Hair care is a billion-dollar industry and African Americans spent roughly $54 million on Black hair-care products, according to a 2018 Nielsen report. When it comes to the industry’s manufacturing and distribution of those products, however, other races dominate.
“It’s rare to see people of color in this industry; said Tequilla Fletcher, owner of TressaHolic Beauty Supply in Tampa, Florida. “I’m a part of a Black beauty supply owner Facebook group and a lot of us share the same issues.”
Fletcher opened her beauty supply store in August after being a hairstylist for years. She told Atlanta Black Star that she and many other Black owners have a hard time getting direct accounts with distributors to keep high-demand products on the shelves.
“I personally don’t feel like they want to do direct business with African Americans,” Fletcher added. “Many of us are intimidated to get into this business because of the larger competition.”
Fletcher said there is a huge demand for virgin human hair yet it’s the hardest product for Black-owned beauty supply owners to get.
“I’ve been selling virgin hair for over 10 years,” she explained. “The only places I know that the hair comes from is India and China. When I want certain products, they say they don’t have it when they do have it,” she said of Korean distributors. “You just want to give me what you want me to have and not be able to supply me with what’s in demand.”
Korean Americans have dominated the Black hair-care industry for decades — controlling the manufacturing and distribution, according to Shoppe Black.
“It’s very hard because a lot of them either don’t respond or just refuse to give you the accounts altogether,” Fletcher said. “Some [distributors] would say your application isn’t complete when I know good and well I did everything I was supposed to.”
Fletcher told Atlanta Black Star most of the distributors work with Asian-owned beauty supply stores, which continues to close the gap on Blacks having the opportunity to break into an industry that has prospered off the support of Black customers.
However, more people of color are searching for Black-owned beauty supply stores for their needs, with many saying that they have been or know of instances that Blacks were treated poorly in Asian owned beauty supply stores.
“Black hair has always been an essential part to the Black community; it’s how we show up in the world,” said Tampa native Ashley Williams. “The beauty supply stores need to be relatable. Supporting Black businesses is so crucial and important. I don’t know of many Black-owned beauty supply stores but I would love to support them, for the relatable experience.”
Fletcher said the more Blacks get into the industry, the more control the Black community will have over the market it has funded and supported for years.