The real impact a second lockdown will have on small beauty business owners

Written by Hanna Ibraheem

As a result of the November lockdown, many beauty owners are locking up for their salons for an entire month. Here, we look at the ways that their businesses and the beauty industry will be affected.

When news of a second lockdown spanning the month of November was announced, beauty salons across England were inundated with a surge in appointments.

Beauty bookings service Treatwell tells Stylist.co.uk it saw week-one-week rises across many of its beauty partners. The biggest spikes were seen across hair and hair removal appointments, which included a 202% rise for hair and a 204% increase for the latter. There was also a 131% increase in nail bookings, while a surprising 121% increase in massages highlighted everyone’s need to relax prior to the second lockdown.

Meanwhile, Myriam Kone, owner of luxury Black hair salon Mimi Et Mina, saw herself “overwhelmed with emails” and was quickly fully booked up until lockdown began.

“Immediately following Saturday’s announcement, we saw a spike in demand for pre-lockdown treatments and this time people have rushed to get in the salon,” says Madeleine Raynel, director of northern Europe for beauty booking service Treatwell. “This has led many salon owners to extend their opening hours, with some open until midnight. There will be no money going through their tills for a month and they have this pressure to maximise while they can while still be careful of social distancing and how many people are allowed in their spaces. These long hours have been the only way.

The uptake in beauty bookings shows one thing though: from our local nail salon to our favourite brow bar, we rely on these businesses – and it’s more important than ever that we give them our support.

Will beauty services be able to survive a second lockdown?

While shutting down your business is tough enough, the timing of the second lockdown couldn’t be worse. November is typically an incredibly busy time for the beauty industry as the countdown to Christmas usually sees a surge in hair, nail and treatment appointments and the financial pressure this puts on owners is immense. In fact, pulling down the shutters has left some companies unsure whether they’ll be able to survive this period of closure.

“These businesses are only just getting back on their feet,” explains Raynel. “It’s an industry that has been hit hard once and people will have to make touch decisions about whether their business is viable, if they’ll be able to keep all of their staff, what to do about furlough – there are lots of questions for news on financial support, too.”

But even if there is financial support, there’s still a big question mark over whether some businesses will be able to get through this period. Lesley Blair, Chair of BABTAC (British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology), says: “This news is devastating for such a large portion of the country, and once again especially for our industry as one of the very last sectors to be able to return to work.

“Recent surveys and research confirmed that many beauty and hair businesses were literally teetering on the edge and we believe that, even with the financial support, that the second lockdown will cripple so many businesses still reeling from the initial lockdown.”

What happened to beauty services during the first lockdown?

When the government first closed down beauty businesses in March, reopening wasn’t quite so easy. Hair salons were given the green light to open their doors on 4 July. In response, Treatwell saw a record-breaking 2,250% increase in hair appointment bookings by customers. “In the first three weeks, salons were trying to service three months worth of customers,” says Raynel. “On the first day, one salon in Yorkshire started its first haircut at 5am – that’s amazing willingness.”

However, beauty salons and nail bars were left in the dark, as they were told they had to remain shut. After the government finally gave permission to reopen on 13 July, many still couldn’t offer their full services as close-contact facial treatments such as facials and eyebrow threading were off-limits.

But then things got worse. After being given a reopening date for 1 August and preparing their salons, owners were told at the last minute that they had to wait another two weeks. This led to campaigning across the industry, seeing businesses such as Sharmadean Reid’s Beautystack and The British Beauty Council calling for every sector to reopen.

When the reopening date got pushed back, 10,000 beauty appointments were cancelled on Treatwell alone. “That equated to £250k in lost earnings,” says Raynel. “It was devastating for people – they were poised to open, so committed, have great hygiene already and committed to being a safe space and then told they had to delay.” It wasn’t until 15 August that beauty services were able to run fully once again.

Which beauty services are included in England’s November lockdown?

In its rules for this second lockdown, the government has stated that business closures includes “personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. It is also prohibited to provide these services in other peoples’ homes”.

However, despite its clarity, some areas of the beauty industry still sit in a grey area. Hannah Russell, CEO of treatment booking platform Glowday, says: “It’s incredibly frustrating, especially as it’s highly unlikely that aesthetic clinics – which adhere so well to Covid-secure protocols – have contributed to the spread, so a blanket closure probably doesn’t have much basis in science.

“What adds to the difficulty is that even though the guidance is clear cut, some aesthetics clinics will stay open (mainly those who are dentists/in CQC registered clinics) which could lead to divisions within the industry.”

Many aesthetic clinics are still waiting to hear back from the government about whether they need to close. This includes Dr Lauren Hamilton, cosmetic doctor and founder of skin clinic Victor & Garth. She says: “The guidelines are quite uncertain which means some clinics are staying open, while others are closing.

“I’ve had patients cancel their appointments for this month, and I think that all clinics we should close unless it’s truly essential as if some stay open it defeats the purpose of lockdown, but I’m awaiting further information from BCAM (British Council of Aesthetic Medicine) prior to potentially closing Victor & Garth.”

When will beauty salons be able to reopen in England?

Perhaps the biggest worry for salon owners right now is whether Boris Johnson will go ahead with his 2 December reopening date. “The industry missed out on summer and the big things that bolster the industry – holidays, travel, weddings, etc,” says Raynel. “We know that Christmas will be different this year – but it’s still a great time in businesses’ diaries and a time when people want to look and feel good. It would be really brutal if they couldn’t trade.”

Haylee Benton, founder of Silver Fern Group portfolio of salons and spas, adds” “I can deal with closing and actually there is something of an improvement to be able to say we are reopening on the 2 December as at least we have a clear idea of where we stand.

“Where it will fall down is that we have rescheduled all the bookings to December, so we’re now already fully booked and over capacity so if they change the data again – we are screwed.”

While fingers are firmly crossed for a 2 December reopening, there’s sadly no way of knowing for certain as Primer Minister Boris Johnson has stated that after lockdown, we will re-enter the local tiered system. Once they do though, there’s no doubt that we will be rushing to the salons as soon as we’re able to. Russell says: “After lockdown lifted [in August], there was a backlog of demand, clinics were full to the brim for weeks, clients were having more treatments on average each appointment.”

Until then, many owners will be taking this time to regroup and build plans for next year. Kone took the last lockdown and spun it into a positive by creating hair tutorials, something she plans to do throughout November, too. “Financially it was a disaster to not have any income for four months but luckily the government grant has helped to keep things running and suppliers paid.

“This time around, I was expecting this and I try to see it positively. It will allow me to think about improving our clients journey, developing services and products and also allow the team to rest a little before Christmas.”

There’s no doubt that they’ve earned it.

Main image: Getty

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