The salon and beauty industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. An industry that relies on close personal contact was sure to suffer when close personal contact was effectively outlawed.
While the furlough scheme, self-employed income support scheme and bounce back loans might be helping some business owners stay afloat, the support has been patchy and left many salons in uncertain situations.
The second national lockdown in England is now underway and many salons have been forced to close their doors again. After working hard to fill their appointment books following that last lockdown, they are left in the impossible situation of being forced to disappoint their customers for a second time.
According to a recent survey by the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF), 40% of salons will not be able to cover their expenses after Christmas. The unique challenges facing the industry mean that they didn’t manage to bounce back fast enough before the new restrictions were imposed. In short, the new normal wasn’t even close to normal for salons.
Limited capacity hit bookings
To look at the year in review so far, salons were open at the start of the year until 16th March 2020. Although, we have to remember that this is characteristically a quieter time for salons.
Salons were forced to stay closed until 13th July, with some key services not allowed to return until 1st August. And when salon services were able to return, limits on the number of people inside salons and social distancing measures made it impossible to operate at full capacity.
Salons adapted to the changes, but on 23rd October, salons in Wales went into a firebreak lockdown. And later, on the 5th November, England entered a second national lockdown. The lockdown is due to end on 2nd December, giving salons just 22 days until Christmas Eve.
This means that salons in England have only been able to operate at normal capacity for 72 days (including weekend) and in a limited capacity for 115 days (including weekends) out of a total of 309 days.
As a result of the restrictions, many salon owners reported concerns about the future of their business. Of the 2018 respondents, two-thirds said they were concerned about their business remaining slow, despite being able to reopen. With more people working from home and fewer social events to look forward to, many are opting for more natural and low maintenance hairstyles.
Staff working in salons would be right to be concerned, with a third of salon owners confirming that they expect to cut staff in the coming months and a further 44% confirmed that they would not be able to guarantee jobs.
The beauty sector has been hit the hardest due to the extended restrictions on treatments such as facials and eyebrow shaping. These services will often be bundled together into longer treatment times, making it viable for staff to spend time cleaning between appointments. But with some treatments off-limits, this forced beauty industry staff to restrict certain treatments and damaged their business in the process.
Anyone hoping to start working in the sector can also expect to face challenges ahead. Staff in the hair sector have seen their working hours reduced by around 55% and an alarming 74% in the beauty industry. This means that new hires and apprentices can expect to be put on hold for the foreseeable future.
Consumer confidence in the safety measures could be keeping people away. There are also changing attitudes towards beauty in a time when no one expects to be seen out of the house to contend with.
What’s clear is that the government needs to step in to support this struggling industry or face widespread unemployment in the months ahead. The hair and beauty sector contributed over £7.5bn in turnover for the UK economy in 2017, so this sector is clearly worth protecting.