The $100,000 Haircut

Manufacturers, especially those reaching a consumer market, sometimes run the risk of being held hostage by something as insignificant as a haircut.

“Justin Bieber’s haircut cost me $100,000!”

And I thought my haircuts were expensive, which is why the above headline jumped out at me from Much to my surprise (and despite its odd keywords), the article this bizarre headline linked me to was actually about manufacturing... and (unfortunately for those of us tired of hearing his name) Justin Bieber.

You see, as long as there are 12-year-old girls waking up on Christmas morning with the expectation of a fringe-headed teen crooner doll waiting under the tree, then there will be somebody out there who must produce them. In this case, Jay Foreman, founder and CEO of Florida-based toy maker The Bridge Direct, is responsible for making a plastic Ken-esque rendition of the teenage pop star. Unfortunately for Foreman, teenagers are spontaneous, and when your product design relies on a particularly notable plastic shag… well, you’re just asking for an impromptu haircut. This was exactly the reason for the shrieks that echoed from the company’s offices one day back in February. Bieber had cut his signature locks, and production on the dolls was already well underway.

Said CNN: “A simple trim for Bieber was a money-losing move for Foreman, who had already begun manufacturing dolls for this holiday season with the pop star’s old hair. 4 million dolls.

'We didn’t want to disappoint fans with a Justin Bieber doll that doesn’t look exactly like him anymore,' said Foreman. 'But there wasn’t much we could do about it.'

'We were able to change the look in the second production line for the dolls,' said Foreman. But making those unexpected production adjustments for next year’s dolls 'was an expensive step,' he said. Bieber’s haircut cost his business $100,000. 'Would I rather that Justin called me three months before he made a hair change? Yes. But we know that won’t happen,' said Foreman. 'That said, I’m glad he didn’t go for a Mohawk.'”

While it makes for a funny story now (and probably great publicity for a small toymaker) it likely still strikes a chord with many readers out there. Manufacturers -- especially those reaching a consumer market -- sometimes run the unfortunate risk of being held hostage by something as seemingly insignificant as a haircut. And even if your products reach professionals (rather than pre-teens), the swings don’t always get easier to duck; more often than not, surprises that affect production don’t just come from the customer. When was the last time raw material costs caused you to make an emergency BOM revision? Or how many of you saw a trusted supplier fall victim to the economy, thus creating a sudden temporary gap in your supply chain?

In Foreman’s case, he determined the best solution was finishing out the run and changing the second round to adapt to the new product needs. Not every production snafu can be so easily solved… just ask your peers in the food and beverage markets. It’s far easier to overlook an outdated haircut than, say, an ingredient suddenly banned by the FDA.

If you grew up as a boy or girl scout, you were taught be prepared. While this platitude makes sense in many scenarios, it doesn’t hold as much water in a time where nothing is certain.

So I’ll ask, Readers: What is the most memorable production “uh-oh” you’ve ever had to deal with? How did you adjust? Email me ([email protected]) or post your comments below. And go out and freely get a haircut, knowing the only result of taking too much off the top might be the cost of a hat.