Comment

Many salons are on the brink of closing for good. What will it take to get sector-specific support?

The Telegraph has repeated requested targeted financial help for the beauty industry

The news on Saturday of the newly established Tier 4 in England wreaked havoc on Christmas plans for millions of Brits affected in the London, South East and East of England areas. With such short notice, many either fled London to their loved ones before the cut-off point of 00.01 on Sunday morning, or had to admit defeat to a quiet, and for many lonely, Christmas period. 

The fallout obviously had a knock-on effect for many businesses; it meant that thousands of hairdressers and salons in the affected Tier 4 areas had to close their stores within a couple of hours notice, collectively cancelling thousands of appointments in one of the busiest times of the year for the sector. 

I fully appreciate that many of our much-loved industries, including hospitality and the arts, have struggled tremendously, with closures in Tier 3 areas throughout large parts of the country. This isn’t about pitting one sector against another, in a fight for who comes out worst from all of these ongoing u-turns and developments. 

It has been a horror show for so many British businesses. However I do feel like the hair and beauty industry, a sector that Public Health England have said only contributes ‘up to 0.05%’ in the increase of the R rate in England, has cruelly suffered this year at the hands of what I can only describe as being dismissed as the ‘fluffy, frivolous stuff’. There has been absolutely no sector-specific financial support for this £28.4 billion industry. That doesn’t make sense. The latest blow with Tier 4 restrictions is shrinking the industry even further, both in economic terms and also in terms of the lasting reputation of the sector. 

It is estimated that around 10 percent of salons in the UK closed after the first lockdown, with 43 percent unsure whether they could survive Christmas. I think those are very modest estimations, but regardless; if one of those salons tethering on the brink of closure happens to fall into Tier 4, it makes the dire prospect of losing the business for good even more likely. 

I can’t understand why the government continues to ignore requests to reduce the VAT of the hairdressing industry from 20 percent down to 5 percent, in line with the reduction already afforded to the hospitality industry. These are for salons that make up at least around 100,000 employees, many of whom are now deciding it’s too risky or expensive to run a salon, and so are becoming self employed. 

Just as there is a huge disruption in the supply chain for hospitality, so too is there a major knock-on effect for the wider beauty industry that sells products and services in salons, many of which have been closed for more weeks this year than open. It is also a service-based industry; unlike retail, you can’t buy a haircut or a manicure online. 

The hair and beauty industry was once-booming, and yet it seems like time and time again any calls for sector-specific support are blatantly ignored. What will it take? Will half of the 40,000 hair salons in the UK have to close for good in order for the Treasury to sit up and take notice, with boarded up salons on every high street in England? At the current rate, we’re on course for that already. I fear that many of our best-loved salons in England (many of which are household names) will have to shut their shops for good.