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UPDATED Back to work – with one month to go, salons need clarity

As gossip of earlier opening dates for English salons and barbershops swirls, PPE prices skyrocketing and a vacuum of official information from government, Creative HEAD asks: where are the clear and definitive answers our industry needs?

Updated 5 June:  The British Beauty Council has confirmed that as officially communicated by BEIS, the government is advising that:

  • It does not anticipate mobile and salon-based hair businesses opening before Phase 3 (on the Prime Minister’s roadmap this was outlined at 4 July at the earliest)
  • As of 15 June, click and collect can be used by hair businesses to sell products as long as customers order in advance and do not enter the premises

With a month to go until English salons and barbershops can open “at the earliest” officially on 4 July, rumours are circulating that the government is keen to get hair salons open earlier, maybe even 15 June.

According to The Telegraph, Boris Johnson is considering proposals for hair salons and barber shops to reopen later this month. in a bid to “unleash the Great British haircut”. It cites industry and Government sources sharing that Downing Street believes salons could be reopened as early as 15 June, in order to coincide with the date that non-essential shops and businesses return.  The article also mentions stylists and barbers wearing “dentist-style” PPE upon reopening.

The date of 4 July as the earliest date for reopening in England was first shared officially on 11 May, some 23 days ago.

However, this speculation has added to the growing lack of clarity concerning not only the date for salons in England to reopen, but also the guidelines they will need to follow. While industry bodies and hair brands have released detailed guidelines of their own to help prepare salons, barbershops and their staff for going back to work, all are careful to point out that they are subject to change when the government releases its official guide. Right now, those official guidelines have yet to reach consultation stage, meaning they would be at least another week away from being published.

Understandably salons and barbershops are feeling left in the dark, particularly over what levels of PPE and physical salon changes that will be required. If owners start looking at the dentistry guidelines, they’ll disappear down a rabbit hole of stricter protection including goggles that is unlikely to be necessary for their individual business. One salon owner told Creative HEAD that the perspex screens they had enquired about had quadrupled in price between their first enquiry and purchase, with PPE items such as gloves and masks also undergoing both price significant increases and delayed deliveries due to demand.

Following the report, the NHBF has urged salon and barbershop owners not to be overly influenced by recent news reports speculating on re-opening dates, dentist guidelines and PPE.

Together with other industry bodies, the NHBF took part in a hair and beauty sector specific round table meeting with Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, on 22 May, and is also contributing to ongoing technical working group meetings to help the government develop guidelines for ‘close proximity working’, which covers the hair and beauty industries.  It stated that it is still waiting for the government to publish draft guidelines for the working group to review, which includes PPE advice.

“We are disappointed that the technical working group has not yet seen even draft government guidelines which working group members are waiting to review,” admitted Hilary Hill, the NHBF chief executive. “We need to be clear about how social distancing can work for salons and barbershops and what PPE will be required. We are asking the government to urgently complete the development of the guidelines and release them as soon as possible so business owners know exactly what is required of them to reopen and operate safely.”

A recent survey of 1,600 NHBF Members showed that more than three quarters (77 per cent) feel “very well-prepared” or “as well-prepared as they could be” for reopening when it is safe to do so. Only 8 per cent said they had not yet started preparing for reopening.

Tim Scott Wright

Salon owner Tim Scott Wright feels the national press is adding unnecessary pressure to hairdressers right now, which leaves them dealing with the fall-out from team members and clients. “I don’t think the media are helping at all publishing stories like this. We are still in a position where Covid19 is affecting and killing people daily,” he argues. “We need to be patient. The government hasn’t issued any official guidelines until we have these we can’t be 100 per cent sure we will have everything necessary in place to open safely.”
While he  understands the desire to get back to work, and for clients to get back into the salon, safety is his chief concern. “Petitions and articles like this really don’t help, they’re delivering very mixed messages to salon owners and clients alike,” he added. “As soon as anything like this is published, clients start getting in touch and we have to reiterate the same messaging over and over again, that we are hoping for 4 July to reopen but won’t do anything until the government gives the official go ahead.”
Gina Conway
Yet some are looking at this rumour in a different light. “We read this feature with a great deal of hope!” admits Gina Conway, founder of Gina Conway Aveda Lifestyle Salons & Spas and current winner of Most Wanted Best New Salon. “We’ve been ready for this and researching and watching what other countries have been doing, learning from them in order to prepare for the earliest possible opening date and I believe we can open safely following the guidelines when we learn them in full. Our customers know we are responsible and will be looking at protecting both them and our staff.” Referring to guidelines, she adds: “We have an indication that it’ll be masks, gloves, 2m apart, social distanced waiting and so on, and I don’t think they’ll impose screens –definitely not if we open in July. However, if they said tomorrow we could open on June 15 with screens, it could be an issue to get those in time. We wouldn’t buy screens unless we’re told it’s necessary and we’ve already spent several thousand on PPE with the expectation of opening.”

She admitted that trying to manage the reopening right now was difficult because “we don’t know exactly what the situation is. We have a waiting list of hundreds and we had planning to start booking them in on Monday for appointments starting on 4 July, but in light of this Telegraph feature, we’ve decided to wait for the next announcement. If we booked people for 4 July and then had to move them all again, it could be a real headache logistically. We know some people are worried about going back sooner but our team is ready and excited to get back to work.”

Mark Woolley, founder of the Electric group, wants to get back but requires enough time to ensure everyone’s safety. “We’ve been planning for the proposed 4 July date and we’re on track for that,” he says. “We haven’t been given any definite guidelines either so if it’s brought forward too soon, then how can we plan to ensure complete safety for all?  I’ve been in regular contact with our salons in the USA as they’re starting to reopen and there’s a lot of anxiety there.”

“Is anyone else getting tired of speculation?” sighs Paul Watts, founder of Paul Watts Hairdressing. “For those who are ready to open on 15 June following the past week of speculation, great! However, as 4 July has not been 100 per cent confirmed or the PPE requirements and distancing capacity communicated, it’s simply not okay to open on this date.”

“These masks, those masks, face shields, no face shields, styling station dividers, 2m distancing, no blow dry, no air con,” he lists. “The list of potential requirements is endless and are just a few things that are undecided as of this moment in time. According to a survey published, more than 11,000 salons want to reopen in June –what about the thousands of salons across the UK that don’t?”

He adds: “Like my fellow salon owners, I can’t wait to get back in my salon and do what I love, but all these rumours and petitions are not helping anyone. They are creating false hope for something that deserves to have a solid plan of action.”

 

With so many salon owners openly saying they aren’t ready, let’s unite and stick to the plan, working towards the 4th July, ensuring safety for everyone.

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