It may not be presumptuous to say that almost everyone entered 2021 with an expectation that we will soon resume our normal lives. But just three months into 2021, and we are suddenly facing a similar situation that we faced in April 2020. In fact, it seems worse. It is now expected that most states would order strict lockdown once again. For the Indian salon industry, this can be catastrophic. The salon industry will now have to deal with the same (and possibly even bigger) challenges as it had to when the pandemic hit first.
When Covid-19 first started, it not only shook the health sector but also had a significant impact on the economy. The salon industry, in particular, suffered a major impact as the industry thrives on ‘personal touch’ and it is impossible to operate without close physical proximity. Strictly enforced lockdowns meant a complete shutdown for all the salons. The salon industry, which was expected to grow at a fast pace with new trends evolving and the rise in disposable income of people was then struggling to even survive. Even after the lockdowns were lifted, salons continued to bear losses since people were wary of visiting the salons.
Where there was an expectation of an increase in income of the middle-class people in the coming years, with COVID-19, the country suffered a huge economic crisis which led to people spending on only essential services. Thus, creating another major challenge for the grooming industry. Footfalls declined sharply as there were very few social engagements and weddings and that too with a limited capacity. To maintain proper social distancing, salons also had to limit the number of customers leading to around 40- 50 percent decline in the sales revenue. People also started opting for self-grooming techniques and DIY kits to take care of their skin and hair at home. There was a huge demand for beauty products surpassing all records.
To bounce back, the salons had to adapt to the ‘new normal' which meant additional expenditure and a revised strategy keeping in the mind the safety and hygiene guidelines by WHO. Thus, they adopted rigorous measures.
All the salons had to ensure sanitization of every touchpoint, be it a hair washing basin to tools to be used on clients. The safety of their employees and customers had to be their priority to regain their customer’s trust. Salons also had to invest in extensive online training for their employees on how to treat a customer with appropriate social distancing and following the Covid-19 protocol. Masks, gloves, and sanitization were a must. Salons also made sure to check temperatures regularly and only took customers on an appointment basis to ensure proper social distancing.
Salons collaborated with brands to come up with one-time-use kits to avoid any reuse and came up with strategies and techniques to reduce the physical proximity. To reduce any kind of transmission, e-payment methods like Paytm, PayPal, Google Pay, etc were largely used.
Sanitizers were kept on the entrance and customers were allowed to only enter with the mask on. For further more safety of their employees and clients, the service menu of the salons was also streamlined to avoid close physical proximity. The bookings were taken in a manner that salons get enough time to clean in between and ensure safety for the next clients.
All these measures required significant financial investment but there was no commensurate revenue generation. The salons could not have increased the price of their services to cover this deficit as the priority was to retain clients. Therefore, they had to look for other options. The big brands in the salon industry started exploring unconventional promotional strategies to keep the clients engaged with the brand on various social media channels. Online retail also came to the rescue for these salons and became one major source of profit in the circumstances.
With the news of rising cases of COVID-19 in the country, there is a huge concern as to how the salon industry would now deal with these challenges especially after the losses they had to suffer during the last year. While innovative methods and the online retail business that was explored last year would definitely help, it is a fact that ‘personal touch’ cannot be replaced when it comes to salons. Therefore, it remains to be seen how this industry will shape up in the coming few months.