The electricity crisis in South Africa is seeing salons having to work around consistent power cuts several times a day.
Says Ayesha Rajah of Urban Bliss in Emmarentia: “Luckily, we already had a massive generator on the property, but we have had to become a bit wiser in explaining to clients why we sometimes have to juggle them. My main problem is that the Eskom load shedding schedule is never consistent. However, we haven’t had to turn away any guests yet.”
Rajah is short-running the generator during load-shedding and only uses it for the facial steamer and mag lamp. For massage treatments, the hot caddy is on for 15 minutes before that only. Other than that, candles are used for illumination during treatments. A serious problem is having to boil a kettle for pedicures as that really drains the generator.
“In terms of business, we are literally just breaking even, what with the normal electricity bill (which has just gone up) and the generator costs,” explains Rajah. “The outlay of money to run the generator is huge and if you are not doing a high volume of treatments, then you are lost. We can’t increase our prices anymore because our clients can’t afford it. Consequently, we have been running lots of specials just to break even and are now even offering food to guests, as an alternative way to generate income.”
Rajah is currently investing in two 5KWh batteries and an inverter for the steamers and kettle. Once the salon returns to profit, she will consider solar panels.
Gina Gall of The Professional Skin Care Lab in Parktown North recently installed 12 solar panels, two batteries and an inverter to run her business during load shedding. She explains: “Obviously this was a huge investment but our generator was problematic. Apart from being noisy and smelly, my poor staff were being driven mad by having to run outside all the time to switch the generator on and off and connect and disconnect everything, and they were always concerned about running out of diesel.
“Furthermore, we could only use certain machines with the generator, and some of this equipment was getting damaged because of the different power outputs. Plus, with the generator on, I could only use either lights or plugs, not both. This severely affected my business as I had to cancel some clients and shuffle others around.”
Gall notes that she had several suppliers come to the salon to quote on an alternative power solution. “I received some ridiculously high quotes – possibly they thought that because I was a woman they could quote me R1million for a system! Eventually I found a very good and cost effective company which did my installation. Honestly, this was the best thing I could have done as I don’t think the Eskom situation is going to get better any time soon. With this system, I can run my business with little disruption, although I don’t run the geyser, tumble dryer and swimming pool pump during load shedding. Apart from this, we are able to run everything else in the salon, as well as our hair salon and the aesthetics doctor’s rooms.
“If I hadn’t made this investment I think my business would have really gone down, plus it was affecting my mental health as well as that of my staff. I believe all business owners need to look at solutions like this otherwise their businesses will really suffer. I am so glad I made this investment, considerable though it was.”
Load shedding has impacted Dolce Vita Beauty Centre in Randpark Ridge in terms of how many bookings it can take at any given time, especially when the Eskom load shedding schedule changes without warning.
Says owner Kym Stafford: “We have all had to come to the realization that load shedding is here to stay and that it is not going anywhere, so we have to change our businesses, change our mindsets, and make sure we are able to cope with the situation.
“I had a generator installed as it was the most feasible option at the time in terms of investment costs. Obviously the initial cost of setting up a generator, connecting it into your DB board and building the housing for it is quite significant, but because we run a lot of machines in the salon, I need quite a lot of power. However, certain things can’t always run on a generator because they are so draining, such as hairdryers, kettles and air conditioners. For the future, I am considering a hybrid grid of solar (plus inverter) for certain things and then will use the generator for others.
“We are a small to medium size business and are spending about R1,500 a week on diesel for the generator. This is a cost that is not always factored into treatment prices as much as it should be as our clients’ budgets have tightened, so we do take a hit.
“The switchovers from load shedding to non-load shedding are supposedly automatic but it does take a couple of minutes to kick in, making you late for your appointments.”
Winnifreda Makombe of YouBar in Illovo is using UPS batteries for backup power in the salon to power the lights and computer during electricity cuts.
She continues: “The problem is that there is really not enough time between load shedding to recharge the batteries – it’s takes 12 hours to fully charge the batteries. We are looking at getting new batteries as ours only seem to have power for an hour.
“During load shedding we can do nails (as the lamps are battery powered) and facials. When the lights go off we use rechargeable LED lanterns. The only thing that we can’t do during load shedding is waxing, as it draws too much power to heat the wax pots. So we do have to reschedule our waxing clients. A big problem for us is when we have load shedding for four consecutive hours. Some clients phone up and want a treatment as soon as possible and are not prepared to fit into the load shedding schedule.”
Hines & Harley in Parkhurst was designed to function without power. Says founder Jared Hines: “All of our equipment either does not need power or has chargeable batteries. So thankfully load shedding has not affected us as severely as other businesses. However, we did make the decision to install a generator just to give our clients a more comfortable experience.” (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)