Since the beginning of 2021, everyone had an expectation that although a worldwide pandemic is in place, we will soon be returning to our normal lives. Nevertheless, since the onset of the second wave in April, things have taken a drastic turn, much worse as compared to 2020. Amidst the pandemic, several businesses and industries collapsed, which also led to loss of jobs and livelihood. One such industry was the salon industry, which was viciously affected by the second wave in the country.
The salon industry particularly suffered from a major impact since the industry survives on 'personal touch' and it becomes impossible to operate without physical proximity. With harsh rules and regulations to prevent the spread of the virus, salons had to be shutdown , which also led to the loss of jobs of several stylists.
Founder of Happy in the Head Hair, Avani Yashwin told live mint, "I cannot colour or cut someone's hair over a Zoom call, can I? There is no income, but I continue to pay overheads, including rent and other costs. I've also consciously decided to support my staff of 13 people because I know they won't get work elsewhere. It is a mentally and financially draining period."
Yashwin is one among the millions of independent salon owners who faced the challenges brought by the second wave. In addition to this, in several small cities where the business still goes on, there is an over increasing fear of contracting the virus after stepping out.
A 22-year-old salon chain called Enrich, had to shut down five salons since 2020, bringing the total count to 83. "The financial impact of the second wave is much more than last year. With so much uncertainty, the patience of those to whom we pay rent, product partners, and service providers has withered away," said Vikram Bhatt, founder, Enrich Salons, as reported by Mint.
On the contrary, beauty brand Lakme, which is owned by Hindustan Unilever (HUL) and operates 490 salons across India, said that it witnessed up to 50% hit across the country. "We are leveraging digital technology during the lockdown to train our teams and offer expertise and consultation to our clients," said a spokesperson from HUL.
The second wave has led to many small and mid-sized salon and spa businesses shut down because of tremendous losses faced and due to lack of clarity of how to operate in such a situation.
In order to bounce back, the salons had to adapt to a 'new normal' which meant additional expenditure and a revised strategy keeping in mind all the safety protocols. The bookings were taken in a manner that salons get enough time to clean in between and ensure safety for upcoming clients. However, after all these efforts, there was no revenue generation. On the other hand, the bigger brands started exploring unconventional strategies to keep the clients engaged with the brand on various social media channels.
Although innovative methods and the online retail business that was explored last year, the 'personal touch' of salons cannot be replaced. The beauty and personal care market is expected to touch $10 billion by 2021, growing at an annual rate of 5-6%. Nevertheless, majority of beauty and wellness businesses including salons, spas and barber shops fall either in the small and medium enterprise or the unorganized category.