The UK is opening up for business.
At the time of writing, Boris Johnson is urging people back to work,[i] and it has been confirmed that it will be mandatory to wear facemasks in shops and on public transport.
“The new normal” has been a much-used phrase over the last few months, but it looks like we are now seeing it come into force - and one of the professions this is most keenly felt in is the hair and beauty industry.
Iain McIntosh, owner of Salon M[ii] in Wallasey, Wirral explains how the lockdown has affected his business and the challenges ahead.
“Our new normal is all about infection control,” says Iain. “The priority is to keep our staff and customers as safe as possible through proper practices, regular sanitisation and deep cleaning.
The list of changes is quite long, and Iain admits it’s a challenge: “Some of the government guidelines are still a little vague, and the announcement of them didn’t allow much time until opening, so we’ve have had to turn everything around very quickly.”
Iain has spent lockdown decorating and recalibrating his salon interior, investing in new flooring and heating, screens and storage, specialist cleaning equipment and staff protection. To ensure social distancing, he is only using four of his six cutting/styling stations at one time, reducing the staff on the floor. “We’ve had hundreds of clients calling us hoping for bookings, and we really wanted to welcome them back,” says Iain, “But the key was to get it right. High standards have always been important to us - so from the outset, our aim was to do the best we possibly could.”
As well as getting the salon ready during the lockdown, Iain has used the time to focus on training. He has taken business and hairdressing courses to build on his existing knowledge, started a trichology qualification and delivered training himself, going online to advise and educate on subjects including hair extensions, hair loss and salon technology. “As well as genuinely helping others I saw this is a good opportunity to PR my business, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” he admits.
The number one challenge will be loss of income, as Iain explains: “We’re going to work seven days a week - we’re happy to do so, but this pushes overheads up without actually increasing the income. We’ll lose roughly 1/3 of our income and a further 15-20% due to time lost through the allocation of sanitisation blocks in between each client.”
Iain is also concerned about losing clients who cannot wait for their appointment: “We’re already full for July and booking into August - with pages of clients to accommodate. We are also aware that our clients have their own struggles; redundancies will affect some of them, and hair will be a luxury that cannot be justified.”
And yet above all of this, Iain is optimistic. “We’re just so excited to re-open,” he says. “We love our work, and the lack of routine has been a challenge for us all. As an employer, I’ve been concerned about the team’s mental health. We’ve kept in touch as much as possible and are delighted to come back together now.
“People have genuinely missed their hairstylists and the feeling is mutual! It’s an important service - getting your hair done is not just about physical appearances; it’s a treat, a break from the grind and it’s good for wellbeing. We may have giant plastic masks on but we are still ensuring our clients come away feeling relaxed and looking great, and the feedback has been fantastic.
“That’s our aim at the end of the day. To make our clients feel good and keep the doors open. This is the same for us all.”
Quotes from well-known and specialist insurers, including: