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Chop and change: Clients set for new customer experience when hair salons and barbers re-open

Much will have changed when people go to get their hair cut from next week.

Image: Shutterstock/Parilov

WHEN SHOPS SHUTTERED and social visits ground to a halt, in March the need to keep up appearances was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

But as grey roots and bottle-dye jobs blossomed in late spring, the clamour for a return to grooming habits of old began to grow.

When the government published its initial roadmap for re-opening the economy at the beginning of May, hair salons and barbers weren’t expected to return until 20 July.

Then, in a gift to seemingly half the country, it was announced last week that barbers and hairdressers would be allowed to re-open from 29 June instead.

Much will have changed, however, when you go to get your hair cut from Monday.

Salons and barbers will be asked to adhere to over 100 specific recommendations, laid out by the Irish Hairdressers Federation (IHF) in recently published guidelines, in order to re-open safely in Phase Three.

The guidelines are designed to safeguard staff and customers from Covid-19, and include things like customers being asked about their contacts and their names and phone details being taken to help with contact tracing.

Many hairdressers and barbers will also give their customers masks, hand sanitiser and disposable gowns, while behind the scenes, there’ll be increased cleaning of salons and more laundry runs for the washing of towels and non-disposable gowns.

Suzy Lombard, who runs SL Hair Design in Marino, Dublin, explains the differences her customers will experience from Monday.

“Clients are going to have their temperatures taken at the door,” she tells TheJournal.ie.

“As soon as they come in, they’re going to be given a form to fill out – kind of like a questionnaire – asking if they’ve been abroad or near anyone with Covid symptoms recently.”

Lombard expects to be busy from Monday, but adds that this is partly because many of her bookings have to be spaced out, in order to ensure there are a limited amount of people in her salon at one time to enable social distancing.

Cost of re-opening

Unsurprisingly, Lombard is not the only one who’s seen a surge in demand ahead of Monday’s grand re-opening.

John Keegan, who runs The Academy Barber and The Academy Belle Hairdressing with his wife in Celbridge and Maynooth in Co Kildare, says that he has no availability for the first ten days he is open.

“We’re completely booked up,” he says. “But it’s given us a bit of a nest egg to invest into our shops ahead of re-opening, because we imagine as we come into August, demand is going to drop again.”

Keegan outlines how he has spent around €18,000 on installing protective measures, such as screens at basin areas, and on things like hand sanitation units in his three stores.

However, he says it’s not a cost he will be passing on to his customers.

“We won’t be changing our prices at all, because I felt it isn’t customers’ fault they couldn’t get their hair done,” he said.

“And everybody’s kind of nervous about money because let’s be honest, things haven’t been great in the last while.

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“We’re gonna do it at the same price, because at the end of the day, our clients will appreciate that and they’ll come back to us.”

But earlier this week, it emerged that some clients can in fact expect price increases when they return to their salon or barber.

Margaret O’Rourke Doherty, CEO of the Hair and Beauty Industry Confederation, told TheJournal.ie that the costs incurred by businesses to implement measures that allow them to re-open are significant.

“There are all of those costs that are hidden and that the public can’t see, but which an industry can’t carry,” she explained.

“A lot of this cost is before the doors even open, and on top of massive debts already built up in the system, as is happening in other industries.”

O’Rourke Doherty noted that some small salons were expecting to pay almost €1,500 a week on PPE, and said the majority of salons she surveyed had no choice but to pass extra costs on to customers because they are unable to take the hit themselves.

“All of these businesses closed in the national interest and now they have a real issue trying to get themselves back up again,” she said.

“But on the whole, most clients are actually happy to pay the PPE charge because they understand that salons are taking their hygiene and their health extremely seriously.”

Whether such costs will continue in the long-term remains to be seen. Right now though, getting re-styled seems to be the main concern.

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