When I heard the news that hairdressers and barber shops could finally reopen on July 4th I jumped for joy. Locking up for lockdown back in April has meant that my gentleman's grooming salon in Mayfair hasn't felt the warmth of a human in weeks. I know my clients are eagerly waiting to fix their DIY hair mishaps. So what exactly will barber life look like post Covid-19?
The barber shop is more than just a place to get your hairline back in shape, it's a place for connection, male banter, selfcare and ultimately a safe haven to shed your stresses and burdens. Now with all of the new restrictions and regulations, I need to find a way to continue business as safely and securely as possible without compromising the customer experience.
Hairdressers will reopen as part of phase three of the Government's plan, provided that there are no significant increases in contamination rates. So to start with, I have the basics and have (over)ordered my list of PPE to help protect against coronavirus spread in the salon.
There's face masks for myself, employees and clients, disposable gloves, antibacterial and antiviral gels and hand soaps, face visors, disposable plastic aprons, a thermometer and long-sleeved fluid repellent gowns. I've also booked in a professional cleaning service to clean and disinfect the whole store prior to reopening and have removed all unnecessary decor for the time being.
Working with all of this equipment will make me feel more like a surgeon than a barber, and I can't help but wonder what it will be like for the customer, but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort. I can only hope that my clients will be understanding as we all grapple with the new norm.
There is currently debate between the 2 metre vs 1 metre distancing rule but I think for now it's better to be safe than sorry, so although I have 3 chairs in store, I´ve decided to take the middle one out of service so that we have a good 3 metre distance between myself and our second barber.
During lockdown, I've had the booking system turned off but since reopening it a couple of days ago, the appointments are flooding in and it's reassuring to have so much support from regular customers and new ones alike. Booking online is straightforward but I've had to remove several services from the menu because it's unclear what the guidelines will be regarding shaves and more intimate services.
A traditional wet shave, facials or beard trims require us to get up close to the customer and with the current recommendations on social distancing it just doesn't seem feasible. I really hope these are very temporary measures. To avoid the possibility of a breakout occurring in my salon, I've put a consultation form together for clients to fill out digitally which will also help in the case of tracking and tracing should this ever be necessary.
I've decided to extend each hair appointment time from 30 minutes to a full hour to allow for extra cleaning and ensure that all tools and surfaces have been disinfected prior to each appointment. This will cut the amount of daily business we can accept significantly but again safety leads the way here. I'll have to remove magazines and I expect there to be new guidelines regarding waiting in store - I'm grateful for my cosy outdoor garden area which will no doubt prove useful if there is a short five minute overlap.
More challenging is that we have been advised that we must avoid “small talk” - talking through a mask will be tricky enough I admit but I can't imagine a silent service in my store, it's just not how we do things. The barber shop is the place to wind down and relax and traditionally we have always offered drinks to our customers so they can enjoy the full experience, but this will now be off the cards. So much of my business is built around level of service and comfort, but I'm hoping these precautions are temporary.
Stefan Avanzato is the Director of Avanzato Grooming Lounge