Beauty salon franchisor, the Sorbet Group, will make R7 million worth of food vouchers available over the next two months to approximately 3,500 employees of its franchisees.
Linda Sinclair, Sorbet CEO-designate, says the relief measures have been welcomed by Sorbet Group franchisees and their employees around the country, whose income has been hard-hit by the national lockdown.
Small businesses around the world have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, but some have been disproportionately affected. The hair and beauty industry in South Africa comprises around 15,000 formal and informal establishments that together employ tens of thousands of staff.
Sinclair says Sorbet has been similarly impacted. “The total number of Sorbet stores currently stands at 220, just four of which are company-owned. Most Sorbet stores are owner-managed by individual women, who are solely dependent on their stores as a source of income. These small business owners are truly invested in creating jobs, growing the economy and building a better South Africa for all.
“We are a proud South African business and we have been supportive of the work our government is doing to protect us. At the same time, we are in daily contact with our franchise owners who relate experiences of hardship and fear from employees, who have significantly reduced income.
"The Sorbet Group employs approximately 3,500 workers, who are predominantly from previously disadvantaged and poorer communities. Sorbet’s employees are skilled labourers – trained as either beauty therapists, nail technicians, hair stylists or barbers. Our employees are often the sole breadwinners in their households, and their financial responsibility therefore extends to their broader families, comprising around 20,000 people.”
Sinclair says that the response from employees to the relief measures, has provided a moving and heartfelt motivation to Sorbet’s leadership, as well as that of parent company, Long4Life, to continue engaging government about an accelerated and responsible re-opening of the industry.
“These extraordinary times require that we examine our business and society through the lens of caring. Behind all the statistics and numbers of infection and hardship are mothers, fathers, sisters and children with names and unique stories and we want to ensure that they are able to feed themselves and their families during this exceptionally difficult period, and that we retain their incredible services.”
Raoul Rhagosingh, a barber at Sorbet Man in Johannesburg comments, “When I found out that Sorbet is offering a grocery voucher, I felt a sense of relief. We are in a situation where getting our full salaries is not an option, so therefore we are unable to do all the things we used to do before lockdown. The voucher is going to help me in more ways than just providing food for my family. I will be able to focus on other factors in my life which needed financial attention and this voucher ticked one stressor off my list.”
Nail technician at Sorbet Nails, Yvette Ndaba, adds: “I really appreciate the food voucher as it will feed me and my family in this tough time.”
Trading post lockdown
Sinclair says that while it is impossible to establish exactly what trading will look like in a post-lockdown scenario, the way the industry does business will be irrevocably changed.
She notes, however, that the hair and beauty industry (inclusive of the Sorbet Group), prides itself in already applying strict hygiene standards that are paramount to the operation of the industry. The Sorbet Group runs on an appointment basis, which enables franchise owners to manage and restrict the number of guests that are in store at any given time, thus supporting the social distancing requirements for trade.
Further to already existing stringent hygiene processes and protocols and in compliance with the government’s efforts to avoid the spread of COVID-19, Sorbet will be implementing comprehensive additional hygiene protocols and safety measures across all stores on opening.
Once trading commences, Sorbet will diligently monitor the compliance and implementation of all hygiene protocols as part of its operational standards. These additional hygiene protocols will form part of the continuous training for all franchisees and employees.
“There is nothing more important to the Sorbet Group than the health and wellbeing of our guests and staff. It is the bedrock on which our business is built. Our purpose is to put people – the tens of thousands empowered by their work in this industry – before profit. We are deeply committed to continuing to fulfil this purpose responsibly, compassionately and safely. We will reach a point however, if nothing can be done, at which the industry itself will be altered beyond recognition, with the livelihoods of tens of thousands at stake”, concludes Sinclair.