Tuesday 23 June 2020 will be a day our beloved beauty industry will never forget. A day firmly entrenched in our memories as the day our Prime Minister announced we were not to return to work, post lockdown alongside our hairdressing counterparts.
The industry’s heart was broken.
Many of you had been booking clients in on a preliminary basis. Many of you had been cautious, setting up waiting lists and taking clients details, so you could contact them with the good news once we were given the green light. Poised at the starting gates, therapists anticipated phones to be buzzing, redirected salon emails to be flooding in and social media messages filled with congratulatory messages from excited (and quite possibly hairy) clients.
Instead, Instagram was a place filled with anger and confusion. One thing however stood out to me, a disturbing undercurrent, an unspoken resentment…. as a female dominated industry we had been forgotten.
The British Beauty Council has fought tirelessly for us. On their website is a statement from a government source…
…in terms of why hairdressing and not beauty, the answer is because the Government is taking a phased, cautious approach to reopening the economy to ensure that we limit the spread of the virus. This means choices have had to be made as to which businesses to reopen as part of the next phase.
I am certain that the majority of therapists will fully understand the concerns posed by central government. As professional therapists, the safety of our clients comes first. I know personally, as someone who has a large client base, that I would never wish to put my clients at risk. However, questions needed to be raised and in particular these two;
If beauty therapists and associated professionals such a nail technicians are to be kept off work for the near distant future, what is the government going to offer us in the form of further financial support?
If hairdressers, pubs, bars and restaurants were allowed to open on what was being dubbed as ‘Super Saturday’ then why were beauty therapists not joining our hairdressing counterparts? Why is it OK for pubs to open with people mixing yet we are not able to do a leg wax wearing full PPE?
Anyone who is familiar with British pubbing will surely understand that people are highly unlikely to be able to social distance after a few pints or a couple of large pink gins. The beauty industry was furious and rightly so.
Lets look at the stats. For 2018 these can be found on the British Beauty Council Website written by Oxford Economics entitled ‘The Value of Beauty’ and is well worth a read.
The beauty industry made a total contribution to UK GDP worth 28.4 billion with half of this impact coming from the sectors own activates standing at 14.2 billion (known as the direct impact) The findings also said that 7 billion was given in tax revenues which is the equivalent of 250,000 nurses and midwives. It also found that beauty service providers contributed 1.2 billion to the overall economy. Interestingly the industry is estimated to have what is known as a GDP multiplier of 2.0 which means for every 1 million generated, that spending supports another 1 million contribution elsewhere in the economy.
An interesting Instagram story came out from Mirelle Turner, The Beauty Tech Lawyer (@beautytechlawyer) basically saying, “The challenge is convincing our government that our industry is well prepared and always operates at the highest levels of hygiene and safety.” From this, people were being encouraged to contact their local MPs to apply pressure and demonstrate how they were ready to open safely.
In the previous weeks, beauty therapists across the country gallantly went above and beyond purchasing PPE, attending further training and salons were upgraded to ensure they were COVID secure. From manicure screens to hand gel stations, our therapists jumped straight off the starting block without even so much as a whimper. Imagine the devastation that occurred when these businesses were told they could not open their doors.
The financial implications of these additional costs were huge, and many business owners used money from the business grant, personal savings and I have been made aware of one business owner who cashed in her pension to pay for the safety measures to be installed. Imagine the feeling of disappointment, loneliness, fear and panic to then be told you wouldn’t be able to reopen after cashing in your pension and life savings?
A national scandal was slowly emerging and like a bitter dispute, it was set to erupt.
What about freelance beauty therapists, mobile businesses and those hard working mums who operate a home based salon or rent a room within an existing premises? What was to be their fate in all of this? Many of these therapists have simply been forgotten. Some unable to claim the SEISS scheme, some being successful with this scheme however I can report they were either significantly disappointed with the amount received or had re invested the money back into PPE, stock refreshment and online hygiene training courses. Others found themselves waiting weeks for Universal Credit payments. A derisory amount of money the government have given us as a last resort. An amount which barely covers basic essentials.
Salons ceased trading on the 20March so we are now approaching a FOUR month stretch with little or no firm financial support from the government. For a patient, caring and kind profession like ours, this is simply unacceptable. Therapists are facing financial hardship and are being plunged in to poverty. For what crime we ask? For simply doing the right thing and keeping themselves and their clients safe.
With the Beauty industry supporting 590,500 jobs in 2018 equalling 1 in 60 to the UK economy this is a shocking amount of people facing uncertainty.
Women choose the beauty sector for a whole host of reasons. The industry is notoriously flexible and if you are a hardworking mum looking to practice mobile or even someone who wishes to help on reception at the local salon, as women we understand the challenges other women face and have created an industry to accommodate all.
Let’s not forget our much loved male beauty therapists. We have some amazing men in our industry helping to fly the flag for freedom. Waxing specialists such as Andy Rouillard/ The Wax Daddy (learnmalewaxing) who are also keen to re open and get their treasured businesses’ back on the road to success. And what about our suppliers? Many wholesalers have male employees/delivery drivers. My local supplier Hair Cosmetics is under male ownership too, so it’s not just women who are being affected. There is a whole broad section of society being personally impacted by poor decision making and a lack of clear guidance.
On Wednesday 1 July, William Wragg MP for Hazel Grove, posed a question in parliament on behalf of Lush Beauty Cheshire. To the industry’s horror the prime minister and the members of the house were seen mocking the business, jeering and making jokes reminiscent of school boys laughing at the adjacent girls school because someone had been spotted smooching at the school gates.
The owner of Lush Beauty told me she was delighted to have her questions raised. However, she had unfortunately fallen prey to online trolls. These spooky misogynists with nothing better to do had chosen to direct abuse towards her and pose negative comments on her Facebook page. This raised concerns for me. Was the industry now facing permanent damage to its reputation? If the example being set in parliament was one of jokes and mockery, what example is being set and what effect would this have on the industry inevitably filtering down to our clients affecting their confidence in us.
The industry went wild.
Professional Beauty (@pro_beauty01) launched the fightback with the #salonsaresafe campaign. On Friday 3 July they called on all professionals to show MPs and government that we are safe and ready to re open our doors, fire up our mobile beauty car engines and get back to work.
They encouraged all business owners and freelancers to do a video walk through of their premises demonstrating the safety measures they have put in place. They asked freelancers and therapists to showcase their new working attire on Instagram, posting pictures of themselves in PPE. Clients were encouraged to get involved, tag their local MPs and include Boris Johnson and Alok Sharma helping to spread the word. They also provided a template MP letter and a #salonsaresafe graphic for people to repost on the various social media platforms.
There were so many therapists toiling throughout the day, but I do feel the need to give a special mention to a particular group of people! Jack Dunn – The wax Coach (the_wax_coach) Glow Mobile Beauty London (glow_beauty_mobile_london) Lunula . Alicia (lunula_alicia) Claire Rogers (@treatmentroom) The Beauty Salon (_the_beauty_salon-) Joan Scott and Diane Key from HABIA (habiauk)
Great work, Professional Beauty – we shall never forget how hard you worked on our behalf and we are so grateful to have you in our corner. What more can I say other than thank you.
As I was finally relaxing on Saturday evening, thinking things could not sink any lower… on my twitter feed I saw a little article had been posted from The Telegraph saying that salons and spas had now been chucked in to the same category as strip clubs. Apparently included in this are sexual entertainment venues and seedy nightspots.
Earlier on in my blog I mentioned the damaging impact all this has had on client confidence and the overall reputation of the industry as a result. To be frank, this is an appalling insult to us all. However sadly, it does not surprise me.
I remember as a young therapist working in salons and having to put up with THAT customer again. As therapists we will all know what I am talking about when I say THAT customer. Some bloke who always ‘forgets’ to leave on his undies before a back wax or the client who uses the salon as an unofficial dating agency, booking in with a different therapist each time.
Does this stigma really still exist in 2020? I thought we had moved past this sort of pat the waxing lady on the bum mentality. We must take back control of our precious industry and command back respect. As a beauty therapist of 22 years I have never felt such disappointment in the way we have been represented and undervalued. As a community we must seek to drive out this negativity and get our businesses fully operational again, in a safe manner so that we all feel valued for work that we do.
Keep it up!