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Reopened salons experience lower footfall than expected

Lotus Mind Body Skincare Corp treatment room

Several beauty salons all over South Africa reopened last week, following Government’s publication of the strict protocols necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among staff and clients.

Having been in lockdown since 27 March, salons were expecting a deluge of clients who had been starved of beauty and nail treatments for almost three months. For the most part, this was not the case, suggesting that clients may still, at this stage, be wary of entering the salon environment.

Says Pieter Olivier of The Beauty Clinic in East London: “It has been a stressful time for us and the whole industry. Many salons in East London have closed down permanently. We opened on Thursday, 25 June, having spent the three days prior preparing for the opening. On the Monday we had a staff meeting, on Tuesday we had the salon fogged, and on Wednesday we put all the PPE in place, namely the shields, masks, visors, etc.

“I must say that we expected a bigger flow of clients through our doors than we got. Reflexology and waxing have done well but retail sales are poor at the moment. It will take a long time to build up the business again.

“We’ve had to cut our cloth to survive and our 18 staff members have to understand this as they’ve been put on short time and on shifts. Because of the new protocols, you can’t have too many people in the salon at once, so the maximum number of therapists in the salon at one time is three, but they each need to be fully booked. Only one therapist may work on one client at a time. Nobody is allowed in the kitchen at all and we don’t serve beverages to clients anymore.”

Olivier has added an extra half hour between appointments to allow for sanitisation. There are no more blankets or towels in the salon, everything used is disposable.

Bev Courtney of Grace Skin & Wellness in Parkmore Johannesburg reports that business was quieter than predicted last week. She continues: “I think people are still a bit afraid to come into salons. At clients’ requests, we have made a few house calls to do treatments as they said they did not feel comfortable to come back to salons yet. Some clients who have come into the salon requested to enter through the back door and go straight into a treatment room.

“My bookings for next week look promising but it’s been a challenging time for us all. While I was forced to retrench one or two staff members, I’m grateful that I was able to pay the TERS (Temporary Employment Relief Scheme) UIF to the rest of my staff.”

Louise Pitot of Body Orchestra in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg has been practicing from home since last week. “During lockdown so many clients were asking when I was going to start facials again, and now that I’ve actually opened, it’s clear that they are feeling wary about coming back. I did have a few clients this week and have a few next week, but I did think that I would be busier. However, it’s not like I’ve been pushing the issue – I’ve let clients know that I’m here for when they decide they would like to come.

“I also do coaching, so I space my clients in between the coaching to give me time to sanitise and disinfect my treatment room and equipment in between.”

Rebookings a challenge

Corli Schoeman of Alchemy Skin & Body in Graaff Reinet spent a week in the salon doing retail before opening for treatments. “There is a big focus among women on personal care in this town and retail was our saviour during lockdown,” she says. “Our first week of doing treatments was good and we thank God for that. However, we’ve noticed that clients who normally rebook immediately after a treatment haven’t done so this time. Just a few of my older clients have rebooked. Despite our efforts in trying to get clients to rebook, a lot of them haven’t been able to commit. It’s not because there isn’t spend available, it’s to do with the schools situation, as most kids will only be back at their hostels on 6 July. Normally, our biggest business is on a Monday and Friday, this is when clients drop off their kids and then pick them up for the weekend. Now that pattern has been disrupted.”

Interestingly, Schoeman notes that the salon’s retail figures in May were the highest they’ve ever been. “But the first 21 days in June were very tough though, I think because more shops in town were open, so consumers had a bigger choice of where to spend their money.

“In terms of our bookings going forward, we now lose between one to two clients a day due to the necessary intervals between clients for all the safety & hygiene protocols we have implemented. However, this has been a blessing in disguise as it’s allowed the girls to ease back into their work and new protocols. After such a long time away from the salon, you do get a bit rusty.

“I believe that getting through this challenging time is all about attitude and spreading a positive message that we can survive this. My feeling is that while the pandemic is still very much here and will likely be for the next year at least, everyone is so over it. So we don’t discuss it in the salon among staff or clients, but that doesn’t mean I’m not blasé about it, believe me. On Monday afternoon we did a fogging session of the salon so I filmed it and posted it on social media and the response was amazing.”

Jared Hines of Hines & Harley Men’s Grooming Lounge in Johannesburg reports that last week the salon had a ‘soft’ reopening. “It has been good thus far. We are slowly going through all our requests for bookings, but next week is filling up on a daily basis. We will most likely be fully booked soon.”

Signature COVID menu

Sue Wenger of Lotus Mind Body Skincare Corp in Edenvale created a signature specialist menu for her salon’s reopening, with catchy treatment names such as: ‘Cure the corona blues’; ‘Unlock yourself’; and ‘Happy to be back’.

Says Wenger: “In March 2020, COVID-19 stopped us in our tracks and due to a loyal following, we already had bookings up to and including June 2020. Now, we have finally reopened after many months of waiting patiently. Our first week was rather different due to the fact that all product purchases and therapy treatments require a strict booking schedule. We have booked 30 minutes before and after each client to ensure that we deeply sanitise and sterilise all areas of the practice.

“I personally am booked for the next for four weeks, and my other ladies have many bookings among them. We have had a couple of high risk clients deferring their appointments to August and September. While we absolutely agree with their wise decision, we miss them like mad.”

Franchise group

Sorbet stores around the country opened on 23 June. Says the Sorbet head office: “Stores have been sufficiently busy over the last few days, particularly Sorbet Man stores as well as Sorbet stores for treatments such as manicures and waxing. Stringent social distancing measures are in place.

“However, numbers are down somewhat relative to this period last year because only half the number of guests are allowed in a store at a time. Staff are working on a rotational shift basis. The Sorbet team is conscious not to book too many appointments at once so as to encourage safe social distancing and ensure the highest of hygiene measures.

“We have found that our guests are satisfied that the additional stringent hygiene protocols that we have implemented allow them to enjoy their treatments in a safe salon environment.” (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)

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