The man in the mirror
The modern man is taking better care of himself – and this is providing business opportunities for start-ups
or the past few years, male grooming has seen an unprecedented upsurge and various young South African entrepreneurs are profiting from the trend.
Market intelligence publisher Euromonitor International reported that men’s skincare – including hand and night creams – is enjoying an annual increase of 8% in retail sales.
Locally, research firm Spark Media noted that approximately 85% of black males in urban settings are using grooming products specifically developed for their needs. With SA having so many citizens from diverse backgrounds, this has proven to be a happy hunting ground for entrepreneurs who spotted the trend early.
In 2003, the Word of the Year was “metrosexual”, but in latter years, the word “übersexual” has overtaken it. It refers to men who spruce up their looks, but still maintain their “brutish”, macho charm.
These “groomists” are drawn to start-ups that offer them a one-stop solution, allowing them to purchase the finest clothes, thread their hair, tweeze their brows, be caressed using corrective cream and receive a massage while their suits are being tailored. This is exactly why The Gallery Squared – located at 6 Kramer Rd, Kramerville, Sandton, Jo’burg – was founded in 2011.
Themba Mthethwa (32) and his business partner, Patrick Mphahlele, used to offer only bespoke and tailored suits, but noticed that their clients were going elsewhere for a manicure, a pedicure, a massage and a haircut. They realised there was a need for a one-stop offering for men. “There’s nothing better than going to a single venue where a man’s every need is fulfilled in terms of grooming. That takes a lot of stress off our customers’ shoulders,” says Mthethwa.
“We’ve seen a 70% growth in men who take the time out for grooming. And don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only the younger generation doing this – we see older men doing it too,” he adds.
At The Gallery Squared, grooming starts with the fragrance lightly permeating the premises. This is complemented by mood-setting music and the sense of community among those who frequent the establishment.
“Male grooming is definitely a growing trend. When we talk to our customers, they say they do it for various reasons. Some say it boosts their confidence, others say it’s to impress the fairer sex and still others simply consider it good manners,” says Mthethwa.
The Gallery Squared caters for a predominantly black market, but faces stiff competition from other establishments – particularly white-run ones, which Mthethwa says are still believed by many blacks to offer better service.
“One of the most serious issues we face is that black start-ups aren’t seen in the same light as white ones. Many blacks still suffer from an inferiority complex, as we associate black business with sub-standard quality, while white-owned businesses can do no wrong.
“This applies not only to the male grooming industry, but also to sectors such as IT, construction, fashion, etc. So my advice to young black people is that as men, we should have more constructive conversations. We should mould each other and talk about how we can club together to own properties and businesses. Then, when these materialise, we should ensure we surpass our clients’ expectations beyond their wildest imaginations!”
* Twitter: @Gallerysquared2 Instagram: @thegallerysquared