The reopening of hairdressers in England will come as a relief to many, but pent-up demand means a wait of up to another six weeks to secure an appointment.
The National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF) said anecdotal evidence from its members suggests most are fully booked for at least six weeks.
Louise Howard-Long, owner of Architect Hair in Leeds, said her salon officially opened its phone lines just days ago but is already fully booked until the middle of May.
She said: “It’s mad. But we’re delighted to be opening. We have the best job in the world so to be back doing it is great.”
She added that the salon has been “quite strict” with clients and is not expecting too many disasters to sort out on reopening.
“We put up a fringe trimming demo on Instagram and the odd person has phoned up desperate, so we’ve advised them on some gentle colour. Nothing permanent.
“The salon’s been sad and forlorn but we’ve done the big clean and we’re ready to welcome clients back.”
NHBF chief executive Richard Lambert said: “It’s important to remember that our hairdressers and barbers provide so much more than a hair service – they are often the hub of the community, offer an ear to talk to, are essential in making us feel good and improving our mental health, especially for those struggling with confidence or illness-related hair issues.”
Salons and barbershops have been unable to open for almost eight months, which has had a devastating impact on the industry.
Some 46% of businesses are unsure if they will survive until the end of social distancing requirements, according to the NHBF’s State of the Industry survey taken in March.
Full-time employment in the sector is down 21% on 2019 and 60% of businesses entered 2021 with no cash reserves, up from 27% in 2019.
Customers will see no significant change to the original social distancing and operating restrictions, and salons say clients can be confident that it is completely safe to return.
They say high-quality hygiene is “intrinsic in any decent salon” and the extra measures introduced after the first lockdown had been easily adopted by the industry.
The latest government guidance details further information about using ventilation to mitigate the transmission risk of the virus, and salons should be checking this as part of their risk assessment.
Extra funding in the recent Budget has thrown a lifeline to many businesses but there is concern that the most vulnerable will still struggle to survive.
Some 88% of those employed in the industry are female and there is an over-subscription of hair and beauty salons in the UK’s most economically deprived areas, leaving them most at risk.
The NHBF has urged the Government to speed up the distribution of the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) by local authorities to help those in greatest need, and to reconsider the VAT reduction to support those hardest hit and secure jobs.
Lara Boot, owner of Lara Boot Hairdressing in Northampton, said: “Everybody wants an appointment on the 12th. We’re working 12-hour days.
“We’re booking extra time for the appointments but we’re not expecting to see as many disasters this time. It doesn’t seem to have bothered people as much this time round.”
She said coping financially has been “extremely tight” and the business has turned to loans to get through.
“We had to pay for extras like PPE but we’ve got all that in place now. We feel a bit more prepared this time.”