As we continue through the pandemic into 2021 and a third national lockdown, the status of hairdressers and salons in the UK remains, unfortunately, up in the air with thousands of businesses affected by the enforced closure. In fact, according to The Telegraph, 4,578 hairdressers and salons have closed for good since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. An unsurprising but no less disheartening fact when you consider the government's general dismissal of the beauty industry since March last year despite supporting £7billion in UK tax revenues in 2018 alone.
But, there is hope. While beauty businesses largely remain closed for the duration of lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been vocal about an imminent review of the restrictions on the beauty sector, and the country as a whole, in the first week of February depending on the rollout of vaccinations.
That said, Johnson has gained a reputation throughout the pandemic for repeatedly underestimating the gravity of the situation and often woefully miscalculating how and when businesses will be able to re-open.
Fingers crossed it's sooner rather than later, and in the meantime, read on for how you can safely attend your next hair salon appointment in a post-Covid world once businesses eventually re-open.
July 4th could be the day many of us will be celebrating hair independence day, or will we? Named as the date that our long lost hairdressers will reopen their doors since the pandemic started, it looks unlikely that walking in and asking for the ‘usual’ will cut it anymore, because the hair salon experience is set to look anything but, well…. usual.
Since lockdown began, stylists have sweated over the future of their salons - while also grappling for enough face masks and PPE to enable staff to cut our fringes safely again (there's currently talk that all hair styling and cutting will have to stay around the back of the head).
When will hairdressers reopen in the UK? According to government guidelines, hairdressers can reopen from the 4th July.
The irony being that 2019 was undoubtedly the year of the hair salon. We weren’t just going to our local for a haircut anymore, we were going in for the way they brewed their organic coffee just so, the facials that left our faces a glow, that head massage which made everything okay again, the secret smoothie recipe, an hour flicking through our favourite glossy mags, and those pedicures! Yes, when we finally checked out of the hairdressers after a few hours, we didn’t only look like we’d just stepped out a salon, we felt like we’d stepped out of some kind of rehab.
How will hairdressers change once they reopen?
Change is afoot. ‘Let’s face it, our job is all about contact,' explains Adam Reed, founder of his eponymous East London salon, who has already fully equipped his business with gloves, aprons, hand sanitisers and fringe and face shields for the long awaited reopening.
‘We are, of course, currently waiting for official government guidelines, but from making sure there is as little contact as possible, spreading out appointment slots, removing half the chairs, wearing full PPE and not cutting dry hair, and reducing the number of blowdries, there are measures we are starting to discuss,’ agrees celebrity stylist and owner of the West London salon, Josh Wood.
Adam is one of the lucky ones, with a space large enough for clients to sit a comfortable two metres apart, but many are not quite so fortuitous. ‘There is talk that salons will have to put up Perspex screens between stations if there isn’t space, but it’s just so expensive – most smaller salons instead will have to take out half the seating and offer fewer appointments to make it viable and safe for everyone.’
Reed also explains that the days of walk ins are over, while most salons will be waving goodbye to the welcoming front of house we’ve become so used to. ‘Hairdressers will run online booking systems only. And, even then, when you do arrive you’ll hang up your own coat (put on your own mask, gown and gloves), bring your own magazines (because we just can’t have anyone sharing), and there’ll be no menus with frothing cappuccinos for a while.
Plus, there will be a strictly no cash payment system now.
What will happen to cash tips?
As payments go cash-free, the old methods of tipping will go out the door with the bank notes. According to new research, two out of three of us will not be tipping our hair stylist if cash is no longer an option, with 75% of the 1000 adults surveyed saying that they worry using cash leaves them open to germs and infection.
Like other service industries, tipping often provides a much-needed boost to hair stylists' income and the lack of cash tips could lead to a loss of £7,504,764.86 in London alone.
What else will change?
'New customers will have to fill in online health questionnaires, and we’ll have thermometers for testing while they wait outside the salon too,’ he adds.
For extra insurance, Adam is tag teaming his staff into two groups, with an hour gap in between each shift for a salon deep cleanse. ‘The theory is that if one person falls ill, only half of the staff will have to quarantine themselves. That means we’ll be open for longer hours too.’ Stylists are also getting their own lockers to store their own tools, and also their shoes, ‘as we will have to wear different shoes in and out of the salon now.’
Along with their lockers, stylists are getting creative too – they have to be. Layering and fringes will be up for the chop unless hairdressers can think of new ways to do them which don’t involve standing in front of their clients - another reason why the salons innovative enough to add beauty offerings such as facials and threading to their extra curricular menus, are now taking them off.
Will this make us go to the hairdresser less? We hope not. Three months without hairdressers is enough to remind us that they are more than just a place to get your barnet done.
Way beyond outgrown ends and roots, they are wellbeing institutions. Many of us miss the profound relationship we have with our salon and stylist (the average British woman stays longer with her hairdresser than her husband apparently). And though salons may look a little different come July, after weeks of financial havoc and logistical headaches, it’s our turn to help them return to their crowning glory.
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