Who did you miss most during the first lockdown? Friends and family aside, we bet your hairdresser was top of your list. It didn't go unnoticed just how quickly salons pivoted to help us in our months of need, with online trimming tutorials and emergency root colour care packages, as well as speedily investing in making their spaces safe for us to return.
"Throughout lockdown, I realised that hair is so much more important to people than I ever realised," says top salon owner George Northwood. "We have had to adapt to this new environment we find ourselves in."
With salons so dear to us, it’s shocking to learn that 41 per cent of UK hair salons (that's around 20,000) say they are unsure whether they’ll survive past Christmas, according to the National Hair and Beauty Federation . But help is in short supply. While the hospitality industry had its VAT cut from 20 per cent to five in July to help out pubs and restaurants, the hairdressing industry has received no such government support.
Now the British Beauty Council's 'Chop the VAT' campaign is calling on the government to cut salon taxes in line with the help that the hospitality industry has received. “We feel that the only solution to long term recovery [for hair salons] is to abolish or reduce the VAT that is a huge burden to these businesses,” says Millie Kendall, its CEO. “Salons traditionally run on quite low margins so the impact of having to reduce their clientele by half due to social distancing and the additional cost of PPE, coupled with the lockdowns has slashed this already slim margin.”
"Some hairdressers are down up to 80 per cent in clients while still managing the huge overheads of running bricks and mortar stores. It's estimated 10 per cent of salons have already closed following lockdown," says Sonia Haria, board member of The British Beauty Council .
An informal survey by Josh Wood Colour in October 2020, found that more than a third of salon visitors had not returned to salons in the UK since lockdown.
"Hair salons provide thousands of jobs. Over 80 per rcent are women, well over half are under the age of 34," Josh told Sonia Haria. "Bad business for salons is bad news for women and young people."
Our hairdressers are there to support us when we need them, so what can we do for them right now?
1. Share the #ChoptheVAT hashtag on your social media channels
Follow the #ChoptheVAT hashtag and repost where you can, advises Laura Husband, editor of professional hairdressing magazine Hairdressers Journal . “The more support the hair and barber industry receive, the more likely it is the UK Government will take notice.”
2. Share your hair cut or colour on social media
“Share images on your social media accounts featuring your gorgeous professional hair cut or hair colour and tag your hair salon or hairdresser in your posts," adds Laura. "This will help hair salons to get new clients through their doors as soon as they can reopen."
3. Use 'word of mouth' power
Tell your friends about your favourite hairdresser during your Whatsapp chats or Zoom calls, says Laura. "Spread the love, as nothing beats a referral from a trusted friend.”
"Much of hairdressing new business comes through a version of word of mouth," adds Ricky Walters, founder of Soho's Salon 64 . "Either a direct recommendation from a client to client or digitally via Instagram. Be proud of your hairdresser and shout their name from the rooftops. Whether you have a small or large following on social media it only takes one follower to like what they see and book in."
4. Shop for a professional hair treatment from your salon
Many salons and freelance hairdressers are selling professional hair products such as root touch-up kits and salon-quality shampoo and conditioner to their clients while their doors are closed either via their website or through their social channels. “You can message your stylist to ask if they are selling products at the moment,” suggests Laura. “This is a win-win as the products on offer will be professional quality and your hairdresser will know exactly what is right for your hair and will be able to show you how to apply the products as well as how often to use them for the best results. Plus, it’s money in their pockets while they’re unable to open.”
5. Buy hair gift sets as Christmas presents
If you’re stuck as to what to buy for Christmas gifts, don't just turn to Amazon or big high street retailers, consider for a gift set from your salon - they are often beautifully boxed too. “Ask your hairdresser for their expert advice on which ones would be best for each person’s specific hair type,” says Laura.
6. Make an appointment deposit or block book
“When bookings open for December, fix your next two appointments in advance [to guarantee future income],” suggests London hairstylist Michael van Clarke, who has a salon in Marylebone.
“If you really want to help your hair salon or hairdresser, ask them if you can give a booking deposit ahead of your next appointment,” adds Laura. “Hair salons can’t afford to have clients cancelling when they reopen so this will give them some added financial security and a guarantee that you will be attending your next appointment as soon as you can.”
7. Book an at-home cut after lockdown
If you're not comfortable about travelling to your appointment even when restrictions are lifted, ask whether your hairdresser has an at-home service. George Northwood pivoted to offer this out of his London salon in September after he noticed that some clients were still wary of returning. "The service now enables our clients the choice of having their hair done at home if they don’t feel comfortable visiting the salon. I think the future of hairdressing will be a real mix of in-salon and at-home services, and I feel strongly about pivoting the business towards the ‘at home’ culture which I think will be here to stay, for the next year at least," he tells us.
The service, where your stylist arrives with full PPE, is open Tuesday to Saturday in London Zones 1 to 3 for now, with certain stylists assigned to certain postcodes and a £50 add on call-out fee. Currently colour is not available at home as it's a more specialised service. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. Talk to your hairdresser and ask how you can help
Every hair salon, barbershop and freelance hairdresser is different so if you’re not sure the best way to help – ask. “It could be that your hairdresser is running an online tutorial and would love you to encourage your friends to tune in," she says. If their tutorials are on Youtube they can earn a small amount of revenue from advertising. "They might want you to fill in a survey to find out what is missing from their salon menu so they can make tweaks to it ahead of 2021,” says Laura.
Follow the British Beauty Council on Instagram to stay up to date with the #ChopTheVAT campaign