Wellington barbers are finding it impossible to source experienced staff, saying it's becoming a crisis.
Cuba Barbers owner Michael Petrie said it forced him to downsize dramatically.
"I had four shops at one point but I closed them all apart from one because the market has become so competitive, and there's just not enough experienced people in town that could manage or run the four stores.
"The barbers who have jobs are staying put because they're being looked after well. Most of them are happy to have a secure job where they can build a clientele.
The French Barber owner Jason Hurier said the lack of experienced barbers in Wellington is the biggest threat operators are facing.
"Business owners do anything they can to keep skilled staff, and it's becoming a game of who is paying the most, rather than the brand, experience or style.
"As bad as it sounds, you actually have to poach people and send them messages, call them or email them because they're not putting out CVs or looking for jobs, because they don't have to."
Petrie has three graduate barbers working at his store, but said for many they're not an option.
"More than half a class is usually really competent and ready to start working, as long as they have the right training and a senior person present in the shop.
"But if you're a one-man show looking for someone to work in your shop, you're going to shy away from hiring someone fresh out of school, so it's tough."
Hurier said for many businesses, hiring graduates isn't financially viable.
"They may be good enough to get the qualification, but often they aren't good enough to work on clients straight away.
"If there was a government subsidy it would be different, but because these are guys are technically qualified, we have to pay them a full wage but can't let them work on clients for some time."
Weltec head barbering tutor Daimon Johnson said the industry today is popular among young people who are lacking experience, but the old guard need to play their part in changing that.
"I've been an employer myself in the past, and you always want a person with a wealth of experience, but there just isn't that out there.
"Unfortunately in New Zealand those who become skilled often to move to the UK or Australia to take on bigger things, so there just isn't an experienced work force."
He said employers need to give those who are young and eager a chance.
"People need to be more open-minded to hiring young people and those that perhaps come from a different background and don't have the experience.
"They might not have the experience straight away, but they might have the interpersonal skills and are just good genuine people, and I think that's more important."