The Hair & Beauty Supply Market Is Lucrative, But Blacks Are Missing Out

December 20, 2011  |  

By Wayne Hodges

Hair, weave, nails and wigs. When it comes to looking good, our black women certainly won’t hesitate to come out the pocket. But where is that money going?  And, most importantly, what does the future hold for black commerce?

Stacey Mebane, a 44-year-old African-American woman, has patronized non-black beauty supply stores for decades. Her favorite cosmetic shop, the “Two Brothers” beauty and supply store, is owned and operated by Koreans.

When asked to explain her fascination with the aforementioned venue, Mebane mentioned price and customer service as determining factors. “I have shopped at Korean stores for years,” said Mebane. “They have a nice assortment of beauty and nail supplies. I like their prices. And the owners are usually friendly.”

Today, the multi-billion dollar black hair market is being served by roughly 9,000 Korean-owned beauty supply stores. Most, if not all, of the revenue generated leaves the black community. “It would be nice to see our people take advantage of these opportunities. It seems like our businesses have a hard time just staying open,” said Mebane. “My friends and I shop at these stores all the time so we know they make good money. I would like to see that money go to black owners, to the black community.”

Nicole Bailey, 40, of Kansas City echoed a similar sentiment. “The Korean stores are much cheaper than black-owned businesses. You have so many low-income women who wear weave but can’t afford to pay high dollar,” said Bailey. “The black businesses don’t stay open as long because of their prices. Sometimes black owners are rude. I’m like ‘you have high prices and a stank attitude too?”

The assumption here is most African-African women would prefer to see an influx of black ownership in cosmetic retail. However, when it comes to manufacture and distribution, too many barriers come into play.

For instance, of the four central distributors serving beauty supply stores in America, none are black. Instead, this component is owned and controlled by Korean merchants who many believe have discriminated against blacks to help preserve their monopoly.

Cash flow has never been an issue in the black community. Per capita, no race of people spends more and save less than African-Americans. The problem, nonetheless, has everything to do with which direction that revenue stream is flowing.

Now the million dollar question: What’s necessary for African-Americans to become more actively involved in retail production and distribution?

It’s tough to say.

Hair and weave products, for instance, are not manufactured domestically. Therefore, a wholesale distribution deal must be orchestrated between Korean merchants and black businessmen. If Koreans are unwilling to negotiate through fair business practice, then something in the form of a boycott or protest must transpire. But, can ladies survive without some of their favorite hair care products?

Such a task is probably too much to fathom.

“A (protest) wouldn’t be a good thing. You have thousands and thousands of women who wear hair weave,” said Bailey. “Even white women wear weave now. You also have women with a good length of hair who use weave to add a little ‘umph’ to feel sexier. I don’t see a protest working.”

Wayne Hodges is the Editor of MassAppealNews.com

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