It is Saturday evening and I find myself at the table once more writing a new blog. I am post take away and am spending the evening scanning Twitter for updates. It took me a significant amount of strength to write this post, for reasons unknown to me. However I can hear my mothers voice sounding in my mind like a hornet, she says, ‘ You cant fight everyone’s battles Claire. Let someone else speak out. Don’t let it be you this time’ Well mum, I am sorry to ignore your advice (once again) but oops its it’s too late.

The past few weeks, up to this point have been wonderful. Disappointing on some levels but wonderful on others. I was finally able to fire up the car engine and return to doing the job I love. Back to the business that has been on hold for the safety of myself and others, the business I have worked hard to build from scratch. The wheels of my car were once again revolving and I was back, as CLB Mobile Beauty providing my mobile beauty services across South Manchester.

Sadly this was not the case for everyone. As an industry we had been told we could resume certain services including waxing, manicure, pedicure and massage. Treatments such as facials and lash services were classed as being in the high risk zone. For now such services were off the table however they were set to resume on Saturday 1st of August and we were assured to receive updated guidelines in due course advising us on how to perform them in a COVID secure way.

Salons, freelancers and mobiles began to book clients in ahead of time. Diaries were once again beginning to bulk up and businesses began to see healthier columns, an element of hope sparkling on a once blurred horizon.

The government had chosen to refer to an entire sector as ‘Nail Bars’ which angered many across the industry. Are they simply unaware of the diversity that lies within our industry, or simply ignorant? This was a question I chose not to develop in to a resentment, and went about my business with the new regulations in place and tried to put the offensive comments firmly to the back of my mind.

On the Thursday evening I had been working late for some good clients in West Didsbury. On my return home I drove down Burton Road to see crowds of people sitting outside bars and restaurants enjoying time with friends, supporting local businesses and relaxing. I have spent many an evening on Burton Road, for those of you who are not familiar with the area it is a residential hub of independent bars restaurants, clothes boutiques and bespoke furniture shops. A place cherished by locals and a popular destination for out of towners who wish for an eclectic night out with a little vegan cuisine thrown in for good measure.

The road is also home to many independent beauty salons and hairdressers, all of whom contribute to the homely feel of the neighbourhood assisting in creating a buzz you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. As I drove, I was certain the beauty salons on the road must have been very much looking forward to being able to go full steam ahead on Saturday. Finally to be able to offer their full service menus to excited clients (faded brows and the odd hairy lip at the ready)

One thing though, sadly stood out to me. I tried not to observe it, but it was clear that people were not wearing face coverings and were not social distancing. For anyone reading this who has a business on the road my intention is not to single you out or apportion blame. My point shall be made later in the post.

As I parked up here at home a text came through from my boyfriend saying that in Greater Manchester lockdown had been tightened and a ban on indoor meetings imposed. This included social distanced gatherings in back gardens and outdoor areas.

The familiar feeling of fear began to set in. The same feeling I had so venomously experienced back in March. What was that to mean for me as a mobile beauty therapist visiting people at home? Searching google I could find nothing. As a therapist client care always comes first. So in the morning I set about the task of contacting the clients I had in on the Friday and Saturday. They were nervous so in the absence of no clear guidelines, with heavy hearts, we cancelled the appointments.

Suddenly in the twilight hour of almost midnight Friday evening, a notification from The British Beauty Council arrived via Instagram saying mobile beauty therapists were permitted to work within clients homes. Once again, a familiar incident had occurred. It was a little too late.

Sadly this was only the beginning. Just when I thought nothing else could happen Boris Johnson dropped a further bomb on the industry. The message was….’Treatments on the face will not be allowed from August 1st in England as government postpones easing of restrictions.’ 

Once again our precious female dominated industry had been sold down the river. This time without a paddle with less than 24 hours notice for businesses to prepare.

A horror show

Reflecting back on my comments regarding social distancing and face coverings in bars and restaurants. My point being, why is this allowed in yet people cannot get their eyebrows tinted? People allowed to hoard together drunk in late night bars, yet not allowed a lip and chin wax with the therapist in full PPE and client in a mask. Facial services banned in well ventilated rooms, one on one, in yet people crowding in bar doorways social smoking…. supposedly outside. Folk purchasing late night alcohol in the local Tesco Express, six sheets to the wind, minus a face covering. The mind well and truly boggles and from what I can glean on Twitter, I am not the only one left asking questions.

The actress Denise Welch @RealDeniseWelch said on twitter, ‘My friends who have beauty businesses are teetering on the verge of having to go bust, because they cannot do facial treatments.’ Denise then goes on to say, ‘I could eat my dinner off the floor they are so pristine.’ Hands up who agrees with her? I know I certainly do and I am sure one could not say the same about some of the public toilets they have frequented recently? Especially toilets of the night, situated in murky pubs and dingy bars. Who knew what was lurking in there at the best of times… and I am not just referring to dirty hand towels…..

One of my other compardres informed me that she received just 40 pounds from the SEISS scheme. This was due to her start up costs, putting the business through at a loss which was correct, and then suddenly finding herself unable to trade. With ‘facialgate’ on top of this her only saving grace has been a supportive partner and family financial support. Others have not been so lucky.

Twitter is awash with angry therapists and those who are on the brink of financial ruin. Therapists and salon owners alike have gone above and beyond to make their businesses COVID secure. With updated training, hygiene videos, staff workshops and increased PPE. We are fast approaching a crisis and I am not sure how much more the industry can take. The furlough scheme is beginning to wind down from August and the knock on effect of this will be redundancies.

Martin Lewis says, ‘If employers know there is someone who they don’t believe their job is viable after October, many of them will start to make people redundant from August because that’s when it begins to cost them to keep them on furlough.’ This will undoubtedly have a serious affect on the beauty industry as salon owners may choose (if they are therapists themselves) to take the body of the appointments themselves or to reduce staffing in order to fill up full time staff members columns first, perhaps letting part time staff members go. If therapists are on zero hours contacts this could have a catastrophic effect on their earnings with self employed therapists coming in at a close second. And that’s being hopeful, many therapists on zero hours contracts will have had no financial support whatsoever throughout the crisis leaving them vulnerable, exposed and possibly unable to return to the industry.

So when on earth are we going to be able to return to full capacity? This at the moment is like asking how long is a piece of string but the government have said a couple of weeks. Which in my opinion is unacceptable, we need to know a date now.

Our industry is filled with independent women and often we are overlooked. During my last visit to my home town of Lytham I took a trip to Blackpool. Sadly, a dying town centre, Blackpool is not the town I remember it to be BUT one thing stood out to me. The nail bars, beauty salons and hairdressers were full to the brim with clients, propping up the ailing high street and providing employment. A far cry from metropolitan West Didsbury but the similarities running though the veins at the core of the industry were the same. People want these services. There is no sense in allowing these valuable businesses in areas such as Blackpool, surrounded by boarded up shops and units available for rent to close.

They are propping up the high street. They are the services with a smile and we need to keep them afloat. The government must act now.

I wish you all the best and please hang on in there, we will get through this together as best we can.