also, as beauty supply industry has become larger recently, there have been fewer attempts to start a new business with limited capital.” In addition, he said “Even if someone opens a store, it has become harder to place an order for items. Many term transactions that were made in the past has disappeared. If a person doesn’t have enough capital to start with, it is difficult to even fill up the store shelves with products (which acts as a disturbance in opening a new business).”


6. Business Outlook “Very Bad!” Increased 5% 10%
When asked about the future beauty supply business prospects, the percentage of those who answered “good” has not changed much compared to 2011 (11.6% in 2011, 12.5% in 2020), but “bad” or “very bad” has increased from 42.5% in 2011 to 45.5% in 2020. In particular, the ratio of respondents that answered “very bad” nearly doubled from 5.3 percent to 10.0 percent.

Regarding the gloomy outlook for beauty supply’s future, an industry official explained, “The recent advance of online malls and the enlargement of offline stores have intensified competition, and the relative deprivation of small stores and sluggish sales have contributed to it.”


7. Small Increase in Manager-operated Stores 16.5% 17.5%
Although the percentage of stores operated under the manager-management system increased by a small margin (16.5% → 17.5%) compared to nine years ago, but the change between 2011 and 2020 is not statistically significant.

An industry official said, “There are trends that lead to the enlargement of stores and the specialization of management, but the fact that there are still many small stores that are operated mainly by couples or families that can explain this phenomenon.”


8. Hair Product Sales Decrease 44.3% 35%
The 2020 survey found that the proportion of ‘hair’ products such as extension, wig, and braid in the store’s total sales decreased significantly (44.3% 35.0%) compared to 2011. This shows that the product line being sold at Beauty Supply stores is becoming more diverse, with chemical, miscellaneous, and cosmetic products in addition to hair products.

According to the 2020 survey, the proportion of ‘chemical’ products in total sales is 29%, which is near the proportion of hair products (35%). Meanwhile, ‘miscellaneous goods’ products accounted for 22 percent of sales, while ‘cosmetic’ products accounted for 12 percent of sales.

A retired salesman from a hair wholesaler described, “The offline sales of human hair, which has a high unit price, has declined and encroached by online stores. The trend of black people styling their natural hair by braiding etc. also seems to have affected sales of hair products.” Also, a CEO of Beauty Supply said “Sales of chemical products have recently increased due to the tendency to manage and trim one’s own hair rather than using hair products.”


9. POS Usage Nearly Doubled to 24.5% 42.5%
The percentage of stores using POS increased sharply in 2011 from 18 years ago (24.5 percent → 42.5 percent). Store operations are more automated, simplified and organized than in the past.

Responding to this survey, a beauty supply owner said, “At first, I was managing my inventory with POS, but it was so complicated and annoying that I gave up recently and now I’m using it only for the register. There are probably less than 10% of stores that use POS to manage inventory.” He also added that “I don’t know the value of management-level utilization of POS, but it’s too much to pay attention to in reality.”

Meanwhile, “Newly-opened places are all introducing POS in their stores,” said Kim Sung-won, CEO of Georgia Golden Key, a POS supplier. He said, “In the post-Corona era, the need to build an online and offline integrated store operation system increases, and POS systems can be of great help. Now, you can manage online orders, payments, product preparation, data storage, etc. all-in-one via POS,” and emphasized the necessity of preemptive response through the use of POS in order to operate a stable store in the New Normal era.


10. Marketing Strategies Rapidly Changing, “SNS replaces Flyers”
The advertising media used by Beauty Supply shows the most dramatic changes. In 2011, “fliers” were the most frequently used advertising/marketing medium, but now “SNS” is replacing the position. In 2011, there was no place to use SNS at all, but in 2020, 45% of beauty supply businesses use it. On the contrary, the utilization rate of flyers plunged from 45.8 percent in 2011 to 5 percent as of 2020.

About this, a beauty supply owner replied, “Building and distributing flyers is too time-consuming and expensive compared to their effects. Now is the time for marketing through SNS.” In other words, marketing using SNS, which has a great effect at a low cost, is becoming common in beauty supply retail stores. According to the survey, Facebook and Google are the most frequently used social media in Beauty Supply as of 2020, and Instagram is also gradually becoming frequently used.

Cover Story BY BNB Magazine