Budget day has been and gone and I’m bitterly disappointed, yet, sadly not surprised, that once again our value as a sector was overlooked. We’ve not been treated as fairly as we should have been in getting the VAT reduction we so desperately need and which has given to the only real comparable sector in terms of labour-intensity/output – hospitality.
Perhaps we need to take stock and remind ourselves of just what contribution we make to the UK economy.
1. We employ one in every 60 working women in the UK
2. We employ 1% of the entire UK workforce
3. 50% of all people in the sector are working in VAT-registered salons
4. We are one of the largest employers of apprentices of any sector, educating, training and developing our next generation of skilled experts
5. We (pre-Covid-19) were contributing £6 billion of revenue per annum to the UK economy
6. We are predominantly made up of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)
7. Most salons employ fewer than 10 staff and have been started entrepreneurially
8. We are the beating heart of the British high street – we are found in every village, town, city, shopping centre and development throughout the land
9. We bring critical, cyclical footfall to every area we are located, helping support other local businesses (what other business sees their customers revisit with such frequency?)
10. We cannot digitalise what we do – we cannot sell our team’s expertise online, which is why paying the same VAT as retail is unjust, unfair and not viable (and never has been).
The facts speak for themselves, yet, sadly so does the treatment we have been given at Government level.
The regulation debate
But critically, we are unregulated, and maybe that’s where the problem lies. Perhaps if we had one overarching body to lobby for change from the start we might have had a fighting chance, as hospitality did, in uniting in one voice to tell the decision makers why we are so crucial.
As half of all those beauty therapists, nail technicians, hairdressers, barbers and colour technicians working in the sector are employed in VAT-registered salons, the single biggest act of support that would have safeguarded our future would have been to pass on the VAT cut and give us the same reduction that has been afforded to our most similar sector.
However, as Winston Churchill famously said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal”. In representing salon owners across the country, the Save Our Salons co-founders now have a voice straight into Government, and our passionate advocacy of the industry we all love and cherish will no longer be silenced.
We need more data to demonstrate our value, that is clear. Because had what we’d previously supplied been enough, we’d have achieved the #ChopTheVAT objective. We demand to be taken seriously, to be afforded the respect we deserve.
We will grow and flourish after this pandemic, but we have a chance now to change the way we are perceived forever and we must embrace the opportunity to change that perception and elevate ourselves to a valued, respected industry.
Every day we are closed, we rack up debt. This has a direct consequence on our ability to employ apprentices (even with the incentives announced in the Budget). Not only will we be facing a skills shortage in the long term but the mental health impact on the young people we employ who are unable to return to salons due to us working within Covid-19 guidelines could be catastrophic.
So what can be done? Well, we need your help. We need to get the Government to sit up and take notice of why we matter. To do that, we need facts, figures and data. Not from pre-Covid-19, but about what’s happening now.
Footfall data, lack of support from landlords, debt, statistics about the young people we work with, the emotional wellbeing we provide as a service to staff and clients alike; these are critical elements of achieving our objective.
Just because we didn’t get what we wanted in the Budget, it doesn’t mean we will never get what we need to remain a viable sector. We’ve open the doors now. Help us compile the figures that will get us to where we need to go.
Visit saveoursalons.co.uk. Remind your MPs of the 10 vital ways we are one of the most dynamic and viable industries, and why our expertise is renowned as among the best to be found anywhere in the world. Help save our salons, save our jobs and save our high streets, but above all, help create a new level of understanding about what we do. Because we do it best, and we are valuable, and that can no longer be ignored. Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London and a beauty ambassador for the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF). Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org