Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Rodney Wayne on being a cut above

Businessman and hairdresser Rodney Wayne pictured at his office in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour. Photo/Chris Gorman
Businessman and hairdresser Rodney Wayne pictured at his office in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour. Photo/Chris Gorman

Today Rodney Wayne spends more time on his boat than cutting hair but after more than 40 years in the business he's earned a break.

The Rodney Wayne hairdressing franchise has grown to have almost 60 sites with 37 salons, 15 Shampoo 'n' Things stores and several barbershops.

The business turns over around $40 million a year, which may not seem like much in retail terms but Wayne says in hairdressing terms the company is a giant.

Despite appointing chief executive Julie Evans 10 years ago and having most of the stores franchised, Wayne is still very involved in the business.

It's his legacy, he says.

The 68-year-old can be found in the office two or three days a week, and spent December visiting as many of the salons and franchisees as he could to wish them a merry Christmas.

He says he still enjoys being involved in the company, although he jokes that his wife Denise would like him to sell up and buy a house on a far away island.

Wayne is synonymous with the hairdressing chain but it wasn't his first career move.

In 1966, age 18, Wayne completed his apprenticeship as a butcher. He says this wasn't something he liked to admit in his younger days.

"I never used to tell people that - if you're doing a bad haircut, the person looks up and says 'you're a bloody butcher' and I would have had to say, 'how did you know?'," Wayne says.

"No I never did bad haircuts, but it just didn't seem like such a favourable thing to say. But I'm proud of it now."

Having moved to Australia with his first wife when he was 19-years-old, Wayne got a job in the deli area of a supermarket in Melbourne.

Although the job gave him good experience in sales and retail, it wasn't long before he realised being a butcher wasn't what he wanted to do.

He then began a second apprenticeship in hairdressing - studying by day and working in a restaurant at night.

He says they had no money at the time, but the apprenticeship set him up for a hugely successful career, although he also attributes this to his work ethic.

Wayne's father was a logger and his mother was a dress maker. The eldest of their kids, Wayne said he worked hard from a young age, getting jobs in orchards and doing a paper run.

Growing up in Motueka, he says he always knew that he wanted to go into business, but after completing his hairdressing apprenticeship, he realised it wasn't an easy task to break into the industry.

Hairstylist Rodney Wayne has operated the business for over 40 years. Photo/Doug Sherring
Hairstylist Rodney Wayne has operated the business for over 40 years. Photo/Doug Sherring

"Even though you come out as a qualified hairdresser, in Melbourne very few hairdressers would hire you because you didn't have enough experience," Wayne says.

"It was a bit different in my case because I was a bit more mature and so I managed to take over a salon from another Kiwi girl that wanted to leave," he says.

"So I went straight into business myself and have been for the last 40 or so years."

Over that time, the entrepreneur has cemented Rodney Wayne as one of the largest hairdressing chains in New Zealand, with his first store opening in Auckland's Victoria St in 1980.

Wayne says the company's newest salon on Fort St is one he is particularly proud of.

Set up in a heritage building rather than a shopping mall, it is similar to some of the first salons he opened, and has already proven successful.

"In retail terms we're probably small at $40m but in hairdressing terms we're a giant," Wayne says.

"There are other hairdressing [chains] and I don't know what their turnovers are but I think we would probably double anyone else - we've been here doing this for a while now."

The company has tried several business ventures - although Wayne says not all of them were successful.

In 1996, the brand launched hair product business Shampoo 'n' Things, which it has since expanded to have 15 stores across New Zealand.

It has just branched into e-commerce, setting up a fully stocked hair products store on Dominion Rd where it operates its pick, pack and delivery from.

One endeavour he says didn't go as well was its Stylexpress outlets, a foray into the lower-end of the market.

"We tried [this model] a couple of years ago but I suppose I'm more comfortable in that mid to upper end of the market, and Stylexpress was to do a more rapid, quick style service at a lower price point," Wayne says.

"It's not really where we want to be and I think you can get confused trying to do too many things."

Denise and Rodney Wayne. Photo/Norrie Montgomery
Denise and Rodney Wayne. Photo/Norrie Montgomery

The company still operates two Stylexpress salons which perform well, but Wayne says he would rather convert them back to full Rodney Wayne salons.

When asked about the challenges of the hairdressing industry, Wayne says staffing is the biggest issue - although one that is not unique to his business.

"It's probably never been any different," Wayne says. "It varies but we have about 500 people, including the franchisees and staffing has always been our main challenge."

He said a lot of the younger staff wanted to have families or travel, adding that hairdressing had never been known as a well-paid career.

In 2015, the average income for hairdressers was estimated to be $31,500 according to Statistics NZ.

Wayne said the company's incentive system helped retain staff and a lot of his franchisees had been with the business over 20 years.

Although business had its ups and downs, Wayne says he is pleased with where he is.

"I have it sorted for a very good life, one might say. I suppose if someone came along and said 'here Rodney, we want to buy you out' - I'd probably be silly to say no I won't have a look at it, but it's not on the radar."

When not focusing on the business, Wayne says he tries to get out on the water on his launch, or cycles around the marina by his Viaduct apartment.


Rodney Wayne
68-years-old
Married to Denise
Has two children and 6 grandchildren
Grew up in Motueka

- NZ Herald

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