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Salons consider passing on “COVID cost” to customers

by Arun Shirishkar

The pandemic has struck a wrong chord for many businesses including salon chains across the globe. Let’s find out how the industry plans to get back on its feet.

The lockdown has resulted in the boom of the DIY trend across all categories. Food, gifts or even doing your own manicures, pedicures, haircuts and facials at home, has been attempted by almost everyone. With salons closed, “Do It Yourself” or DIY seems to be the new buzzword of the beauty industry. According to a recent McKinsey report, DIY hair and nail care and other beauty categories are finding new customers. 

Despite DIY becoming a trend, the salon industry is gearing up to welcome customers as soon the lockdown is lifted. From restarting operations with less than 50 per cent staff strength in order to maintain the required social distancing norms, to giving their customers exclusive protective kits and also getting their staff to use a fresh kit for every customer they service, salon chains are doing everything possible to win the trust of consumers. 

The 2.0 version of the salon industry
Gone are the days when a customer would inadvertently walk into a salon to avail a service, as service by appointment would be the new norm. Most salon chains also plan to move to contactless billing, wherein they would encourage customers to pay online.

“My cost for each customer will go up by Rs 200, as we will give each customer a personalised kit, consisting of scissors and trimmers. We will treat both our customers and staff as COVID patients as we will make sure both of them are given the required protective gears and masks,” says C.K. Kumaravel, Founder of the Chennai headquartered salon chain, Naturals.

Added safety measures like these, would increase the operating cost of salons between 15 and 20 per cent, which would also translate into a 15-20 increase in cost of salon services.

Difficult times
Consumers are going to be unable to avail as many services as they used to previously. With safety and hygiene becoming a huge concern and priority, bulk of consumers may only avail basic services such as a haircut. Services such as threading, waxing and indulgence services such as spa and hair treatments that are done in closed doors may stop until coronavirus fear phases down. 

Kumaravel says that cutting down a host of services will hugely impact profitability. “80-90 per cent consumers will only ask for basic services such as haircuts, which are loss-making services. I make my money through services such as hair colouring, hair spa and facials, services such as hair extensions and bridal make-up are where I make a killing. The next one year will be a business of survival for us. We won’t make profits.”

Spoorthy Shetty, CEO, BBlunt, agrees that business will shrink post the lockdown. “It will take many months to even reach our past performance levels, so there will be a razor-sharp focus to reduce overheads. We may have to consider limiting working hours to cut down utility costs, work on inventory rationalisation,” she explains.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Enrich is toying with the idea of video consultations. “We are creating videos on skincare and haircare and will start offering virtual video consultations. We will basically help our consumers take care of their skin or hair with the materials they have at home. At a later stage we may sell beauty kits and follow it up with a virtual video consultation.”

The salon products business is a relatively big one and a lot of FMCG companies such as Loreal, Wella and Schwarzkopf have salon exclusive products. Enrich says that their company has already started offering these products on its website and has even started delivering them to consumers’ homes.

Will at home salon services become a reality now? 
“Health and safety of our employees are as important as the health and safety of our clients. Not all salons will look to shifting to home services as home is an uncontrolled environment and 80 per cent of the COVID cases are asymptomatic. Physical store is a more controlled environment where guidelines can be implemented and monitored. The omni-channel is now being discussed more than ever but we would take baby steps as of now,” says Shetty of BBlunt.

Source: Business Today

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