The harsh reality of COVID-19 lockdown measures are, for some businesses, really starting to bite. Customer facing industries such as travel, hospitality, and professional beauty have undoubtedly had to navigate rockier waters than many companies that can solider on during the stay-at-home rules. But as lockdown measures begin to be lifted, there is a possible resurgence of business on the horizon. However, will it be enough to mitigate the SOS call from the aforementioned professional beauty industry? A call for help that has undoubtedly been reverberating across the world, has enough been done to ensure the longevity of the market? It seems from the global outcry of professionals within the industry, the answer is no.
Over in Mumbai, salon owners are protesting against their exclusion from the country’s Mission Begin Again campaign, even prepared to do jail bharo agitation if their peaceful protests don’t result in action, similarly U.S. nail salons are threatening to sue if they’re not allowed to reopen soon. And the outrage is reaching South Africa too, with hairdressers in the country taking matters into their own hands by making house calls and working from the side of the road in order to continue operating and bring in much-needed income.
But it’s not just the businesses themselves kicking out – consumers are also taking to increasingly elaborate measures to voice their dismay. Nay, even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shocked audiences with a new haircut amidst lockdown, obviously failing to abide by his own social distancing rules – or doing a successful DIY job. Meanwhile some, according to the Los Angeles Times, have taken their desire for fresh locks even further, having travelled 600 miles for a haircut, while celebrity hair stylist Julian Farel has amassed a 1000-strong waitlist ahead of the salon’s reopening. It wasn’t so peaceful in Michigan, Texas and Connecticut, however, where haircut demonstrations have been taking place with consumers holding placards emblazoned with statements such as ‘End Tyranny’ on the side.
The kickback from the business closures is clear, so what has been the overriding government response to the professional beauty crisis? Well, there’s the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loans, available to companies with fewer than 500 employees, with The Federal Reserve having kickstarted its Main Street Lending Program for small and mid-size businesses, which targets companies of up to 15,000 staff, with loans varying from $250,000 to $300 million. However, for many the action is deemed too little and offered too late.
But while many governments may to many not be stepping up to the plate as earnestly as they should, it seems like brands working in the professional beauty industry are working hard to enable as many professional beauty establishments as possible to weather the storm. L’Oréal has been notably forthcoming in its offerings. The French beauty giant has donated $1.08 million to the UAE fight against the great virus crisis (GVC), supporting its suppliers and salon partners through a range of initiatives, with the company having been helping out in France too, having pledged to donate three million masks and 121,000 400ml bottles to salons, as well as offering the use of free technology. Over the pond, L’Oréal USA also announced an extension to its L’Oréal USA Gives Back initiative, with the launch of new community commitments in partnership with the Professional Beauty Association (PBA).
Other companies have been stepping up to the plate too; Coty’s Professional Beauty division set up a fund of some US$200,000 to help beauty businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis, with hairstylists and manicurists able to apply for US$1000 grants via the existing Hairdresser at Heart program, while Schwarzkopf Professional aimed to help ‘inspire’ and ‘sustain the global hairdressing community through the launch of its HelpYourSalon.com Hairdresser Support Initiative back in April. The site allows businesses to sell vouchers to consumers, which can be redeemed once they are allowed to trade again. And it wasn’t just those in the industry – Google has also been putting its hand in its pocket. Back in April Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, said, “As the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen around the world, it’s taking a devastating toll on lives and communities. To help address some of these challenges, today we’re announcing a new $800+ million commitment to support small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), health organizations and governments, and health workers on the frontline of this global pandemic.”
You would hope, therefore, that will the government aid and the assistance from brands, the industry can pick up where it left off, with a slew of dedicated consumers at its fingertips. However, as highlighted by the Irish Spa Association, which has called on the government to help salons and spas source adequate PPE should the date for reopening be bought forward, the reopening stage brings about a plethora of problems of its own. It seems that while business may be tentatively opening up again, it’s SOS call is not yet over.