It’s been an interesting process seeing the salon get back to “the new normal”. There have been umpteen twists and turns in client demands across our industry since the pandemic started. When we Ireopened after the first Covid-19 lockdown, it was all about the essential services – the “must-have” vital cut, colour, waxing and electrolysis that saw the greatest demand.
The more feel-good, luxury treatments were not considered the immediate necessity and quite possibly even regarded with disdain after we’d been closed for so long. It was a case of getting grooming back on track, not thinking about “unnecessary pampering”. Beauty opening later didn’t help – all it did was fuel the fear of close contact services.
The second lockdown saw greater fear – the second Covid-19 wave imminent and constantly on the radar. However, after a gloomy winter, with a spring of hopefulness, we all reopened our doors, unsure as to what we would find on the other side, and for how long we would find it there.
At the time of writing, we’re beginning holiday season, and with so many countries on the amber and red lists and the weather at home turning sunnier, a good oldfashioned staycation seems to be the order of the day for many people. Pre-holiday or when the weather is good, the demand for treatments changes. Toes come out and need painting, legs see the sunlight and need waxing and tanning, and we get beach-body ready from head to toe.
Ourindustry has always been a seasonal business. Even though it is regular and cyclical, demands and services change throughout the calendar.
However, the interesting piece of the jigsaw has been the increase in demand for the more holistic treatments. Massage, reiki, acupuncture, chakra cleansing and treatments like aromatherapy facials are all becoming more desirable as finally we see the consumer pampering themselves again – confidence is returning.
It seems we are finally seeing the shift in behaviour and the customer is not just striving for results-driven services but acknowledging that self-care really does start with the word self. Thank heavens for that. It appears it’s not just the virus that has mutated; the customer base has morphed too. I’m not alone in saying that we’ve seen a stash of customers returning – some that haven’t visited for years. Our salon owners’ WhatsApp group is always a good barometer of what’s going on and the feedback is clear – people are coming out of the woodwork and venturing back into the salon, some of whom haven’t been for ages, even long before Covid-19. It’s so interesting to see that these people who’ve been away from salon for years are coming back to give us another try.
Although it doesn’t make much of a dent in the percentage decline we’ve seen in the sector, every non-believer is a great challenge for the team to maximise; a real, tangible opportunity to remind whoever is lying on their couch or sitting in their chair what they’ve been missing and show them what “good” really looks like.
Having bauty treatments at home might have been OK for a lockdown moonlighter, and we all know even some shamefully reputable salons were guilty of breaching the rules, but at-home can never replace the in-salon experience for the majority of customers. The couch- or chair-side manner, the switching off and zoning out into the blissful indulgence of a safe, protective, cosseting place – how can that be replicated elsewhere amidst a global pandemic?
Perhaps it’s a simple case of people remembering what expert service and second-to-none technical ability truly are. Seeing the results for themselves just serves to remind them what they’ve been missing. As one customer told me, the salon is a place that people can truly get away from Covid-19 angst and feel relaxed and comfortable in familiar surroundings, while at the same time experiencing treatments and services that not only serve to make them look better but feel better, too.
Escaping for a bit of “me time” has a value all its own. Mentally, physically… it’s not just grooming and pampering we provide but emotional wellbeing. We should never underestimate the power of human touch, self-care and time for oneself.
The joy any good therapist, hairdresser, nail tech, colourist or barber experiences when they see their client walking 10 feet taller after enjoying a great treatment or service can’t be underestimated, nor can the value it brings to the customer in every way. Long may that continue.
Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London and a beauty ambassador for the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF).