Salons had to close. So how could they stay afloat? Hairdressers moved online & digital engagement stepped up. Many salons quickly shifted to online services, finding creative ways to maintain their connections with existing clients whist trying to engage with new ones. Digital and social media become the essential tool in keeping the salons presence, providing customers live one-to-one advice, home maintenance videos, tutorials and quite often they just popped up to say ‘hello’ and ask their clients ‘how are you doing?’ Jack from Blue Tit London says, “It’s not all about your clients hair. There is much more to being a Hairdresser than that. I always have a good gossip when I see my clients in the salon, and to be honest I don’t really feel that it’s appropriate to refer to them as clients, I see them as, well more of a familiar acquaintance and I think that relationship can be rather quite special. The lockdown made me realise how much I value these people, and sometimes I just wanted to be sure that they were feeling ok.

Hairdressers being Product Advisor / Helping consumer to move Prosumers

Despite not being able to visit the salon, clients kept on coming back to their hairdressers. The Hairdresser’s role is shifting to becoming more of a product advisor, helping consumers to move Prosumers.

During the lockdown consumers assumed the role of a ‘pro hairdresser’ making them the Prosumer. With new behaviours, routines and skills, Prosumers began touching up their roots, coloring their hair and cutting it too. Pink, orange and brightly colored hair became the big ‘lockdown color’ trend globally.

Many salons and hairdressers began supporting their clients ‘new role’ selling ‘lockdown kits’, including customized color kits and home salon level styling and care kits. This has been a lifeline for both parties. Consumers could continue their hair maintenance at home, whist Hair Salons and Hairdressers were generating an income. Jaye Edward, founder of Edwards and Co chain in Australia launched a range of home coloring kits at the start of the pandemic. Beginning with a consultation via facetime to find the perfect color match , the client receives a dye, brush and mixing bowl, towel, gloves, foils and detailed instructions on application. The kit contains products to colour the hair three times. There is also the option of adding on a 1-2-1 tutorial to take you through the coloring process.

Prosumers also started to experiment with haircuts. Whilst many were purely maintenance cuts, especially amongst Men and Boys, the buzzcut was one in particular that became a craze. Men and women started shaving their heads and posting their images on social media. The mullet another style that took off, with toddlers to the elderly showing off their new creations. The bang, dubbed the ‘pandemic bang’ was also huge. Some did it purely out of boredom, whilst it gave others time to try out a new look. All in the knowledge that being in lockdown meant that they didn’t have to see anybody, and that it really didn’t matter. They were in isolation and had time to start grow it out.

Hairdressers survived by selling products online

Owning your own professional product line was a shield from them going bankrupt. The Hair Salons and Hairdressers that have their own lines did better. We anticipate that hairdressers might want to invest more in having their own lines, as it not only makes them more profitable, but keeps them ‘close’ to their clients. “My brand has really helped me. We have a single-brand under the salon, our brand, “Balato made with love” a leader in the creation of professional and user-friendly products…says Mariano Balato The owner of Balato a salon chain in Italy. “Our brand has been able to stay close to customers, more than the salon can at this time. During the lockdown, with a ready-to-use kit for regrowth we managed to put the client at ease in doing a root touch-up of the color alone at home with an enormous simplicity and as a consequence success.

Re-arranging their salon was costly. Accommodating the social distancing rules having fewer clients in the salon at one time and allowing enough time between appointments to clean and sterilize everything. On top of that the cost of PPE, social distancing markers and installing Perspex screens has been an expense that many salons clearly could have done without. In light of this many salons have had to introduce a ‘Covid Fee’ (to cover the cost of making their spaces safe) that many salons promise will be removed as soon as guidelines allow. “Everything had to look nice, so we had to invest, remove washing areas and set up Plexiglas, add in new ventilation systems for better air circulation. That was very expensive, but it’s an investment that pays off because I also have to protect my staff. I invested over €12,000 in both salons” says Shan Rahimkhan, Founder of Shan Rahimkhan Salon in Berlin.

The other big challenge that they faced was less people in the salon due to Covid rules, so how do you stay profitable? The average daily loss for salons is estimated to be between 20-30% reduction in the number of clients. When you look at this in monthly revenue terms, the loss is huge. So, what did they do?
 Salons stay open around the clock: Of course, many clients couldn’t wait to get back to their salons and hairdressers , with waiting lists through the roof and salons and hairdressers working 7 days, taking appointments until 10pm. Very reminiscent of the Japanese Hair Salon that are often open to 11pm.
 In-Home visits more a reality today and maybe the future: Understandably not everybody feels ‘safe’ and some clients haven’t felt comfortable returning to the salon. Anxiety, fear and health issues are the common concerns. Salons and hairdressers started to announce new ‘in-home visits’, the option of having a service in the comfort of your own homes with your favourite stylist. Everton Barton who used to work at a top salon, decided to go mobile during his time at home in lockdown. “Before the pandemic I had been thinking of going mobile as my clients are very busy, and for them coming to the salon is more time wasted that they could do without. During the first lockdown I decided to take a leap and handed in my notice. Post lockdown business has been amazing, it’s been going really well. I arrive in full PPE and my clients are safe in their own homes and are altogether feeling a lot more relaxed. Many tell me they will never go back to the salon again.
 Express services a must: With limited clients comes a stripped back and streamlined menu. For many salons extensions were no longer available, in fact any service that took longer than a couple of hours was off the menu. Hair Salons started to introduce new services, that take a lot less time but also give clients the new look that they want. Heather from Radio London says that “Successful salons will start to promote more express and affordable services, such as a face frame coloring menu and face frame cutting.
 A new hybrid & flexible approach to serve clients: Clients have become more hand-on. The ‘hair service’ has morphed into a ‘shared service’ with client’s performing new at home services to compliment these new offerings of express services which mainly include cuts and colors. Salon level maintenance is needed, but In a much different way. Many clients will pick and choose more carefully what they can do at home vs what they need to do a salon and do a mix of the two.

The express model will stay, but to survive in the future Hair Salons will need to become a wellness House. With a spa-like attitude: Emotional / sensorial benefits a must.

The Hair Salon experience has never been just about ‘looking good’ but has a very important emotional aspect to it. It’s a space of ‘touch and talk’, about feeling good and improving your self-esteem. Clients don’t want to spend their spend time talking and worrying about Coronavirus. They want to relax and escape with elevated wellness needs addressed too. This comes as no surprise, given that the impact of covid on wellness priorities. 73% of global consumers consider wellness an essential element of any brand’s strategy. Mewies & Co Salon in Leicestershire includes a yoga studio and offers appointments with reiki and acupuncture practitioners.

The salons of the future will be offering “experiences” rather than simply selling treatments and products. The future will be a bespoke wellness programme. An indulgent and sensorial experience looking after the mind, body and hair.

The ‘hands, safe, space’ message has been a pre-occupation for salons since Covid, and for many it seems that the sustainability message has taken a back seat. Over the past five years sustainability (Clean & Safe, Better for the Plant / Eco-friendly, Ethical Beauty and Natural) has moved from a trend to a business imperative. Will there be a return to improving sustainability when the pandemic is over? The pandemic has highlighted many sustainability issues and although there may be short-term setback, sustainability are going to be vital post-coronavirus.

Salons still need to clean up their industry. Clients want assurance that sustainability issues are a busines a priority. They question things such as ‘What is my Hair Salon doing to reduce plastic waste?’ ‘Are their products safe for me in pregnancy?’ ‘Is this brand ethical, are they making a stand against social & political issues ?’ “More clients are expressing their concerns since they have returned after the lockdown" says Kitty from Vidal Sassoon. “They want to know about the ingredients in their products, and they ask more questions about whether they would be worried about their hair dyes causing any illnesses in the future or allergic reactions.” She goes on to add “I see it more in the younger generations between the ages of 19-30 , but it’s becoming more common with older people too.” It is clear, moving forward we’ll need to strike a healthy balance.

With Hair Salons and Hairdressers finding themselves in completely unknown territory, Hairdressers have learnt their lesson and don’t just want to provide a service. They have become product advisors and product providers in order to remain resilient in this ever-changing business model. The Hair Salons and Hairdressers that have quickly adapted and embraced these new roles, have succeeded in this volatile environment. They will continue to innovate and train in order to embrace whatever role is required of them in the future, and continue to serve their client’s needs way beyond hair only.