Business: Bid to end tension between locals, foreigners

2008-06-11 00:00

WHILE emotions in the country are high following attacks on foreigners, 85 local hair salons owned by South Africans and immigrants have come together to form the Pietermaritzburg Salon Owners’ Association in order to control prices salons charge clients.

However, The Witness understands that some hairdressers and clients reject the idea as price-fixing.

The formation of the association on May 21, was to avoid confrontations between local salon owners and their foreign business counterparts. This does not involve those running their businesses from tents at taxi ranks.

Local salon owners, according to the association’s chairman Sbu Busani, have been complaining about unfair business competition. They have accused their foreign counterparts of charging far less, which they said made their clients opt for the cheaper services.

“After forming the association, we engaged in a drive to mobilise every salon owner in the city to charge according to standards agreed upon. We are not saying people should charge similar prices, because we understand that in business, competition is part of the game,” said Busani.

He said that he is aware that there are hairdressers who are not complying.

“But we have also discovered that other owners display the prices agreed upon on their advertising boards outside, but inside they secretly reduce the price if the clients complain.”

Busani said local salon owners started to raise their concerns about prices charged by foreigners a few months ago. He made an example of a haircut, for which he said South Africans are charging R20 and immigrants only R10.

“Seeing these attacks on foreigners around the country we decided to move fast to launch our association in order to avoid a situation whereby South African owners would use the situation around the country to attack foreigners for business differences,” he said.

Busani said most of the salon owners are paying more than R6 000 rent, up to R4 000 for water and electricity and up to R15 000 for products a month. He said he personally spends R19 000 on staff salaries, and only collects a profit of up to R5 000, which he said might force him to close down.

Owner of the New Ghana Hair Salon in Theatre Lane, Boadi Yaw, has been threatened for rejecting the idea of the association. As a result, he was forced to increase his prices.

“In this business we have clients from different financial backgrounds. Also these people fail to understand that attracting clients is not only about prices, as clients are also attracted by good customer service, and advertising,” said Yaw.

Vina Zulu of Sunsilk Salon said that even fashion shops are not controlling each other’s prices.

“I have my own understanding of what my clients can afford. Sometimes I negotiate with my regular clients about how much I should charge them if they are struggling financially,” said Zulu.

A regular client of Zulu’s, who asked to remain anonymous, said competition has made businesses improve their customer service. “My relationship with my hairdresser has nothing to do with another hairdresser.”

Nontokozo Vilakazi, a client of Yaw, said she chooses to go to a cheaper salon with good customer service because money is always a concern.

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