Reopening Salons: Blame coronavirus for costlier makeovers

Published: June 7, 2020 4:30 AM

While organised players may have hiked prices, the experience of the past weeks shows that customers are willing to spend on personal grooming after a three-month break.

Like other industries, organised players in the beauty services business are hoping to garner a larger share of the market as smaller players may not be able to meet the stringent hygiene standards set by the government.

By Malini Bhupta

Customers will have to shell out more for trips to their favourite salon or barber shop in a post-Covid world. Stringent hygiene and social distancing norms coupled with lower operating capacities have forced large organised players to hike prices after the lockdown. While organised players may have hiked prices, the experience of the past weeks shows that customers are willing to spend on personal grooming after a three-month break.

Says Spoorthy Shetty, CEO of BBlunt, a salon chain and sister concern of Godrej Professional, “The silver lining is that ticket size has gone up by double digits and clients are willing to spend for haircuts, colour, treatments, manicures and pedicures.”

Like other industries, organised players in the beauty services business are hoping to garner a larger share of the market as smaller players may not be able to meet the stringent hygiene standards set by the government.
Lakme Salons is of the view that customers will have a safe service experience in the controlled salon environment with stringent hygiene measures and detailed checks in place against home services.

For the foreseeable future, India’s Rs 30,000-crore beauty services industry has to brace for lower footfalls (down by 40%) and higher costs. So how different would a trip to the salon be? For starters, walk-ins aren’t allowed as salons can only take in 50% of their total capacity due to social distancing norms. Some states have said no more than five customers at a time in a salon. High touch services like skin, make-up and threading are currently not on offer as of now. Salons are providing personal protection kits to consumers at an extra cost, which will include a three ply mask, head gear, gloves, disposable apron and shoe covers.

Other than focusing on stringent social distancing and sanitisation norms, service providers are also planning to use the Arogya Setu app to monitor customers and employees. Lakme Salons, operated by Hindustan Unilever, has revised processes for skin, hair and make-up services to reduce touch. Single-use kits will be the order of the day other than enhanced sterilisation protocols, and contactless billing and payments, said a Lakme Salon spokesperson.

Given that demand for these kits has seen a sudden jump, larger players like Godrej Professional, a professional salon only brand from Godrej Consumer Products, is helping salons across India with disposable masks, towels and other items to restart operations. The company is also supplying sanitisers at heavily discounted rates to help restart operations. Says Neeraj Senguttuvan, business head, Godrej Professional, “We are giving disposable kits to salons for free to begin with and helping them procure them at affordable costs. We expect things to return to near normal at the end of Q2.”

Higher costs, lower footfalls and stringent social distancing norms have led to higher prices. Some like Naturals, the country’s largest chain of salons with 650 stores across India, will not charge separately for personal protection kits if the billing is above Rs 1,000 per trip. Others like Enrich, a salon chain where private equity player Westbridge is an investor, are charging Rs 150 for the protection kits as supplies of these are scarce and manufacturers have jacked up prices. Vikram Bhatt, founder of Enrich, says new hygiene standards have resulted in higher costs. “Before and after every service, we will have to sanitise the place and entire salon too several times.”

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