Personal pampering during the pandemic

It will take some getting used to, but the beauty industry has had a facelift and by the looks of things this ‘new normal’ is here to stay.

It’s been two weeks since people were told they could get their much-needed haircuts, nail treatments and body massages to relieve them of all the stress that comes with the Covid-19-induced lockdown regulations.

But the industry has taken a blow, like many others that were forced to shut down as governments around the world grapple with the spread of the virus.

Read: The beauty industry’s not-so-beautiful state

This was unfortunate for the global beauty industry, which generates $53 billion (more than R900 billion) in sales a year and accounts for millions of jobs directly and indirectly.

Stringent protocols

If businesses in this space did not practice stringent hygiene protocols before, they have no choice now because in order to fully operate, they need to ensure that their premises are safe for their clients.

Linda Sinclair, CEO of the Sorbet beauty and personal services franchise group, says it has had to add another 20 hygiene and social distancing protocols to the “already very stringent hygiene protocols” the group had already been practising.

“We are going to be operating in the midst of a pandemic for many months to come,” she says. “Our guests [clients] will need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and adhere to the stringent hygiene and safety protocols in place.”

Customers cannot simply walk in to purchase retail products anymore; they must now undergo a screening process first.

In addition, staff are now working on a rotational shift basis with only half the staff complement in-store at a time to allow for the practice of social distancing.

“We therefore can no longer fill up our stores to their full capacity,” Sinclair says.

She says these are the new protocols:

  • Before opening a small team will be sent into deep-clean each store;
  • Sanitiser will be readily available for all clients and their temperatures will be taken and recorded;
  • Perspex screen dividers will be placed between customers and staff (nail technicians, beauty therapists, hair stylists and barbers) as well as at washbasins and the front desk;
  • The number of employees per store at any given time will be limited through the introduction of a shift system to reduce the number of employees travelling to work each day;
  • Employees will wear face masks and protective visors, and gloves for selected treatments;
  • Employees will sanitise their hands regularly and in between treatments;
  • All workstations will be thoroughly sanitised at the start of the day as well as between each treatment and/or customer; and
  • The number of customers in-store will be limited by staggering all bookings to allow for enough spacing between workstations in line with the social distancing guidelines of 1.5 metres (for every workstation in use, another will remain open).

Lockdown impact

In the past week, it seems people were in keen to catch up on the personal grooming they have been unable to do for three months.

Read: Hairdressers go underground as lockdown drags on in SA

“Stores have been sufficiently busy over the last few days, particularly Sorbet Man stores as well as Sorbet stores for treatments such as manicures and waxing,” says Sinclair. “However, numbers are down relative to this period last year because only half the number of guests are allowed in a store at a time.”

Men have been returning to salons to get their grooming needs seen to. Image: Moneyweb

Sinclair adds that the Sorbet team is conscious not to book too many appointments at once so as to encourage safe social distancing and ensure the highest of hygiene measures.

“We have found that our guests are satisfied that the additional stringent hygiene protocols we have implemented allow them to enjoy their treatments in a safe salon environment,” Sinclair says.

The lockdown had a devastating impact on the industry, salon owners, their employees and dependants.

The Sorbet group lost 88 days during the lockdown.

“Like most players in the industry, we have been hard-hit as we were only able to open for some retail sales from May – which [previously] made up a very small portion of our overall revenue stream,” says Sinclair, adding that volumes have been impacted.

Read: Who has been hit hardest by South Africa’s lockdown? We found some answers

Sinclair says during the period they were closed, they received stories of hardship and fear from franchise employees who were unable to provide for their families.

“Most importantly, the vast majority of Sorbet stores are owner-managed by individual women, who are solely dependent on their stores as a source of income,” says Sinclair.

Sorbet employs nearly 3 500 skilled labourers, trained as beauty therapists, nail technicians, hair stylists or barbers.

Sinclair says Sorbet group employees are mostly the breadwinners in their households, and their financial responsibility therefore extends to their broader families, “comprising around 20 000 people”.

She says not only have their financials and their employees’ lives been affected, the lockdown has had a negative impact on the group’s supply chain.

“The entire value chain in the beauty and personal services industry has been affected by the restrictions on trade and the impact on volumes. We have remained close to our suppliers, so we understand the pressures they have had on logistics and distribution.”

Future trends

Sinclair says the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing the industry to change the way it does business.

“This will include many brands digitalising their businesses to provide their products or services online. Consumers have more time at home and could look to purchase pamper products to use in the home environment,” she says. “We will need to be innovative and develop new product offerings and services to attract consumers to the brand or retain existing guests. We will continue to ensure that we adhere to our stringent hygiene protocols.”

The group says it has provided online home care tutorials for its customers throughout the lockdown

“Selected retail offerings are available from our partners in business and, like most businesses, we will digitalise and increase our online product range where it makes sense to do so.”