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SA’s hair salons reopen – to mixed business

Hair salons around the country have made a welcome return to offering services again, following Government’s easing of Level 3 Lockdown restrictions.

Carlton Hair Salons reopened nationwide on Monday 22 June. Says the group’s regional manager for Cape Town, Jennifer Crossland: “We have been pretty much fully booked for the most part since opening our doors, but obviously with social distancing regulations, we can’t operate at 100% capacity. Every second station only is in use. Those chairs not in use are cordoned off so that clients don’t sit on them by mistake.

“As we are only permitted a certain amount of people in the salon each day, we have split our staff into two teams and they rotate – one day on, one day off. On the upside, it’s quite soothing working in an environment with a reduced number of people, rather than the usual packed-to-the brim buzz we used to experience. We do allow walk-in clients, but only if there is a stylist free at the time.”

Crossland notes that while some clients are wary and cautious about coming into the salon, others are quite practical in that they know they need hair services and they respect the new hygiene and safety protocols. Temperature checks are done on clients and staff, and on entering, each client is presented with a pack containing a cape, a towel and a bottle of water. After each client, everything is laundered at 70 degrees centigrade.

“I actually had my colour done in the salon last week and it felt completely safe and sanitised,” comments Crossland. “We do have two apprentices working per shift and they assist with the cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting protocols.”

During lockdown, Carlton Hair launched an online booking platform so that clients could make appointments in advance.

“While in lockdown, all the salons’ phones were forwarded to me so I was in daily contact with clients who phoned in. I can tell you that most of them were desperate for hair services,” says Crossland.

Waiting list

When Tracy Werner of Hair on 6TH in Walmer, Port Elizabeth, reopened her salon, she had a waiting list of 42 people wanting appointments.

“I’m an old stylist and have many long term, loyal clients, who have been very patient during the lockdown period,” explains Werner. “But while I have been fully booked, the other two stylists in the salon have only had a few bookings between them and only come in when they have clients.

“Because I myself am high-risk, as I have co-morbidities, I’m probably more strict with the new hygiene and safety protocols than any other salon in Port Elizabeth. As such, I wear a hair covering, an M95 medical face mask, a visor and an outfit over my clothes. I’m actually in the process of ordering scrubs for myself and the other two stylists.”

Werner points out that her salon is well laid out with partitions and so can accommodate between four to six clients at a time.

“I make sure I have time in between clients to spray chairs and do the necessary cleansing and disinfecting. When a client comes in, I spray under their shoes and take temperature readings. I use an app developed by Potchefstroom University that asks for the client’s ID, scans the temperature reading and has the COVID-19 screening questions. If a client has anything loose on them, like a handbag or a jacket, it gets put into a plastic bag until they leave,” states Werner.

She notes that while some clients have been very nervous to come in the salon, those that know her well have been quite relaxed about coming in and have even referred her to friends.

Reducing chairs

Franco International Sandton opened on 22 of June. Says the salon’s Nicole Aires: “Because of social distancing regulations, we have basically had to remove half our chairs, so we now operate with five chairs instead of 10. Obviously this has cut the number of clients we can see in a day. However, we haven’t extended our working hours to try and make up more treatments – we are sticking to the shopping mall’s hours (9am to 6pm). It gets quite eerie in shopping malls after hours anyway.

“When we opened, we didn’t have quite the influx of clients that we expected, as clients are clearly much more conservative about coming into public areas, particularly now that COVID-19 infections are peaking. I also think that people are quite tired of all the effort it requires to come into shopping centres these days, as in having your temperature taken, wearing masks, constantly sanitising hands, etc. However, I’m sure that once the COVID-19 curve flattens, we’ll see more customers.

“At the moment, we’re finding that clients will come in for a single treatment, like a cut, or a colour, but not both at the same time, just so they don’t have to spend too much time in the salon at one time.”

Confident clients

Tarryn Vorster of Tanaz Hair In Illovo, Johannesburg, reveals that when the salon opened on 23 June, approximately 30% of its clientele had already pre-requested appointments.

“We’ve found that clients are not at all nervous or wary about coming into the salon, although some clients call a few days before they want their appointment just to check how busy the salon will be,” continues Vorster. “Only two stylists per day are working in the salon, while our operators are responsible for cleaning, disinfecting and sanitising the salon. Sometimes the salon manager will come in to work but then she works in an entirely separate room.

“Each stylist does everything for their client, including washing and conditioning their hair, as we are trying to keep the number of hands on each client down to one person. We all wear visors, masks and gloves. I think that COVID-19 will be around for quite some time and that it will take up to two years for business to get back to normal.”

Drybar franchise

As from last week, Splush stores countrywide recommenced their blow dry and hair treatment services.

Splush owner, Stav Dimitriadis, reports that business has been slow as the chain needed to get its PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) system in place and train staff.

“Thus far we have seen some reluctance on the part of clients to have services, with them asking about the safety measures we have in place before they make appointments,” he comments. “We have followed all the safety and hygiene regulations set out by Government and not noticed any significant trends among clients other than anticipated. I think we need a little more time to pick up any new trends.”

Dimitriadis notes that Splush retail sales of professional hair care products have been quite good. “During May and June we only sold retail and opened the salons in shopping centres that had reasonable foot traffic. We’ve found retail to be up to around 80% of pre-COVID-19 numbers. There has also been a big growth in our online sales.” (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)


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