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Nicola Byrne, who owns Urban Calm with business partner Sharon Doyle, says beauty salons desperately need to know when they’ll be allowed to operate again.
And she says many in the industry feel they’re not being treated seriously or fairly by the Government, despite putting all the recommended safety measures into place.
“We’d hoped we were going to be allowed to reopen on July 4, when hair salons did, but then we were told that wasn’t going to happen and now we have nothing to aim towards,” she adds.
“We were issued with quite detailed guidance on June 23 and everything that was in there we were either doing already or we’d planned to do. We’ve spent weeks and thousands of pounds getting our salons ready so we can have clients back again, but we’ve been left with no idea when that will happen.”
Urban Calm has three salons, in the MetQuarter in Liverpool city centre, Aintree and Ormskirk. So far, says Nicola, they’ve only been able to get four staff from a team of 30 full and part-time back to work in the hair salon at Aintree.
For the beauty side of the business, there’s been no clients and no treatments since shutdown on March 20.
“We have a risk assessment already in place because of our number of staff so we adapted that for the virus and about 10 weeks ago we brought our managers together to discuss how different things were going to be and how we could add to what we already do to make things even safer.
“Hygiene and safety are already a priority because of the nature of what we do and a lot of things are single-use only. So, when you’re doing a pedicure or a waxing, for instance, everything you use is fresh for each client and they see you open the packets in front of them.”
Nicola says salon staff will wear visors and clients will be asked to wear a face covering when they come for an appointment.
“We’ve created an infographic to send to all our clients which basically says, ‘this is what we’ve done, this is what we want you to do’,” she explains.
“From our side that includes things like taking our girls’ temperatures every morning, deep cleaning premises, no serving teas and coffees, no magazines and if they bring anything with them, like a handbag, we’ll give them a disposable bag they can put it in to keep by their feet.
“We’ll ask them to complete a self-declaration that they’re fit to come into the salon, to wear a face covering and sanitise their hands. And we’ll also have a client safety survey which we’ll ask them to take while they’re in the salon asking how safe they felt and what we could do to make them feel safer.”
When they were gearing up towards a July 4 reopening, with new Perspex screens now installed between each of the salon chairs, Nicola says they tentatively opened bookings.
“We took over 100 bookings just for Aintree, thousands of pounds worth, which was a massive lift for us,” she adds. “Then we found out July 4 wasn’t happening and we had to phone everyone and offer them a refund or to roll forward their date. It was just hugely disappointing for everyone.
“The big problem is, at the moment we don’t know when we’re rolling forward to – we’ve got nothing to aim for and no hope.
“The beauty industry contributes billions to the economy, and we create so many jobs, but we’re seen as ‘oh they just do lashes’. There’s often no respect and we’re just not taken seriously.
“And there’s a real risk that, if regulated salons like ours have to stay closed, clients will find treatments somewhere else which might not be as safe then they’ll end up putting themselves in danger.”
Nicola says the Government needs to set out a clear plan for beauty salons which, along with nail salons and tattoo parlours, are currently in limbo and facing a perilous future.
“Every couple of days I see messages from businesses saying, ‘We can’t go on anymore’,” she says. “We’ve had no income for almost four months, and yes we can apply for a bounce back loan, but we want to get back to work and keep our staff positions safe.”
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