The events of the past 12 months have been turmoil for myriad businesses, but the beauty industry has been one of the most severely affected.
Last week, The Telegraph reported that 4,578 hairdressers and salons have closed in Britain since the start of the pandemic. It’s a shocking, yet sadly unsurprising figure, when you consider the overwhelming disregard the Government has demonstrated for the sector since the first lockdown began in March 2020.
What followed in the months to come was a series of U-turns, nonsensical decisions and frankly baffling caveats to each phase of industry reopening: hairdressers could operate, but beauty menus were restricted to ‘neck-down’ treatments (despite barbers across the country offering traditional shaves and beard trims). Manicurists could work, but facialists were kept strictly shuttered. For an industry whose very nature has always commanded the highest levels of hygiene and safety, the sting was sharp.
Now, with the third national lockdown underway, our beauty industry has closed once more. While we don’t know when services will resume, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that the next national review will take place in mid-Feb, with an easing of the restrictions dependent on vaccination progress. There is also the possibility that the ‘tier’ system will stay in place, which will dictate whether business may operate.
In the meantime, there are ways you can support this vital industry. Beauty expert Caroline Hirons, in collaboration with the British Beauty Council and BABTAC, has launched Beauty Backed: a campaign raising funds to support salons through the lockdown. You can still donate via the campaign's Go Fund Me page.
You can also make your voice heard by joining the #ChopTheVAT campaign, which asks the Government to grant the beauty industry a reduction in VAT from 20 to 5 per cent – a move than can easily be implemented, as it has been for the hospitality industry.
What a Covid-secure salon looks like
The British Beauty Council has worked with a number of Affiliate Organisations and patrons to produce a summary of suggested guidelines, provided by experts in each specific sector of beauty. These include health and hygiene standards; staff hygiene and protection requirements; appointment and payment protocol; appointment stations and salon surroundings; ventilation and dust collection. While these are for the outlets and pros, customers should read them too, so they know what to expect.
For this all to run smoothly, it's important to remember that in addition to the businesses, both client and therapist both share a responsibility in ensuring they do everything they can to minimise the risks. “The salons and spas will need to perform comprehensive risk assessments and implement new processes and protocols identified as necessary. These will need to be fully communicated to both staff and clients, clearly outlining salon, staff and client responsibilities and ensuring all parties agree to them and comply with them," says Lesley Blair, chair of BABTAC.
How to prepare before booking and visiting a salon or spa
Firstly, “be confident that the salon owner and staff have ensured your safety is paramount,” by booking in somewhere you trust, says Millie Kendall MBE, CEO of the British Beauty Council.
“The beauty industry has predominantly always been a hygienically operated sector and used to ensuring high levels of safety and infection control, so while social distancing is not possible our sector is well experienced in protocols of minimising the risk of infection,” adds Blair. “However, given our industry is also not currently regulated, we strongly recommend that clients ensure they chose salons with qualified therapists and who maintain these high professional standards.”
Haylee Benton, owner of multiple Hertfordshire clinics, suggests that we look out for accreditations which should be displayed (in salon windows or online) for peace of mind. “Owners, managers and teams should be prepared to do thorough risk assessments and regular logs for safety and in case of government checks to see that you are adhering to high standards.” At her salons, for example, all staff have completed multiple online training courses about Covid-19 which equips them in spotting the signs of the virus and knowing how to use PPE equipment properly, ensuring the work environment stays safe for all stepping inside.
When it comes to how you can help, there are a number of ways to prepare and act, outlined below:
Take your own face coverings – and little else
Kendall says, “Please try to take your own face coverings to appointments, as any added cost will be crippling for salons; they are having to look at modifications and PPE which is a huge overhead for a lot of businesses.”
She adds that you should visit alone, and take minimal accessories, as communal cloakrooms might not be an option. If needed, take your own refreshments – as food and drinks will most probably be unavailable, with water likely only on offer in disposable cups.
Show up for appointments on time. “The salons are going to have to open for longer hours in order to space the clients out more and it is common courtesy to be prompt,” notes Kendall. “There won’t be a waiting area to hang out in, in some cases, so showing up on time will be key to making this work for everyone.”
Comply with screenings
Each salon will have its own system, but there will be customer screenings to adhere to. For example, at Benton’s salons they “will be sending out online consultations before all treatments as a declaration of Covid history, and as well as normal medical questions we would ask anyway, we will be checking everyone’s temperature before starting a treatment and ask that you use our hand sanitiser on arrival”.
If in doubt, don’t go out
While you might feel desperate to get back in the salon seat, it’s your responsibility to be honest with yourself if you don’t feel entirely well and, if in doubt – don’t go out. “We must think of safety first,” says Benton. If for any reason you don’t feel well, “cancel your appointment well in advance to ensure that someone else has an opportunity to use it”.
Be prepared to pay beforehand
It is likely that you will have to pay upfront for your appointments, and typically they will be card only. Benton explains, “We will be taking 100 per cent payment upfront due to two reasons; high demand of appointment slots and the fact we can reduce the need for contact at the end of the treatment.” In the case of her salons, a ‘client login area’ will mean customers are able to save their payment methods online securely so they can just walk out the door, even with a product.
Tolerate the loss of traditional personal touches
Beauty salons are synonymous with an intimate, personal experience – but sadly we all need to accept that our ‘new normal’ can’t accommodate that in the same way. While salons and spas will be conscious to make the experience as special as possible “due to restrictions such as masks, gloves and perspex screens, it is easy to lose the traditional ‘personal’ touch,” notes Benton. Add-ons usually on offer, like magazines and use of phone chargers or iPads, plus refreshments, will be unavailable or restricted.
Buy retail products, re-book, and leave a review
After a significant period without profits, all salons will now be considering operating below capacity over longer opening hours, with less extensive treatment menus and extra cleaning staff. This may mean that while are costs going up, revenue will go down. We can help by purchasing gift vouchers and retail products (either in-salon or on the company's own website), rebooking in advance and leaving a positive review (good experience permitting!) to reassure other people looking to book. As Kendall says, “Support your salon: help them so they can help you”.
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