Has the pandemic broken the beauty industry?

Locking the huge crimson door of her beauty salon behind her, Jessica Earl felt heartbroken. 
Formerly a well-liked Cheltenham venue that was frequented largely by girls celebrating birthdays and hen events, the pandemic had put paid to its often bustling ambiance.
By the time the third lockdown hit and along with her enterprise unable to commerce, Jessica may now not afford the £7,000 per quarter lease.
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 choice 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 at the bar in the store and ‘celebrated, commiserated and cried all at the identical time’ about all they’d achieved and that the pandemic had pressured the enterprise to fold. 
‘It was terrible. Completely heartbreaking,’ she remembers. ‘It was my id for ten years. I used to be 23 after I opened it and I gained awards for being the youngest girl in enterprise in the space. It was a extremely superb trip to have Earl’s and Co being such a widely known vacation spot on the town. To lose that was vastly devastating.’
Jessica explains that the pandemic additionally left her confused and fearful for her staff, all of whom ‘had households, had mortgages to pay, lease to pay, and susceptible members of household at residence’. 
Now, she works as a beauty therapist alone, ‘purely due to what the previous few years have finished’ – she says using folks proper now ‘doesn’t make sense’ – and is bereft at what she has misplaced.
She provides: ‘The ambiance, the constructing, the location, the whole lot simply labored. I miss it massively.’

Jessica explains that the pandemic had left her confused and fearful for her staff (Picture: Supplied)There had been nearly 45,000 hair and beauty companies working in the UK in 2020. While there are not any official figures but for what number of shut down throughout the pandemic, the survival charges for the business was already in decline. 
A 2021 report by the National Hair and Beauty Federation recognized it as certainly one of the 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 degree as a result of social distancing and enforced closures.
Many beauty professionals claimed that they had been victims of discrimination, as female-led industries had been hit hardest by Covid. With the beauty business 91% feminine and lots of felt they had been disproportionately affected by financial break brought on by the pandemic, as salons had been unable to commerce for therefore lengthy.
And now that the price of residing disaster has hit, even superstar stylist Nicky Clarke has been pressured 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 at the finish of April, Nicky mentioned in an announcement: ‘The final two years have been the hardest we’ve got skilled with Covid-enforced long-term closures, rising charges and overheads making the salon now not economically sustainable.’
Businesses throughout the UK at the moment are going through hovering power payments and growing rents and overhead prices. And with the public counting each penny, visits are down, that means much less money is coming in, in keeping with the Salon Employers Association.
Hairdressing salons pay 50% extra tax than different retailers, explains Hellen Ward, affiliation co-founder, who says the business has seen ‘closure, after closure, after closure’ and that it wants higher tax offers to remain afloat.
‘Since Covid, [the industry] was round 20% down on turnover in comparison with the place we had been in 2019. So if we weren’t having to pay VAT, we’d have actually been capable of maintain our personal towards this disaster. Our sector is in disaster now.
‘There has been a large surge in self-employment. We have rent-a-chair, rent-a-treatment room, so you may’t management what days and instances stylists work. When you’re operating 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 ‘extraordinarily powerful’, Hellen provides, with larger payments taking their toll. One colleague has seen his lighting and heating payments enhance by a worrying 400%, she says.
‘All these features collectively trigger an ideal storm. And now the buyer has utterly modified.’

‘People are working from residence, they’re going out much 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 business common was a buyer go to each six weeks pre-Covid; now they solely come as soon as each 15 weeks.
‘People are working from residence, they’re going out much less. They aren’t coming in for his or her weekly blow dries like they used to.
‘You’ve acquired developments for field hair dyes which I noticed throughout lockdown, and lots 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 usually. It is extraordinarily unhappy and actually fairly scary.’
London-based Julia Champion, 53, admits she has considerably lower down on salon visits since the begin of the pandemic, and has saved greater than £2,000. She used to make common visits, however these stopped with the first lockdown.
Julia, a expertise agent and PR, says: ‘I’ve dyed my very own hair since the pandemic which saves me about £100 a month. I used to have my hair lower about as soon as each eight weeks, however now it’s about twice a 12 months.
‘I used to have a root tint each 5 weeks and a lower each eight to 10 weeks or so. I finished when the salons had been closed and began shopping for hair dye from Superdrug for £6.99 and nobody seen the distinction. It appears to be like simply nearly as good to me.
‘I nonetheless splash out on blow dries for work occasions, however as a substitute of going to posh, costly West End salons, I am going to the native one at the finish of the street and get a blow dry for £22.’

‘I’ve dyed my very 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 she or he needed to shut her doorways, she panicked.
‘The first few weeks I practically had a meltdown,’ she remembers. ‘I needed to pay my store lease, my very own bills, my home. I cried rather a lot. I believed. “How can I do that?”’
Describing the fear she felt about how she was going to dwell and eat, Gretna, 66, says, ‘It sounds foolish now, however I’ve acquired chickens. So I believed – at the least I’ve acquired my chickens, and I should buy 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 may calm down a bit. 
Closed companies had been entitled to a one-off grant of as much as £9,000 on a per-property foundation. However, the quantity paid to companies diversified, as funds trusted the salon’s rateable worth. Most salons had been eligible for £4,000 or £6,000 grants. 
‘The grant was a lifesaver,  I knew then that I may pay the store lease,’ says Greta. ‘I paid it each month on the dot with out fail. I additionally labored exhausting on my enterprise whereas we had been off.’

‘The first few weeks I practically had a meltdown. I needed to pay my store lease, my very own bills, my home. I cried rather a lot,’ remembers 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 along with her purchasers, in order that when she reopened her doorways, they got here again.
She provides: ‘We got here again to so many dreadful males’s haircuts! People hadn’t been spending cash, in order quickly as they might come again, our books had been full.’
Celebrity hair stylist James Johnson says he has seen his prices soar as a result 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 superstar purchasers, together with Mel B, Katie Price, Gemma Collins, Abbey Clancy and Georgia Toff. He travels throughout the world; it’s a glamorous life, however one which the 26-year-old says he’s labored exceptionally exhausting for.
‘When the pandemic hit, I used to be massively fearful,’ he admits. ‘As stylists, we’re folks folks. We love being round others, we love chatting and having a little bit gossip. To go from that to nothing, was actually, actually exhausting. It had a huge impact financially and emotionally. Across the business there was lots of anxiousness.’
Over two years on, James says that the pandemic nonetheless impacts his work; he has to reach early for shoots so folks might be staggered, brushes should be washed ‘ten instances extra’, everyone seems to be extra cautious, and he has to lug PPE and bottles of sanitiser in all places he goes. 

F’uel is a joke. I fill my automotive up thrice per week and it prices a bomb,’ says freelance superstar 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 gas alone as he has to journey throughout the nation.
‘People simply don’t have the price range, whereas manufacturers don’t have as a lot cash. We are attempting to regulate and determine easy methods to carry on working when the cash simply isn’t there,’ he says.
‘Fuel is a joke. I fill my automotive up thrice per week and it prices a bomb. That soar in price value 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 different day, I acquired up at 4am and didn’t get in ’til 9pm,’ he provides. ‘I used to be at Lorraine in the morning for ITV, then did a shoot in London after which purchasers in the night. That is a traditional day for me now. I’m at all times drained and always have eye baggage.’
James says the beauty business can be struggling as a result of the entry-level work is so exhausting.
‘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 journey card approaching the practice from Kent. My job was actually cleansing, cleansing, cleansing. But I knew that if you wish to be the greatest and also you need to do properly, that’s what you need to do.’
While James insists he loves what he does, and says it was all price it, he does warn that to do properly in styling, you need 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 & beauty companies affected by unfilled vacancies.
‘I work seven days per week, however I like what I do. I am keen on the those that I work with. It turns into social,’ explains James. ‘But there are such a lot of issues I miss out on; nights out, mates’ birthdays. But the price of residing has gone up and I’ve to suit that work in. You’ve simply acquired 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, folks don’t need to go to salons, and I’ve little doubt that we’ll see extra closing down,’ says James. ‘To have a stylist come to your home is so regular now. It’s opened up a brand new lease of labor for stylists and beauty folks, that wasn’t there earlier than. No matter how skint they’re, folks nonetheless need their hair finished. 
‘Everyone now desires the Kardashian’s way of life or a number of hairstyles for various nights out. Things are altering, due to folks like Kim Ok. There isn’t any hair pattern for this 12 months; there isn’t a sure look. It’s having your hair up, then down, then brief, then lengthy. That is the pattern.’
More: Lifestyle

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 huge celebration store. Instead she works alone doing nails, therapeutic massage, facials, eyebrows and eyelashes. She says she gained’t reopen her salon, however feels that regardless of all it’s been by means of, the beauty business as an entire will come again stronger. 
‘I do know from talking from my previous college students and staff that everybody is feeling this strain,’ she explains. ‘So we are going to enhance our costs, but in addition enhance that worth. With such a low in psychological well being throughout the nation, it’s our accountability when having this one-on-one time with purchasers that we’re doing the most we will to assist them – and vice versa.’ 
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