When Nicky Thompson started taking bookings again she was inundated with more than 200 requests in just a couple of days, and when she finally reopened the doors of her hair salon on Saturday, she could see why.
“I’ve had a few dodgy fringes,” she said, laughing. “Some short bits and long bits, it was interesting trying to sort that out.
“I also had one lady whose husband had cut her hair across the back to keep it neat and tidy – luckily she wanted it cut into a bob so I could correct that quite easily.”
Like many hair salons in England – which were able to reopen from 4 July – Nix Hair and Beauty in south London is fully booked until August, despite the fact Thompson is now opening seven days a week instead of five to meet the demand.
“I think as an industry this is going to be a busy, busy month for us. It’s really nice to see the diary fully booked,” she said.
She has also had to increase her prices to help cover the costs of the safety measures she has implemented – PPE for staff, a full clean between each client and reduced capacity due to social distancing.
At House of Tinu in Manchester, customers have their temperatures checked outside the salon before they’re allowed in. Staff wear visors at all times, and there are disposable face masks available for customers, along with hand sanitiser.
“I found it a bit upsetting that we had to lock the door because people can’t just walk in,” said the owner, Tinu Abi. “And the visors were quite uncomfortable. It was a really hectic day, and there was a lot of mental juggling to make sure we’d done everything right.”
Abi has had to completely transform her salon to meet the hygiene and distancing requirements. Chairs have been further spaced out, so a room that previously held four mirrors now only has two, while the reception desk has been replaced with a larger one that can accommodate a protective screen.
Similar measures have been put in place at C-Suite Lounge in Greenwich, which has had to reduce the number of appointments it makes to ensure social distancing, leading to a few frustrated customers.
“We’ve had to turn a few customers away, because they said they needed their hair seen ‘now now now’, but we’re fully booked,” said the owner, Alyson Oruwariye. “They’ve been quite annoyed but there’s nothing we can do. We just want to make sure we’re on top of the cleaning so we’ll have someone coming in daily to help with that.”
Despite some suggestion that small talk would be banned in salons, official government guidance simply recommends back-to-back or side-to-side working to avoid the high-risk zone in front of people’s noses and mouths.
But the customary chat between hairdressers and their customers has been made more difficult by the layers of PPE. “The visors are taking a bit of getting used to, they’re steaming up when we’re talking or singing – so I better give up singing!” said Danielle Simm, manager of Kolo Hair and Beauty Boutique in Chorley. “We could do with little windscreen wipers.”
“And obviously the clients have got masks on so you can’t lip-read, which makes it hard when the hairdryers are on.”
Teas and coffees have also gone under the new government guidelines, with customers being asked to bring their own drinks – and no complimentary reading material either. “But everyone has been so supportive, everyone has worn a mask and been understanding, I think people are just happy to have their hair done finally,” said Simm.
It has been a worrying few months for hair salons, relying on government support to keep them afloat during lockdown, so Saturday’s reopening was an emotional moment for many business owners.
“The atmosphere has been lovely, there is lots of laughter still,” said Thompson. “I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to getting everyone back in and to start being able to move forward with the business again.”