You asked, we answered. Instagram LIVE: COVID-19 and the Hair Industry

On Monday 23 March at 4pm, Creative HEAD took to Instagram with industry experts to answer your pressing Coronavirus questions

Hosted by Creative HEAD’s digital editor Alison Rowley, we were joined (remotely, of course) by Luke Hersheson (salon owner and employer), Hilary Hall (of the NHBF), Jodie Austen (a self-employed stylist), and Karina Riddiford (an HR specialist from The Yoo Group).

Kicking off the chat, Alison spoke to salon owner Luke Hersheson, who shared how he and his staff are coping with the fact that all branches of the Hersheson’s group have been closed down due to the pandemic.

“We set up a staff group on WhatsApp that’s specifically for COVID-19 updates and to discuss what was going to happen in terms of costs and wages,” he explained. “We also had a big conference via Zoom, with all the salon staff from their homes.

“I think staying in touch and keeping communication flowing is the best way to keep up morale and just let everyone know you’re in this together. We’re going to make the Zoom meetings a regular thing. I’ve been so impressed and amazed by our team, seeing everyone coming together.”

Alison also asked Luke how long he is planning ahead with regards to the salon closures, and how he’s beginning to tackle the financial implications of putting his business on ‘pause’.

“We’ve planned for a two to three month closure in order to delay the spread of the disease,” Luke admitted. “Anyone thinking this is just going to be two weeks and then back up and running isn’t thinking straight. And I don’t think it’s going to be the same again after this. It’s going to force us to be different. I think we might be able to open and then may have to shut again – it’s like nothing any of us have ever experienced before.

“In terms of finances, I’d tell all salon owners to call your suppliers and find out what they can offer you in terms of breaks. Don’t run away from it or hide. Reach out and find out what’s available to you. Don’t bury yourself and hope it will go away. Tackle every creditor, lender and supplier. It will help you sleep at night!”

The next panellist – Karina Riddiford, an HR specialist at The Yoo Group – helped to explain some of the most recent Government policy updates, and special measures that have been introduced to try and lessen the financial impact on small businesses like salons and barbershops.

“The latest measure is opening up COVID-19 employee furlough – the government is able to provide paid back up for business owners struggling with wages so people are temporarily away from work, but still compensated,” she told viewers. “It’s slightly different from unpaid leave, and it’s different from other clauses in our contracts as it allows people to be away for a longer amount of time.

“Furlough measures are good because they allow people to stay employed, which is really important for job security and businesses. It also means that up to 80 per cent of their wages – up to £2,500 per person per calendar month – will be paid by the Government. This is really quite extraordinary as this has never been done before.

“I think the best idea is to go to HMRC regularly to find out more information,” Karina added. “Apparently those payments will be made by the middle of April, so they are coming. To be frank, there are many businesses whose livelihoods have fallen away very quickly, meaning that they won’t have enough cash to run the payroll, so it’s very important to make contact with HMRC and find out what’s happening.

“Like Luke was saying earlier, make sure you keep having conversations with your team and explain what’s going on. There’s no guilt, no shame here. No one could have predicted what was going to happen. I’ve heard of perfectly, reasonably successful businesses that have seen their livelihoods completely evaporate in a week. We’ve never seen this happen before. So pick up the phone and get the advice you need.”

There is no doubt that COVID-19 poses a threat to our physical health, but under these new  conditions, it means our mental health is also taking a battering. Alison spoke to self-employed stylist Jodie Austen, who shared some tips on how we can all look after our minds during this lockdown.

“I have definitely been feeling withdrawal symptoms being away from the salon and my clients,” Jodie explained. “I saw (Creative HEAD’s) funny meme about plaiting the dog’s hair in desperation at home and it’s true! Hairdressers are creative people so I’ve found it’s really important to keep myself busy. I’ve actually published a little daily checklist on my Instagram that people can use to keep inspiration alive.

“I’ve always been very active on social media but certain accounts can definitely be a trigger,” she added. “People should take time now to go through and unfollow anyone who isn’t servicing them and start filling up their timelines with positivity. I learned meditation through an app called Insight Timer, which was really useful. There are also loads of workouts on Instagram to do for free and exercise is great for mental health. Like I said, now is the time to fill your feed with positivity.”

Last but by no means least, Alison also spoke to Hilary Hall from the National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF). The NHBF has been supporting the hair and beauty industry via a not-for-profit membership scheme since 1942, and Hilary revealed that the organisation is offering two months subscription to their legal, educational and business support resources for free during this time.

“Everyone who is already an NHBF member – we are giving you a two month holiday on subscriptions. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay for them at a later date,” she added, “this is free for two months. It’s the least we can do to support our industry and I think everyone will do their best to help.”

Hilary rounded things up by echoing Luke’s sentiments regarding being practical, especially when it comes to financial matters.

“Contact your suppliers and find out how they can help you. This is a really stressful and worrying time for everyone but you can’t ignore it. The government is putting things in place to help people, but you have to keep up the communication. Negotiate a holiday or a complete break from payments that may otherwise build up – it really comes down to the fact that without a conversation, you can’t even begin to start agreeing terms.”

Next Monday, March 30, we will be running a second discussion, featuring four hairdressers who – just like you – are living on the front line of these challenging times for the hair industry. We’ll be chatting about what steps they’ve taken to try and secure their businesses (both bricks and mortar and self-employed) and how they are dealing with the pressures of the pandemic.  Tune in to hear their stories.
We’re also still sending your queries onto HR specialist Karina. If you have any questions that you want answering please send us a DM on Instagram or email