I was booked by the BBC to do some filming in our Metrospa on August 1 to comment on the reopening of our salon and the sector. Then, on Friday, July 31, having a lunch break to meet a friend, I got a call from the producer. “Had I heard the news?”, he asked. “No”, I said. Well, they were still coming in to film, but now the angle was my reaction to this continuing enforced closure. Outrage, not celebration. Stunned, astonished, shocked, appalled. I was (for once) lost for words.
You can tell that many civil servants have never run a business. Even though the official line was that there’s “a fine line between lives and livelihoods”, which we all understand, there’s clearly no so such thing as an amber light - green to red in one afternoon.
Slamming the breaks on without any warning is commercial suicide for any sector, let alone one that has been counting the days to open. How can we plan and forecast? How can we reassure our teams that their jobs are safe when the reality is that the only thing that remains certain in this pandemic is that nothing is certain? Nothing demonstrates this as clearly as the Government’s message to us.
“It’s nonsensical and I think the least we are owed is a proper explanation; a science-based one while you’re at it, please”
A little understanding would have been appreciated. For any sector that sells experiences or services, what we are actually selling is time. That’s why we cannot possibly recoup the turnover we’ve lost already. If your business is retailing online it makes no difference if there’s a lockdown or not, other than the fact that perhaps some of your customers are curbing their spending. But closing for periods of time for services means money lost will never come back.
I’m a fan of sports psychology, and I know that the mantra is process over product. Take care of each process and the end result will take care of itself. Running a marathon starts with one step at a time. But dealing with something so powerful, so out of our control, is not empowering, it’s frightening.
Here we are with a sector (beauty and spa) that employs nearly 33,000 people (largely women, some of whom are juggling parenting with work), and contributes £1.4 billion to the UK economy, and we have no notice to engage with our customers, many of whom have been loyally waiting (not using the moonlighters or black market) to come into the salon for grooming, pampering and the client experience that we want to deliver, Covid-19-securely.
We understand that the powers that be know things we don’t and that their approach is science-led. So, explain it to us then! I still argue; how is it considered safe for a guy to get a beard trim, or for people to visit the dental hygienist (all wearing the same PPE as therapists would), but it’s not OK for us to conduct facial treatments? It’s nonsensical and I think the least we are owed is a proper explanation; a science-based one while you’re at it, please.
I said at the start of this pandemic that there will be many twists and turns, and restructuring your businesses to ensure you can weather the storm and face the choppy waters that undoubtedly still lie ahead has never been more vital. Time is running out if we don’t.
Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London, one of the most profitable independent salons in the UK. She is beauty ambassador for the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF).
Send your feedback to email@example.com