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Robert Smith: Co-founder of Slick a digital salon management and bookings platform on hair and beauty trends
Date published: Date modified: 2023-11-08

Robert Smith is the co-founder and chief commercial officer of Slick, a digital salon management and bookings platform for the hair and beauty industry. We spoke to Robert about hair and beauty trends, the findings from our H1 2023 analysis, and how Slick uses LDC data to support its businesses with tailored insights and products.


How does Slick incorporate the independent data from LDC? 

We use the data in two ways. One is the public data on what’s happening at the macro level in the industry: which verticals within the personal care industry are growing, and which are declining. That’s what we use at a strategy level, and also what we communicate to our customers.

We also work with the Local Data Company on a more targeted basis, understanding which areas are an interesting opportunity for us as a business, and where we want to focus our sales and marketing efforts— understanding the micro-dynamic within the industry.


What makes LDC data valuable for you?

We have a huge amount of platform data. We work with over 1600 businesses, so we have a unique perspective on what's happening within each salon.

What we don't get is a sense of what is happening to the industry at large. That's where LDC are useful, in allowing us to report on the high streets of our hairdressers, on openings and closures— the big industry trends that we should be passing onto our customers. That’s where LDC is valuable to us, and incredibly valuable to our customers.


There has been consistent growth in barbershops over the past few years. In your view, what has contributed to this, and how are Slick helping barbershops take advantage of this trend?

There is a huge trend for male personal care across the economy. More awareness of mental health and prioritization of experiences over physical goods means that more money is being spent in the service sector of the economy.

We have developed a specific product for the barber industry. Historically, barbers were very traditional. They used to be back-to-back; essentially, they made the client sit and wait, so they would never have an empty slot. Traditional booking systems would not be able to cope with this. If they allow people to book online, they can book and leave a 30-minute slot that then can't be filled. What we’ve built is software that's smart— it will only offer slots that don't leave any gaps. Barbers need a system that can cater to that flexibility and that's what we've built.

In contrast, why do you think hairdressers in the industry are experiencing a significant decline? 

Hairdressing is the biggest sector, so it has the largest volume in decline— in terms of percentage, it's actually a relatively small decline.

I think there's also been some change of use, whereby hairdressers have now started to rent out a chair to a beautician. They've been re-categorised as hair and beauty. What works quite well is— we built a system around this— you could come in for a colour and, while you're sitting in the chair with your colour developing, you can have your nails done. It’s good from the client's point of view because it's efficient. It's good from a business point of view because it's increasing your average bill.


Has anything in the LDC data surprised you?

It's been 10 years’ worth of growth, so I'm slightly surprised that it continues to grow. We know from other data sources that the life expectancy of barbers is not as great as hair, or hair and beauty, but I think, at some point, that trend will have to end.

There was some data that I saw on the number of hair and beauty businesses on retail parks. That was something that really surprised me. There's always been a very fragmented high street industry, but there's never been one for the chains.


How is your data used across the company?

It's used very much from a strategy point of view, from a sales and a marketing perspective, but it's also crucial to the product team: where do we see the industry going and, therefore, where do we need to focus our product development?

For instance, we saw the growth of barbershops, so we developed a specific product. If we were seeing huge growth in nails, then we might be taking a slightly different strategy. It’s crucial, along with other data sources, for us to understand the make-up of the industry and the likely path. We can then make informed decisions about our product roadmap and our priorities.


What do you value about the relationship between Slick and LDC?

We've been in a very opaque market where there isn't a huge amount of data. That's why I'm so passionate about it, because I know the value of it to businesses but also to a lot of the end customers as well. Having this site data is important because there's lots of doom and gloom of “all businesses are shutting”. To be able to have confidence that personal care and hair and beauty are thriving sectors— it’s in our data, but to be able to corroborate that with your data is incredibly useful for us in terms of investor communications, but also in terms of strategy, and in terms of reassuring our customers. To be able to come out with strong messaging helps cement our position as leaders and experts in the industry.


To talk about how LDC's data and insight products can support your business objectives, email the team at

Sarah Abu-Amero, LDC Marketing Executive

Sarah Abu-Amero, LDC Marketing Executive The Local Data Company 901 901

Sarah joined LDC in 2021, having previously worked as a copywriter and social media manager. She supports the team with digital and written communication, planning and creating content for the company’s website and social accounts.

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