A snapshot survey of salons conducted just before the new Covid variant was announced on 25 November revealed varying degrees of treatment and retail business over the past three months.
The number of in in-store beauty treatments for the Sorbet Group of salons has increased since September, according to Sorbet CEO, Linda Sinclair. She continued: “As our guests are now out and about more than before, we have seen an influx of treatment business. Male grooming has been the most resilient category, but retail sales have not fully recovered yet. Supporting consumers’ ever changing beauty routines and requirements remains a critical part of our retail growth strategy.
“Educating our Sorbet Citizens about the importance of getting vaccinated and supporting government’s drive to get South Africans vaccinated is our core focus over the holiday season and beyond.”
She noted that strict hygiene protocols remain a part of Sorbet’s daily operational processes to ensure that guests feel safe and are protected in the stores.
Alchemy Skin & Body in Graaff-Reinet has experienced a surge in business since spring. Said owner Corli Schoeman: “The classic grooming and gearing up towards warmer weather has seen pedicures and waxing greatly improve, while in October, ladies brightened their nails and toes in various pinks in support of breast cancer awareness. This was a big success with a portion of proceeds donated to Pink Trees for Paulin.
“We have seen a shift in retail as customers now regard salon products as personal care rather than luxury goods. I’ve fortunately been able to maintain a healthy split between services and retail, the latter generally overtaking. As we approach the end of the year, we can reflect on a year of growth with many highlights and wonderful new clients to welcome back in 2022.”
Esna Colyn of the Imbalie Group (Placecol Skin Care Centres, Perfect10 and DreamNails) reported that these salons have experienced ‘green shoots and overall positive growth for our group’.
She continued: “This is despite the fact that July was a very difficult trading month, especially for the KwaZulu-Natal region due to the rioting. We have just concluded our national annual awards functions and summits for all our salon owners and the overall mood of our salon owners is positive.”
Colyn reveals that the Imablie Beauty Group is in the process of delisting and will in future be known as the i-BLOOM group, in line with the i-BLOOM magazine and Academy that Imbalie launched in 2020.
Gina Gall of the multi award-winning Professional Skin Care Lab has had some clients phoning to check if her staff are vaccinated before making bookings. “My staff and I are fully vaccinated,” commented Gall, “and some clients only come in once they are double-vaccinated themselves.
“July 2021 was our absolutely worst month since the Covid era, but there has been a steady increase of 8% in turnover each month – this is compared to our Covid figures and not what we made pre-Covid.”
Many of Gall’s clients have emigrated overseas or moved to the Cape as they are able to work remotely. “There are some new word-of-mouth clients and others whose previous salons closed down. We’ve become considerably more active on social media since Covid, plus we’ve run more specials than ever before and revived our loyalty schemes.
“In the past, longstanding clients have said that they come to the salon because of what I do for their skin and not because of specials, but now these very same people are wanting specials and loyalty points. It’s clear that people have less disposable cash and even those with a disposable income have been cutting back, so we have seen a reduction in business. People are definitely making their products last longer. In mid-November we experienced a sudden explosion in bookings but things quietened down soon after,” explained Gall.
When lockdown first happened last year, Marisha Pawlak of Crystal Clear Skin Care Clinic in Parkwood decided to revamp her online shop, which hadn’t really been working until then.
“I changed my website developer and sales really took off,” stated Pawlak. “Just as well because treatment business even to this day remains only 30% of what it was prior to Covid. A lot of clients who used to come in for regular treatments now just come in to buy products. Because the retail aspect of the salon is so strong, I’m always looking for new results-based products and I offer a big selection of brands for clients to choose from. I’ve noticed that some new people have come into the salon, who are friends of existing customers so clearly word of mouth is having a positive impact.
“Treatment business increased temporarily in October and our doctor-performed aesthetic treatments are always fully booked as clients are wanting instant results.”
Pawlak has noticed that ever since lockdown, her relationship with clients has become closer. “Clients were actually phoning me on my cell phone during hard lockdown and I had to sit down and ascertain the specific needs of each and every one of my clients. My business is over 10 years old and many of my clients have stayed with me for all of that time,” she commented.
Waxing and pedicures prevail
Pieter Olivier of the long-established The Beauty Clinic in East London has found that treatment business is still down compared to pre-Covid, but that there is a fair amount of waxing and pedicures.
“Clients are still wary of coming in for facials because of the very close contact required for these services but I do see signs of some green shoots in terms of treatment business picking up. Our biggest problem is lack of therapists – since Covid we’ve gone down from 13 therapists to just four. My wife and the clinic’s founder – Gwen Pietersma – and I have ascertained that a lot of therapists who left salons in the Covid era are now doing treatments at home and some may be operating below the radar. Gwen believes some of these therapists are not adhering to normal therapist rules, such has having short, un-varnished nails. The therapists who now have home salons are not likely to have enough capital to hold stock for retail purposes and some of them are offering treatments at ridiculously low prices.
“Last year during lockdown we opened a gift shop adjacent to the clinic and it’s thriving. We’ve even added tea tasting to our offering, which we combine with pedicures. Sales of our top salon brands are going well, mostly driven by our head therapist, Julie Blue, who has been with us for 24 years,” concludes Olivier. (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)