As provinces continue to ease their COVID-19 restrictions, more salons are beginning to reopen across Canada.
Chatters has already reopened 93 of their 115 locations. We chatted with their CEO, Greg Moreau, to discuss the company’s unique approach to reopening.
“It’s comforting to be back together after what has been such a strange number of weeks and months,” he says. “We understand how special the relationship is between a guest and a stylist; it’s like seeing a best friend that they haven’t seen in months. It feels like a return to normalcy for them to be together again, and for guests to be able to get their hair cut or coloured.”
To help stylists and guests feel comfortable being back in the salon, Chatters has released a safety video, featuring their brand ambassador, Cindy Duplantis, as she provides a tour of what their reopened locations now look like.
“Stylists are visual learners, so being able to show the safety protocols helps us be able to educate the guest before they come into the salon and provide a little bit of comfort to the stylist before they return to work,” says Moreau. “They can see how seriously we’re taking their health and safety.”
With Chatters employing 1,100 stylists across Canada, the health and safety of their team and guests has been their number one priority. While the use of face shields are not yet mandated by any of the provinces, the company has decided to implement them as “one extra level of protection” for its stylists.
“We looked at other countries and salons reopening in China, Europe and Georgia, and what were some of the best practices,” says Moreau.
Chatters will also be providing complimentary face-masks to all guests. “Clients have been gracious; they understand and want to keep stylists safe as well so we’ve had no issues with mandating clients to wear masks,” he says. “Some have been relieved because they didn’t have access to PPE.”
Moreau admits that sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) has been difficult, but it’s been getting easier as more provinces begin to reopen.
“There have been a lot of things over the last three months that we didn’t have control over, because it moved so quickly,” he says. “But with our reopening, we do have control. We have to set a very high bar and show a lot of empathy to employees and guests.”
• Hand sanitizer stations provided at front entrance
• Complimentary face masks for all guests
• No longer accepting walk-ins for salon services (by appointment only).
• Guests are asked to arrive with clean, washed hair.
• Consultations are being provided by telephone and when guests arrive to the salon.
• Hand-washing stations are available for all staff and guests.
• Depending on the service, clients may receive a quick blow-dry rather than a full style.
• Scheduling a 10-minute window between appointments for stylists to remove face shield, wash hands and disinfect tools.
• Reducing the number of stations in use to create at least two metres of physical distance between stations. (Moreau says they are also considering the use of plexi-glass barriers between stations).
• Adding plexi-glass to cash wrap for extra protection.
• Offering temperature checks for staff and salon guests. Moreau says the company has already been providing temperature checks at their distribution centre and will soon be implementing them in their salons.
Since Chatters’ locations are comprised of 50 per cent retail and 50 per cent salon services, their salons in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have fully reopened. However, locations in Eastern Canada (including Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland) have only partially reopened without salon services, or remain closed if they are located inside a shopping mall.
With their salons operating at a 60 per cent capacity, Moreau says there’s a high demand for salon services, with their locations already booked out for two weeks or more.
With the look of retail sales in salons changing due to COVID-19, it’s no exception for Chatters, who have staff dedicated to help guests with handling retail products while maintaining physical distancing guidelines. Their locations are also continuing to offer curbside pickup. Moreau says they’ve noticed some guests are continuing to practice “scarcity buying” –purchasing up to a six-month supply of shampoo or treatment masks.
“There are different levels of concern [about COVID-19] from stylists and clients. Our job is to make our team and guests feel safe and comfortable,” he says, adding that while the feedback from clients and stylists has been overwhelmingly positive, it doesn’t stop there.
“It’s human nature for staff and clients, once they’re back in the salon for three or four weeks and are feeling comfortable, to want to go back to business as usual,” he says. “But we have to remain vigilant and continue pushing on this to keep everyone safe.”