Has the pandemic damaged the wonder trade?

Locking the large purple door of her magnificence salon behind her, Jessica Earl felt heartbroken. 

Formerly a preferred Cheltenham venue that was frequented largely by ladies celebrating birthdays and hen events, the pandemic had put paid to its often bustling environment.

By the time the third lockdown hit and together with her enterprise unable to commerce, Jessica might now not afford the £7,000 per quarter hire.

With her enterprise now not viable, she would in any other case have confronted eviction if she didn’t pay up. Instead, she needed to make the devastating resolution to make her 16 members of employees redundant.

Then, on December 29, 2021, she shut the door for good on her champagne nail bar, Earl’s and Co.

Recalling that final day in December, Jessica, 33, describes how the workforce sat on the bar within the store and ‘celebrated, commiserated and cried all at the same time’ about all they’d achieved and that the pandemic had compelled the enterprise to fold. 

‘It was awful. Completely heartbreaking,’ she remembers. ‘It was my identity for ten years. I was 23 when I opened it and I won awards for being the youngest woman in business in the area. It was a really amazing ride to have Earl’s and Co being such a well known vacation spot on the town. To lose that was vastly devastating.’

Jessica explains that the pandemic additionally left her confused and nervous for her staff, all of whom ‘had families, had mortgages to pay, rent to pay, and vulnerable members of family at home’. 

Now, she works as a magnificence therapist alone, ‘purely because of what the last few years have done’ – she says using folks proper now ‘doesn’t make sense’ – and is bereft at what she has misplaced.

She provides: ‘The atmosphere, the building, the location, everything just worked. I miss it massively.’

Jessica explains that the pandemic had left her confused and nervous for her staff (Picture: Supplied)

There have been virtually 45,000 hair and sweetness companies working within the UK in 2020. While there are not any official figures but for what number of shut down through the pandemic, the survival charges for the trade was already in decline. 

A 2021 report by the National Hair and Beauty Federation recognized it as one of many hardest hit by the UK’s pandemic lockdowns, with turnover falling by a mean of 45% in 2020 in comparison with 2019. Salon capability additionally fell to 70% of its pre-pandemic stage on account of social distancing and enforced closures.

Many magnificence professionals claimed that they have been victims of discrimination, as female-led industries have been hit hardest by Covid. With the wonder trade 91% feminine and lots of felt they have been disproportionately affected by financial destroy attributable to the pandemic, as salons have been unable to commerce for therefore lengthy.

And now that the price of residing disaster has hit, even celeb stylist Nicky Clarke has been compelled to shut his flagship Mayfair salon after he mentioned the institution, which has been open for thirty years, was now not viable.

Following its closure on the finish of April, Nicky mentioned in an announcement: ‘The last two years have been the toughest we have experienced with Covid-enforced long-term closures, rising rates and overheads making the salon no longer economically sustainable.’

Businesses throughout the UK at the moment are going through hovering vitality payments and growing rents and overhead prices. And with the general public counting each penny, visits are down, that means much less money is coming in, in accordance with the Salon Employers Association.

Hairdressing salons pay 50% extra tax than different retailers, explains Hellen Ward, affiliation co-founder, who says the trade has seen ‘closure, after closure, after closure’ and that it wants higher tax offers to remain afloat.

‘Since Covid, [the industry] was around 20% down on turnover compared to where we were in 2019. So if we weren’t having to pay VAT, we might have actually been in a position to maintain our personal towards this disaster. Our sector is in disaster now.

‘There has been a massive surge in self-employment. We have rent-a-chair, rent-a-treatment room, so you can’t management what days and instances stylists work. When you’re working a enterprise, it’s like attempting to run a restaurant and also you don’t know whether or not the chef goes to come back or not.’

Landlords have additionally been ‘extremely tough’, Hellen provides, with larger payments taking their toll. One colleague has seen his lighting and heating payments improve by a worrying 400%, she says.

‘All these aspects together cause a perfect storm. And now the customer has completely changed.’

‘People are working from home, they are going out less. They aren’t coming in for his or her weekly blow dries like they used to,’ says Hellen (Picture: Supplied)

Hellen, proprietor of London’s Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa, says the trade common was once a buyer go to each six weeks pre-Covid; now they solely come as soon as each 15 weeks.

‘People are working from home, they are going out less. They aren’t coming in for his or her weekly blow dries like they used to.

‘You’ve obtained traits for field hair dyes which I noticed throughout lockdown, and a whole lot of purchasers simply grew out their hair and grew out their color. You have balayage, so that you don’t get any roots, and there’s no name to come back into the salon to get them sorted out. So what we’re seeing is folks coming in nonetheless, however they’re coming in far much less typically. It is extraordinarily unhappy and actually fairly horrifying.’

London-based Julia Champion, 53, admits she has considerably minimize down on salon visits for the reason that begin of the pandemic, and has saved greater than £2,000. She used to make common visits, however these stopped with the primary lockdown.

Julia, a expertise agent and PR, says: ‘I have dyed my own hair since the pandemic which saves me about £100 a month. I used to have my hair cut about once every eight weeks, but now it’s about twice a yr.

‘I used to have a root tint each 5 weeks and a minimize each eight to 10 weeks or so. I finished when the salons have been closed and began shopping for hair dye from Superdrug for £6.99 and nobody observed the distinction. It seems to be simply pretty much as good to me.

‘I still splash out on blow dries for work events, but instead of going to posh, expensive West End salons, I go to the local one at the end of the road and get a blow dry for £22.’

‘I have dyed my own hair since the pandemic which saves me about £100 a month,’ says Julia (Picture: Supplied)

Greta Feenan has run the Eclipse salon in Stafford since 2005. As the pandemic approached, and he or she needed to shut her doorways, she panicked.

‘The first few weeks I nearly had a meltdown,’ she remembers. ‘I had to pay my shop rent, my own expenses, my house. I cried a lot. I thought. “How can I do this?”’

Describing the fear she felt about how she was going to reside and eat, Gretna, 66, says, ‘It sounds silly now, but I’ve obtained chickens. So I believed – no less than I’ve obtained my chickens, and I can purchase a bag of spuds so I can survive on that.’

It wasn’t till she obtained the Government’s top-up grant that she felt that she might chill out a bit. 

Closed companies have been entitled to a one-off grant of as much as £9,000 on a per-property foundation. However, the quantity paid to companies diverse, as funds relied on the salon’s rateable worth. Most salons have been eligible for £4,000 or £6,000 grants. 

‘The grant was a lifesaver,  I knew then that I could pay the shop rent,’ says Greta. ‘I paid it every month on the dot without fail. I also worked hard on my business while we were off.’

‘The first few weeks I nearly had a meltdown. I had to pay my shop rent, my own expenses, my house. I cried a lot,’ recollects Greta (Picture: Supplied)

With her salon, like so many others, solely open for 16 weeks out of 52, Greta, used the time to enhance her institution, engaged on social media, updating her web site and working towards her expertise on hairdresser coaching heads – which she lined up in rows in her eating room. She additionally stayed in contact together with her purchasers, in order that when she reopened her doorways, they got here again.

She provides: ‘We came back to so many dreadful men’s haircuts! People hadn’t been spending cash, in order quickly as they may come again, our books have been full.’

Celebrity hair stylist James Johnson says he has seen his prices soar on account of the price of residing disaster, and that he has needed to work his fingers to the bone to maintain up.

James has labored on X issue and has plenty of celeb purchasers, together with Mel B, Katie Price, Gemma Collins, Abbey Clancy and Georgia Toff. He travels all world wide; it’s a glamorous life, however one which the 26-year-old says he’s labored exceptionally onerous for.

‘When the pandemic hit, I was massively worried,’ he admits. ‘As stylists, we are people people. We love being around others, we love chatting and having a little gossip. To go from that to nothing, was really, really hard. It had a big impact financially and emotionally. Across the industry there was a lot of anxiety.’

Over two years on, James says that the pandemic nonetheless impacts his work; he has to reach early for shoots so folks will be staggered, brushes should be washed ‘ten times more’, everyone seems to be extra cautious, and he has to lug PPE and bottles of sanitiser all over the place he goes. 

F’uel is a joke. I fill my automobile up 3 times per week and it prices a bomb,’ says freelance celeb hair stylist James (Picture: Instagram/James Johnson)

The price of residing is now additionally taking its toll, with James spending greater than £500 per week on gasoline alone as he has to journey everywhere in the nation.

‘People just don’t have the finances, whereas manufacturers don’t have as a lot cash. We are attempting to regulate and work out easy methods to carry on working when the cash simply isn’t there,’ he says.

‘Fuel is a joke. I fill my car up three times a week and it costs a bomb. That jump in cost price isn’t matched in what we cost. It is massively affecting me. We are working extra and longer as a result of we have to make up for what we’re dropping.

‘The other day, I got up at 4am and didn’t get in ’til 9pm,’ he provides. ‘I was at Lorraine in the morning for ITV, then did a shoot in London and then clients in the evening. That is a normal day for me now. I’m all the time drained and continuously have eye baggage.’

James says the wonder trade can be struggling as a result of the entry-level work is so onerous.

‘I spent three years scrubbing bathrooms with toothbrushes as an assistant in a salon. I spent hours attending to work from Kent to London, and ending up with £60 per week as a result of that was my job. 

‘I earned £500 a month and £440 went on my travel card coming on the train from Kent. My job was literally cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. But I knew that if you want to be the best and you want to do well, that is what you have to do.’

While James insists he loves what he does, and says it was all value it, he does warn that to do effectively in styling, it’s a must to make sacrifices – much more so now, with inflation on the rise.

According to the National Hair and Beauty Federation, companies are experiencing a expertise and recruitment disaster, with 57% of hair & magnificence companies affected by unfilled vacancies.

‘I work seven days a week, but I love what I do. I adore the people that I work with. It becomes social,’ explains James. ‘But there are so many things I miss out on; nights out, friends’ birthdays. But the price of residing has gone up and I’ve to suit that work in. You’ve simply obtained to go to work.’

However, there was an upshot following current occasions, as folks at the moment are realising that having a stylist in your house is accessible, he says.

‘Since the pandemic, people don’t need to go to salons, and I’ve little question that we are going to see extra closing down,’ says James. ‘To have a stylist come to your house is so normal now. It’s opened up a brand new lease of labor for stylists and sweetness folks, that wasn’t there earlier than. No matter how skint they’re, folks nonetheless need their hair carried out. 

‘Everyone now wants the Kardashian’s way of life or a number of hairstyles for various nights out. Things are altering, due to folks like Kim Okay. There is not any hair pattern for this yr; there is no such thing as a sure look. It’s having your hair up, then down, then brief, then lengthy. That is the pattern.’

Jessica Earl says she is busy once more too. She has constructed a thriving enterprise – @earlsbeautyuk – and is booked up for weeks forward. 

Gone is the large get together store. Instead she works alone doing nails, therapeutic massage, facials, eyebrows and eyelashes. She says she received’t reopen her salon, however feels that regardless of all it’s been by way of, the wonder trade as an entire will come again stronger. 

‘I know from speaking from my past students and employees that everyone is feeling this pressure,’ she explains. ‘So we will increase our prices, but also increase that value. With such a low in mental health across the country, it’s our duty when having this one-on-one time with purchasers that we’re doing probably the most we will to assist them – and vice versa.’ 

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