QB House opened its first barbershop outside Asia in New York last month. As Fred Katayama reports, the no-frills chain is emphasizing hygiene over speed and low prices.
The vacuuming tells you this isn't your typical barber shop, and it's the opposite of a time suck. QB House opened its first shop outside Asia last month in New York City, and the big Japanese chain is trying to lure new customers by emphasizing hygiene in addition to its trademark express cuts, low price of $20, and no frills - no shampoo or shave. Barbers don't re-use brushes because there are no brushes, just combs that they toss out after each cut or give to the customer. Even the nozzles of the vacuums used to suck up loose hairs are replaced after each use. Ryoji Furuya heads QB's U.S. operations. SOUNDBITE: RYOJI FURUYA, PRESIDENT, QB HOUSE USA, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The big difference is of course, we do express haircut, but at the same time, we bring our Japanese culture, the service, the atmosphere, so that customer can satisfy not only haircut also atmosphere or services from Japan, how we treat customers like hygiene." QB's 660 shops in Asia emphasize speed: a haircut in 10 minutes. Furuya found out American barbers are fast, too, so he's marketing hygiene and service over speed. But with time in mind, a traffic light outside the shop tells customers if they'll have to wait long. These workstations are angled at 130 degrees to cut time. That saves the barber a step or two by shortening the distance she has to walk to grab tools. The $20 price in New York is double what it charges in Tokyo due to higher rents and labor costs. But new customers Miho Kowase and Tran Thu Trang say they'll be back. SOUNDBITE: MIHO KOWASE, STUDENT, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It was amazing actually. It was quick, and it's cheap, and then I thought it was very efficient and the stylist was nice." SOUNDBITE: TRAN THU TRANG, STUDENT, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "They have this system like clean for hair. I like the clean." QB plans to open two more stores in Manhattan this year and up to 50 stores in the U.S. in five to 10 years.