LOCKDOWN TALES: Salon and barbershop owners share their post-Covid-19 hopes and fears
Interviews: Emma de Clercq
Images: Panos Damaskinidis
With physical contact an essential part of working behind the chair, hairdressers and barbers are among the professions likely to be hit hardest by the pandemic, and the salon industry is set to feel the impact of Covid-19 long after lockdown restrictions are lifted. With their shop doors currently shut (the accompanying images were taken back when the world was still ‘normal’) six independent salon and barbershop owners tell us how they’ve been coping in quarantine, and share their hopes, fears and expectations for the future.
Mark Maciver, Slider Cuts, London
“I’ve been staying in touch with clients by phone and social media, in particular Instagram. I’ve been giving haircut guidance, as many clients are either cutting their hair themselves or their partners are doing it for them. I’ve also given advice on barbering equipment, such as suitable clippers to use and where to purchase them.
“The biggest positive is being able to spend a lot of quality time with my children. I don’t usually get to spend this amount of time with them due to my working hours. Since the lockdown, I spend all day with my two boys and my wife has been able to work as she’s an artist. I’ve had the privilege of waking up to them, playing with them, cooking and getting them ready for bedtime.
“My hope for the industry is that this encourages salon owners, and those who are self-employed, to put things into place to protect them in unforeseen circumstances. Things like insurance, as well as other provisions like pension plans and injury protection. The only small fear I have is that, in the aftermath of this, people might feel concerned about visiting places like the barbershop because of the close proximity of the space.”
Tuttii Fruittii, Tuttii Fruittii London
“At first I freaked out and felt very unbalanced for a couple of weeks. My instant worry was how can we survive financially, especially as an independent business owner. I was just about to launch a second hair salon, we were having works finished on it, and everything just stopped. But then as time has gone on I’ve started to really enjoy having some time off and switching off totally, in the end it’s become a blessing in disguise. I have a whole iPhone photo album filled with happy moments I’ve managed to spend with family, that for me is a very unexpected positive I will treasure forever. Laughing and smiling is the only way to get through this. And we’ve been doing lots of that inside our homes. Big love and support to everyone in this moment. We all deserve a pat on our backs.”
Benjamin Mohapi, BENJAMIN, LA + NYC
“We’ve already reconfigured the salon layout. We’ve removed stations and put significant distance between each chair. Well in excess of CDC guidelines. We’ve created new protocols for how clients are received, how they pay, and how much time is allotted for appointments. The most important thing for us at this point will be consumer confidence so we’re going all out. I truly believe that most hairdressers and hair salons undercharge for their services and it’s so damaging to the industry. Now that we’re not going to be able to double book or fill the space in the way we would otherwise need to, it’s more important than ever that we value our time accordingly. If we don’t, a lot of businesses won’t survive.”
Tracey Cahoon, Cahoona’s, London
“To communicate with our clients, we sent out a questionnaire which proved to be extremely useful in gauging their wants and needs during lockdown. We’ve done one-on-one fringe tutorials through Zoom, chats on WhatsApp for help and guidance on hair care, as well as providing direct links to our product lines as a home delivery service. As I am a local businesswoman here in Peckham, I tend to see my clients whilst out on my morning runs and cycles, or afternoon walks. I’m always greeted by a 2-metre-distanced smile and requests for Zoom tutorials.
“We are hopefully receiving our small business grant next week. Thankfully, Southwark Council have been great and easy to get hold of on the telephone. It has been a very difficult time with the loss of earning, and our salon/hub’s future would be uncertain if these grants were not available.”
Oz Izzet, The Scissors of Oz, London
“The Scissors of Oz was one of the first salons in London to go on lockdown. So many factors were considered in making this decision. Being a single parent to my children and a carer to my parents as well as them being my only source of support for childcare after school hours, I felt I needed to keep everyone safe and be proactive with the situation of this unknown virus. Regardless of my survival mode, what I wasn’t ready for hit me hard and my father got Covid-19. The fact I had shut my hub early and was able to care for my father, plus him being a warrior, will have contributed to the fact that he is still alive today.
“My fear for the industry is that people will be so desperate to get back to work that the whole cycle will start again with yet another rise in cases. This is the time for salon businesses to work together to create stronger communities and collective actions that keep us safe, as well as our neighbours and our clients.”