Dealing with fallout? Start with the hair
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery says patient volume has fallen by a third during this recession. But LA Times business columnist David Lazarus says there is one elective procedure
that might actually thrive amid this economic fallout. David, tell us what you found out.
David Lazarus: This last weekend, I was at one of the leading hair transplant facilities in Los Angeles, The New Hair Institute. I had thought going into this thing that a cosmetic surgery that is not covered by insurance, there is no way that you’d see a busy waiting room at the open house that I attended. In fact, it was packed with guys — thinning hair, balding, and these guys were there shopping for a surgery that can run, on average, about $6,000 or $7,000.
Radke: How do you account for the fact that these companies are doing such thick, wavy business?
Lazarus: Well, just parting all the information here, I talked to the head of the new Hair Institute, a guy named William Rassman, and he essentially said look, you’ve got a lot of guys who are here for vanity, there’s no question about it. But in this economy, you’re seeing the vanity customers dropping off a bit and what he’s seeing more are guys coming in or feel that they will be at a competitive disadvantage in the job market unless they have a bushy, wavy head of hair. And so they’re coming in trying to get this surgery in hopes, as an insurance policy, that if they have to go out and compete for a job, well, God forbid it doesn’t go to that guy down the street who’s coming in without any follicle problems.
Radke: How big a market is this?
Lazarus: Well, you talk to the experts and they say look, millions of guys — in fact, perhaps half of all men — starting losing their hair by the time they hit middle age. When I asked Dr. Rassman whether he expects this to be a growing part of his business, he said well as long as the economy stays like this, a driver is going to be workplace issues and job market issues. But once the economy turns around, he says he expects it to be pure narcissism once again.
Radke: LA Times business columnist David Lazarus. Thanks.
Lazarus: Thank you.
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