Like many people in the beauty industry, Dennie Smith’s phone has been ringing off the hook as people clamour for appointments when salons reopen in England on Monday.
Her Vintage 62 unisex hair salon in south Croydon had just two 45-minute slots left for the rest of April, and May is nearly all booked up too. “We have been inundated, my phone is literally going 24/7,” said Smith, who has spent the last few days completely redecorating the salon in time for the big reopening. “I’ve spoken to hundreds of people and they’re all excited to come back.”
Most people are opting for a full cut and colour, a complete revamp in time for what is set to be a busy summer of reunions and, if the roadmap out of lockdown goes to plan, events, festivals and maybe even holidays abroad. “I normally would get a cut and blow dry in those 45-minute gaps, but people are wanting massive restyles now, so every appointment is going to take longer,” Smith said.
Yet there is still uncertainty around exactly what is allowed under the new rules, after guidance published on the government’s website said hair and beauty salons “should consider providing shorter, more basic treatments to keep the time to a minimum”.
Labour MP Judith Cummins, co-chair of parliament’s cross-party group on beauty, aesthetics and wellbeing, said the rules showed a “slapdash approach”. Last year the government was accused of sexism when the beauty industry was overlooked in reopening plans.
But after 12 months of on-off lockdown, lost income and restrictions, business owners are relieved to see an increased demand for hair and beauty treatments, just as pubs and restaurants open again across England, even if outdoors-only for now.
“I have noticed a massive uptake in people wanting to invest in skincare and permanent makeup,” said Emily Guerin, owner of a beauty salon in Edenfield, Lancashire. “I think a lot of people who have always umm-ed and ahh-ed about spending that sort of money on treatments have decided they want to do a bit more for themselves. I think self-care has been such a big thing in the last 12 months, mentally and physically.”
Lucie Grech, owner of Laser Lounge Media City in Manchester, is so busy after lockdown that she has had to take on an extra staff member. “I’ve seen a massive increase in people investing money in themselves. My treatments are obviously quite expensive, the cheapest thing I do is probably £400 and I just can’t believe how many people I’ve got booked in,” she said.
Many of her clients said they had saved up money during lockdown by not going on holidays or on nights out. “People can’t go anywhere, they can’t do anything, and I think people are just splashing the cash on themselves instead. A lot of people have said they’ve chosen to have this done instead of going to Marbella or wherever they were going to go, and a lot of people have used money that they’ve had refunded from holidays.”
While many people are already seeing high demand for appointments, the industry is only set to get busier as society starts to open up more.
“Obviously when clubs reopen and parties start happening, that definitely might trigger more demand, but I think holidays abroad will really make a difference. When people are getting ready to go away, they want to look nice, especially if they’re going abroad, and that obviously will have a big impact on the industry,” said Tinu Abi, owner of House of Tinu salon in Manchester.
But even before that happens, it seems that after a long winter stuck at home with no reason to get dressed up, many are desperate for an excuse to look their best.
“I think lots of people are just sick of seeing themselves in the house with their roots and split ends and stuff,” said Maddi Cook, a hair extension specialist and founder of Boss Your Salon mentoring group. “I think we’ll see a lot of very glam people in not-so-glam settings in the next couple of months.”