Time for a makeover: Why Social distancing is nearly impossible for beauty salon

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June 07, 2020 1:45 AM

Social distancing is nearly impossible for a beauty salon. To survive now, though, the industry will have to adopt stringent grooming standards

L’Oréal India, too, has announced support to Indian salons, outlining hygiene and operating guidelines.

During the lockdown, we saw countless stories online of people sharing their attempts at cutting and colouring their hair. From David Beckham to Virat Kohli, many picked up the clippers to shear off their ragged locks. A behavioural change in people fuelled a passion for DIY—plucking, waxing, dyeing and cutting their hair—helping them survive the quarantine.

It’s no surprise then that personal grooming products have been the highest-selling items online recently. “Products such as trimmers for men and women, and epilators and hair clippers have seen nearly 2.5x increase in the past few weeks. Cities like Indore, Ahmedabad and Dispur have shown increased affinity towards personal grooming products, with nearly 2x increase in their searches. An interesting trend witnessed is consumers buying complete trimmer kits for grooming, including body grooming and nose grooming,” says a Flipkart spokesperson. Nykaa, too, has seen 3.5x increase in sales for shavers, trimmers and epilators compared to the average pre-Covid figures, as per a Nykaa spokesperson.

But as the lockdown is lifted and shops open, what will happen to salons and barber shops, an area of business in which social distancing is nearly impossible? Clearly, the time has come for new grooming standards in hygiene and safety to help minimise the risk of spreading the virus at salons. These guidelines will also encourage customers to let go of their fears and apprehensions and visit salons again. States like Tamil Nadu, for instance, have made Aadhaar number and mobile number of a customer mandatory (as part of Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP) for haircut or grooming services to help in contact tracing if the need arises.

Other measures include monitoring of salon teams and customers through Aarogya Setu app, mandatory face shields, rubber gloves, sanitised towels, chairs and equipment, shoe covers, temperature checks, compulsory hair wash before haircut, etc. Disposables will also be the new norm when it comes to linen, towels, capes and gloves, most used wearables in salons.

Under the ‘Suraksha Salon Program’, Godrej Professional (the haircare brand of Godrej Consumer Products, which extends support to over 10,000 salons and makes them business-ready) will provide necessary guidance, resources and updates to salon owners to ensure the safety and well-being of staff and customers.

L’Oréal India, too, has announced support to Indian salons, outlining hygiene and operating guidelines. It will help by supplying masks and hand sanitisers as part of the new operating guidelines. Its ‘Back to Business’ hygiene and safety guide is being distributed among its 45,000-strong salon network and over 1,70,000 hairdressers. The guide includes details on safer operating procedures, including hand cleansing, tool disinfecting, pre-booking, reorganisation of salons to space out appointments, electronic payment, etc, to ensure social distancing.

In a survey conducted during the lockdown by Enrich Salons (a unisex salon chain present in six cities—Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Surat and Baroda) with over four lakh customers across India, it was found that a significant number were keenly looking forward to salons opening. “An initiative ‘Call Is Well’ was taken up to check on clients to understand their well-being. This led to further boosting our bond with customers. Our therapists conducted sessions where customers were guided through the process of doing some services in the DIY mode,” says director Vikram Bhatt.

“The luxury salon industry works on an appointment basis, which strictly ensures no overcrowding. New SOP measures include staff and clients wearing PPE kits, placing floor stickers to assure a safe distance of at least six feet between customers, self-assessment through health assessment app, salon hygiene, sensor-based sanitisers, sterilisation of mobiles and cash, pedal sanitisers, step-and-pull mechanism for doors, staff to commute by private vehicles and not exit the salon for tea/lunch break, etc. Even threading would be done with tweezers (to ensure technicians have the mask on)… for waxing, only cartridge wax would be permitted,” says Bhatt.

The initial months post the lockdown, however, will see a surge in the demand for DIY grooming products, as walk-ins at salons would be slow. “It will take two-three cycles of salon visits to build back the confidence,” says Manish Chhabra, managing director and CEO of cosmetics company Hygienic Research Institute, which is known for its hair colour brand Streax Professional. “Salons will also witness an increase in their operating costs, which they will have to pass on to the consumers eventually,” he says.

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