One of the biggest names in Northern Ireland hairdressing has become the latest victim of the recession.
Paul Stafford, the celebrity stylist who owned one of the province’s most prestigious hair salons on Belfast’s Lisburn Road, is to file for bankruptcy in Belfast High Court tomorrow.
The Paul Stafford Hairdressing brand — which is recognised in fashion circles internationally — has been bought over and its former owners, multi award-winning stylists Paul and Leisa Stafford, will now work as employees.
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph about the loss of the business he and his wife have built up over more than two decades, Mr Stafford said they had done nothing wrong and were victims of the recession.
“Our business is as successful now as it was 20 years ago. The reality is that it is a cruel climate and banks in general have a lack of appetite for helping small businesses,’’ he said.
“The only thing we have left is our reputation and creativity and it is our clients and our staff who motivate us.”
The 44-year-old, who is a member of the Hairdressing Hall of Fame, revealed that he and his wife had endured “a harrowing”
six months fighting to hold onto their company. The loss of their business empire has come about as a result of debt from a property portfolio the couple built up as a retirement fund.
The property market crash left them with debt of £2m on property loans which they couldn’t manage.
Said Paul: “We just couldn’t service the borrowings to the bank and there is also significant Inland Revenue debt.
“We sought advice at the beginning of the year and tried to trade through it, but then I realised I wasn’t going to be able to fix it the way I could fix a haircut.
“It was like a domino effect and, while I wish I was as good at business as I am at hair, I had to face the fact that filing for bankruptcy was the right thing to do.’
“It’s been absolutely horrific, the worst experience ever, and it has taken its toll on both of us,’’ he said.
“Leisa and I feel that we still have a contribution to make and we are motivated enough to continue to be educators of young stylists and consultants and good managers, and that’s where I see our future.”
He reassured his large client base that it will be business as usual at Paul Stafford Hairdressing after an investor stepped in and bought the business, retaining its former owners and lead stylists.