Impact of Omicron variant revealed following government’s boost to grants for businesses hit by Covid this Christmas
UPDATE 23 December
The weekend of 17 to 19 December, around 50 per cent of hair and beauty businesses lost between 21 per cent and 50 per cent of revenue, with around 20 per cent losing a huge 50 per cent to 100 per cent. These results of a snap poll by the NHBF has demonstrated the urgent need for local authorities in England to process applications from hair and beauty salons and barbershops for the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), as quickly as possible.
The poll showed 30 per cent of booked appointments cancelled and walk-in trade fell to 19 per cent of what was expected. Salons and barbershops reported clients cancelling appointments due to confusion and nervousness around the transmission of the Omicron variant or the effects of either staff or client illness.
HM Treasury has now increased ARG financial support for all businesses struggling due to the impact of the pandemic, but feedback from NHBF members during the lockdown earlier this year suggested that many salons and barbershops were knocked back by their local authority for not being eligible. HM Treasury has confirmed to the NHBF that salons and barbershops in England are entitled to the ARG, with a £350m pot currently available.
Richard Lambert, NHBF chief executive, said: “If local authorities don’t make this extra funding available to hair and beauty salons or barbershops in their area, these businesses will close, with a huge impact on the local economy as well as on the health and well-being of the community.”
The NHBF has written to Paul Scully MP, Minister for small business and the personal care sector, to ask for help in urging local authorities to ensure that the ARG fund is made available to hair and beauty businesses struggling. It has also written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, to consider more targeted financial help if the situation does not improve.
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17 December: Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of salons and barbershops are being hit with cancellations during what should be the busiest time of the year, following recent changes to government guidance and increases in Covid cases. More than half (56%) are also seeing a drop in advance bookings.
Unsurprisingly, more than half the respondents to a survey by the NHBF of its members said that the cancellations had already caused a lot of disruption to their businesses. With no support in place this time from government, many in the industry are under pressure to stay afloat.
In a month that usually sees salon columns fully booked and waiting lists in place, 28 per cent of businesses also reported disruption due to staff shortages and staff needing to self-isolate. The industry body is joining calls from the hospitality sector urging for government support now that Plan B and Omicron is severely impacting business.
“This situation is evolving rapidly, but it’s already clear that the government needs to act before it becomes a crisis,” said NHBF chief executive Richard Lambert. “Early indications show that that the combination of Omicron and Plan B are having a drastic effect on bookings and footfall in salons during a time in which the sector relies heavily on cash generated in December to get them through the quieter months in January and February. Many of our members tell us their finances are still finely balanced, and this sudden fall-away could be devastating.”
He urged government to provide quick, targeted financial support, whether by reallocating existing resources or making new support available. The NHBF is also calling for an increase in the 50 per cent discount on business rates for next year, and flexibility on repayments of Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and bounce-back loans.