While my confidence no longer adheres to a root touch-up, I’m craving to get some downtime at a salon and a nail studio. And it’s not just me. It’s been 60 days since India has been on lockdown as CO-VID19 took more than 3435 lives. Unlike Europe, the US and UK, salon treatments are NOT that expensive in India. Walk-ins, friendly banter and a willingness to accommodate many treatments in one session was a part of the salon culture. Now? Not so much. While salons are in the process of resuming services, things are not quite going to be the same.
In this blog on Be For Beauty, I talk about the new normal of the beauty business with insights from some of the busiest players in personal grooming. Here’s what the new normal looks like in these uncertain times.
Let’s be clear; not all beauty salons and nail studios are opening.
Gurgaon was one of the first few to reopen the shutters of salons in green and orange areas last week. With no income, many newspapers have reported lakhs of losses by salons, while businesses still continued to pay for infrastructure including rent, supplies and staff.
So what would be a big chain’s plan? Do you reopen all branches, cut your losses or start slow? For starters, not all may open soon. When I asked Mr. Rajiv Nair, Group CEO, Kaya Limited aka Kaya Skin Clinics about their plans, he said “We are planning a calibrated launch starting with 5 clinics in Bangalore around the end of May 2020. We have put in place some stringent policies on social distancing & would like to pilot them for a week in Bangalore before we scale up clinics in other cities.”
Jean Claude Biguine just announced the reopening of their salon in Bangalore via Instagram while YTG salons, a start-up salon chain based in Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore plans to reopen all outlets on May 20.
Walk-Ins Are A Thing Of The Past: Appointments are the first step to safety.
In happier times, I used to walk 200 meters from my house, into a salon with Day 3 hair, for an impromptu blowout. There were so many things I liked about that scenario. Not only did I have the option of multiple salons, but also the opportunity to get multiple treatments if I wanted… that’s all changed.
Kaya Skin Clinics (95 clinics pan India), Schwarzkopf Professional (6000 salons pan India), Blossom Kochhar Aroma Magic (7 salons in North India), You Look Good or YLG Salons (56 salons in South India), have all confirmed that all customers will be called by appointments only.
“Typically, we will be servicing 1 client in an area,” explains Mrs. Vaijayanti Bhalchandra, co-founder and CTO of YLG Salons & Institut. “For example, for hair spas and manicure/pedicure rooms, only one customer will be serviced at a time. Similarly, alternate seats will be occupied at hair stations,” she says.
Social Distancing Means Reduced Capacity. Which Means Longer Wait Time For Customers and A Slower Road To Recovery
Given the need for social distancing, it isn’t possible for most salons to operate at 100% capacity as of now.
“There will be no customer in waiting since there’ll be limited pre-booked customers at one time to ensure that all necessary precautions are implemented,” says Ms Sheetu Gupta, Owner, Ozone The Luxury Salon, a chain based in New Delhi.
“We have the clinics open for 6 hours for a few weeks and limit up to 2 clients seated at the reception at any point in time. We will stagger our appointments accordingly,” Rajiv Nair, Group CEO, Kaya Limited (Kaya Skin Clinics).
Which not only means that you may have to wait longer to get an appointment, but also a slower recovery for the beauty business.
Slower, but safer.
Speaking of safety, what are the protocols put in place?
The New Normal: Disinfecting, PPEs, Temperature Checks and More
Melissa Hughe, Technical Head, Schwarzkopf Professional shares, “Now that the lockdown is relaxed in some zones in India, it is important to let customers know we are ready for them. All our salon partners have adopted deep cleaning measures and very high hygiene standards to make sure safety for you and them remains intact. In addition, all our salon partners (6000 of them), will undergo rigorous and regular checkups on their cleanliness and sanitation as per the government guidelines.”
Apart from this, UV sanitisation of rooms after each service as well as disinfection of new services (Yay, Lizol!) is the pandemic’s definition of sexy.
While interviewing experts for the story, I was expecting disinfection of all salons along with masks and PPE, face shields and goggles for their staff, but there will be equal checks for customers too. In addition to temperature checks, travel history, some salons are also providing shoe covers, and shields if needed.
Training Initiatives & Programmes
This time also calls for support from bigger brands. One such brand is L’Oréal Professionnel who have 45,000 salons and 170,000 hairdressers in their network pan-India. Their brands (including L’Oréal Professionnel) Matrix, Kérastase and Cheryl’s Cosmeceuticals are widely used and sold across the country.
With their initiative called “Back To Business”, L’Oréal aims to help train with sanitary measures, supplies, hand sanitizers alongside the new operating guidelines. D. P. Sharma, Director, L’Oréal Professionnel Products Division, said, “we are committed, now more than ever, to our role as partner and advocate of the hairdressing industry and will continue to work tirelessly to lessen the impact of this crisis on them.”
Domestic brand Godrej Professional launched a Salon Suraksha Program with the objective of helping the industry get back on its feet. Heena Dalvi, National Technical Head – Godrej Professional said “We’ve managed to bring experts on salon operations, sanitisation and hygiene to hand-hold salons as they resume their services. The brand has harnessed the capabilities of the digital medium to offer real-time online training certification to salon personnel on safety guidelines to be followed.”
Digital Payments And E-Prescriptions
Most beauty businesses are already encouraging digital payments via Google Pay, PayTM etc. to avoid contact. Clinics like Kaya Skin as well as dermatologists, are expected to make most of e-prescriptions and video follow-ups, to minimise client visitations unless necessary.
What About Staying In And Calling Them Over? At-Home Beauty Services
I spoke to Mayank Arya Co-founder – Yes Madam, an at-home beauty service provider whose service model, is similar to UrbanClap. “As per the guidelines of MHA, we have already started serving our customers in orange and green zones of Gurgaon and Ghaziabad. In the coming few days, we will be starting services in Delhi, Noida and Bangalore too,” he disclosed. While he said it’s safer for them to go home to their clients, they are not booking more than 2-3 slots per staff as of now. “For the safety of our clients, we have set 13 safety principles, including training for safe practise, disposable kits, PPE kits for staff and Aarogya Setu app – these are mandatory for service providers.”
Kudos for effort, I say. However, it’s equally essential for you to disinfect surfaces before and after when someone’s coming home for a grooming session.
Can I go get my facial and nail extensions?
If you’ve ever gotten nail extensions done, you know it takes over an hour. I spoke to Misha Chakraborty, founder of Mishka Nail Studio, Kolkata which falls under the red zone but has gotten permission to reopen from the local authorities. “Apart from deep cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces, we have invested in N-95 masks for our employees. Apart from disposable tools, all tools like nail drills, UV lights will be sterilised before and after use,” says Mishka.
Longer treatments are still off the radar for some players. According to a story in Hindustan Times, most salons are sticking to smaller treatments like cut, colour, and waxing etc.
“We will not start facials and laser hair removal for the face area, to begin with. At Kaya, we will first build safe protocols, and once these are tested, we will resume longer services,” says Nair.
Thanks for reading! Stay safe.