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Steps and Missteps in Reopening USA salons

Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:00

Many states are improvising the reopening of businesses and other public places based on local statistics and in consideration of suggested “guidelines”, not always with the desired results.

The extensive surface area and highly diversified population densities in various regions of the United States account for highly disparate situations when it comes to the spread of the Covid-19 emergency, which also implies a differences in the implementation of lockdowns. 

With the Trump administration pushing for the reopening of the US economy, some states seem to be allowing a pell-mell reopening of businesses, with no definitive regulations or plans in place to guarantee client or staff safety, essentially leaving decision-making to individual responsibility. While hygiene in many retail activities can be managed safely more easily, personal services like hairdressing salons, barbershops, beautician and spas services, and tattoo parlors require physical contact between professionals and clients and call for specific protocols.

Although licensed salon professionals and barbers are already trained to maintain hygiene and cleanliness in the workplace, this pandemic has presented further complications, mostly involving masks and social distancing. Most businesses were already hard at work during the lockdown, rearranging their salons and making the necessary modifications to their business plans to optimise reopening in these unprecedented times.

By and large, so far, so good… but there are exceptions. Unfortunately, MSNBC reported yesterday that more than 100 people were exposed to the coronavirus while getting hair cuts in a Springfield, Missouri salon, where two hairdressers tested positive for the virus. Apparently one stylist worked for eight days while manifesting symptoms.

Instead, true to their calling, most salons are taking extreme precautions on the job, using masks and capes, distancing chairs and work stations, drastically reducing salon traffic mostly by implementating a “by appointment only” system, and sanitizing the salon and all equipment in between clients.

However, further complications include a drop in turnover, longer hours, and of course higher overhead costs for PPE and cleaning, and in some cases staff overtime. This often implies drastic reductions in margin or the need to raise prices or add a Covid surcharge that, however, is not always understood or appreciated by clients.

While many states, like Georgia, gave the green light on April 24, some businesses put off reopening until they felt more confident that the protocols they were implementing would work. Candy Shaw was one of the more high-profile figures who opted for this system. “I choose to put Health over Hair and press pause,” she explained. “It has turned out to be a great decision for a number of reasons. The biggest are how our guests perceive our salon image (they really know we are operating safely) and my staff, 100% of whom returned without a blink of an eye because of HOW we reopened.Candy’s system included re-training her staff and even some internal “dry runs” before opening to clients, and a $5 Safe Salon Fee. They began on limited schedules to prevent stress and allow stylists to rebuild stamina slowly. The focus was placed on color services where the margin is higher, while they decided to forego blow drying. And of course, protocols are constantly being tweaked to perfection as they move forward, one step at a time, into the new normal.

This week salons in states like Massachusetts and Kentucky are allowed to reopen, always in compliance with what are now standard health and safety precautions. For more information see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MFejvQ5Zss and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fP9wVeaa_4

By Marie Scarano

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