More style than substance

Are you feeling a bit more flash with your cash? A bit more willing to spurge on yourself, on looking good? You're not? Well someone is and I've got the numbers to prove it.

You might think in these times of lay-offs and financial paranoia that people would ditch luxuries and try cheaper alternatives. But it appears not.

In Victoria nearly as many people work in beauty as do in mining.

Data from IBISWorld shows that we think looking good is worth spending on.

You might think that hair styling is small potatoes, a minor industry compared with the real drivers of our economy. It can't compete with mining - there aren't boatloads of crimpers being shipped from Newcastle to Shanghai to meet China's insatiable desire for a perm. Nor, I suspect, are there many fly-in-fly-out masseuses. But the hair and beauty industry more than pulls its weight.

According to IBISWorld's estimates for 2012-13, Australia-wide there are a staggering 25,887 ''health and beauty'' establishments: up from 23,875 five years ago. The industry employs almost 75,000 people and generates almost $4 billion dollars in revenue.

On a state-by-state basis the data is even more impressive. In Victoria nearly as many people work in beauty as do in mining. There are 18,956 people who have a job in hair. That's a lot of you making use of them.

And the industry is celebratory. A hair and beauty industry event, Salon Melbourne, which is being held on April 14 and 15, will feature more than 1000 products from 200 brands, 100 models in more than 20 shows and 14 seminars from 22 educators.

So what's behind this growth and this renewed interest in looking good? Did some people cut back on haircuts in the midst of the dark days of a few years back and then realise their mistake? Did some of us turn our backs on the $100 salon job for a while in favour of the $10 short-back-and-sides barbers? And have we now entered a period of prosperity where everyone's finding a few spare dollars to treat themselves? 

What about you? Are you spending more on haircuts than you did? Did you cut back when times were hard, or did you carry on regardless? How often do you go to the professionals?