By Jackie Yu, President,
HairArt Int’l Inc. HEH Men’s,
House of European Hair

If you’re a wig shop or hair replacement center you’ve probably noticed extreme changes in availability, quality and communication from wig brands since the start of the pandemic. 

And even as we appear to be coming to the final year of the pandemic, instead of things getting better they’re getting worse for wig and hairpiece brands.

The industry is running out of real Swiss lace for high-quality lace wigs due to a global shortage that’s backed up through 2024. Production in factories in Asia is limited and at best lagging, raw hair is in short supply, and the cost of importing goods and shipping from factories has also quadrupled. There’s no immediate foreseeable change to this situation.

The pandemic has also affected once-reliable hair centers and wig shops we in the industry have worked with for decades. Places like Hair Direct, a men’s hairpiece mainstay, have gone out of business and other suppliers and brands aren’t stable or have no inventory.

Poor communication and questionable business practices also seem to be on the rise. We’ve heard repeatedly of vendors changing the sale price of an ordered item after the fact. This leaves the purchaser feeling as though their piece is being held hostage, destroying their budget, their ability to set resale pricing, and deeply affecting their sales margins. 

Guarantee pricing at the time of order needs to be industry practice because stability and trust are as important as delivering a high-quality product.

Another problematic issue seems to be poor communication between the U.S.-based brand and their production facilities in China. Some companies have gone so far as to tell customers to stop asking about ETAs or delivery times regarding the custom orders placed by salons and shops purchasing for end-users. 

This lack of goods, organization, communication and empathy is threatening the industry. 

As an industry, we, the wig manufacturers, should be determined to take every one of these critical issues and make them into an opportunity to improve our processes and procedures so we can all get through this together without affecting our most sensitive users — those with medical hair-loss issues and the salons and professionals who serve them.

To stay afloat during these times, we need to plan, spend and take some calculated risks so we can stay strong for our customers. Among them:

• Coming up with plans to keep a massive inventory of the finest European hair, including human gray and naturally curly hair, warehoused in the U.S. for quality control and availability is essential.

• Having amazing relationships with, and insider knowledge of, Hong Kong and China will mean wig manufacturers can have stock piece production prioritized as well as get custom orders in a quarter of the time of current industry standards. 

Relationships and planning are the only things that will help keep production strong in a supply chain crisis.

For example, accommodate in-house wig repair as well as overseas expedited repairs for your own brand wigs as well as competitors’ wigs.  Working together to keep our customers happy keeps our industry alive, and working together is part of the solution.

The hair industry has had some serious setbacks. Instead of decreasing staff, make some adjustments by adding dedicated staff to help keep customers in the loop.

 Develop software so custom clients can view their ETAs in real-time, online 24/7.  Increase men’s hairpiece selections with several cap types so men can get hair even during an industry lace shortage.

Instead of going into a panic mode that makes the end-users and piece-wearers suffer, working to find any possible option to find solutions and workarounds is our only way out of this as an industry.