Coronavirus: Uncertain future for salons and barbers across the country

Some are expecting a drop in clientele, while others are predicting a boom, but with significant changes in the way thousands of hairdressers and barbers across New Zealand work.

Niq James, chairman of the New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers, said only 55 per cent of the country’s stylists were qualified.

The association was concerned that many of those unqualified workers already did not follow adequate health and safety regulations, and so would find it difficult to adapt to an even more health-conscious environment.

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“We’re not keeping people safe, people do get a little bit lax. We’re working with skin and razor blades, colouring is now a lot more sophisticated and requires a higher level [of care].”

Many hairdressers, who work with their hands and in close proximity to clients, would be fearful of coming into contact with the virus.

James said salons may implement rules where clients were even further apart than before the lockdown. Staff may also be required to only stay behind clients, instead of in front, to reduce the risk of droplet spread.

But changes restricting connection between people would be difficult for an industry run by creative and social people.

“Being told to stay home all of a sudden is hard … the average age is about 27 for a hairdresser. But we’re like a family, we’ll get through it.”

Wellington’s JAM Hair said it would be taking extra steps to ensure cleanliness, including increasing frequency of cleaning and sanitising  of equipment, particularly with its high-touch areas – handrails, counters, Eftpos machines.

Hand sanitiser would be provided to clients, and for added protection, each client would now have a disposable cape to prevent cross-infection.

Melissa Janse van Rensburg, from Lower Hutt’s Shazly Experience, said the industry’s survival would rely on people supporting businesses when they’re back up and running.

Salons were already finding novel ways to retain and engage with clients – like posting videos online of how people could prepare for Zoom meetings, how to disguise regrowth and best at-home hairstyles.

Janse van Rensburg said she was working round-the-clock to reschedule appointments for when the lockdown was over.

Melissa Stemp, a hairdressing tutor at Premier Institute of Education, said it had concerns about the training of current and future students.

Kay Nelson, chief executive of New Zealand Hair and Beauty Training Organisation, said like the rest of the industry, it was hoping the temporary closure of workplaces wouldn’t last long.

“Hairdressers and barbers will be busy when they reopen and apprentices will be more valuable than ever, so we’re encouraging them to keep up their skills and explore new ways to enhance their knowledge.”

Post time: Apr-23-2020
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