Salons have just endured the ultimate test. From closures and layoffs, to a reopening plan with stringent new health and safety guidelines, many are still adapting to this new way of life. Yet some have managed to persevere through it all and take away some valuable life and economic lessons.
We asked salon owners and hairstylists across Canada to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic thus far, and how some of new guidelines are affecting their business for the better.
Time = Money
While hairstylists are accustomed to staying within specific time frames to work their magic, let’s face it: Some are known for running longer with their appointments. But factor in social distancing guidelines that limit the number of clients allowed inside the salon at any given time with the extra time needed for the new cleaning protocols, and it’s more important than ever to be mindful of the clock.
“We minimized our shifts to six hours [from the previously typical] eight- to 10-hour shifts. But based on our report from last year, we actually made more money [in our first week back] than we did in the same week last year, because we’ve had to be really smart with our bookings.” — Liz Ogilvie, Hair Junkie, Ottawa
“[Historically], we always gave stylists more than enough time to work on their client and not feel rushed. But now, when one stylist is finishing their shift and the next stylist is starting, they each have to work more strategically to finish on time so that the next client isn’t left waiting.” — Marek Whitechurch, MonoKrome Salon, Montreal
“Appointments are very structured because you’re so timed now, which I think is good because we’re condensing any spacing between appointments. It’s not hard; it’s just different. Our stylists are working shorter hours on more days, but we left our Sundays open for any longer colour appointments, just in case they’re not sure how long to schedule or to do any major colour corrections.” — Beverly Robertson, The Beverly, Calgary
With so much change happening right now, managing your clients’ expectations is important. Since salons are forced to limit services or offerings, it’s emphasized the importance of communication with your clients and going the extra mile to make sure you’re continuing to offer them a positive experience.
“We have to stay consistent. A lot of our clients come to us for self-care and to decompress. When we’re checking clients in, we’re asking them how they are and letting them know we’re excited to see them. For our shampoos, we’re focusing more on head massages— spending more time so the clients can relax and not feel rushed. It also helps them feel less anxiety.” — Liz Ogilvie, Hair Junkie, Ottawa
“We already feel bad about not being able to offer clients drinks or the at-home vibe we’re used to offering, so we’re trying to do as much as we can within the service to make them feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. We don’t want them to feel like the service is rushed; we want them to feel like they’re getting the service they expected.” — Marek Whitechurch, MonoKrome Salon, Montreal
With face masks becoming strongly suggested (if not mandatory) across the country, they’ve not only changed the way we interact with one another, they’ve added a layer of difficulty to the consultation process. Here’s how some salons are finding ways to overcome the challenges associated with wearing them.
“It’s a completely different way of meeting a client for the first time and we’ve found that clients aren’t using their hands the same way [when they’re speaking]. For example, they’re not grabbing their hair if they don’t want it cut off, or touching their fringe or problem areas. In light of this and to make the discussion process more comfortable, we’re still offering FaceTime consultations, and they’ve been really well received. You still have to do a consultation when the client comes in,
but because you’ve already discussed with them via video, it’s a lot shorter.” — Beverly Robertson, The Beverly, Calgary
“As a business owner, it’s important to have rent you can afford, to only order what you need to not have a ton of extra inventory. More businesses are realizing that they can save money and get the same results by having people do things remotely.” –Beverly Robertson, The Beverly, Calgary
“Our in-salon consultations have shortened quite a bit since we’re doing a lot more over the phone, but the conversations between stylists and guests are even more relevant now. Hairstylists are a great outlet for people when it comes to mental support and well- being. We’re hearing a lot of stories coming out of COVID on how people have persevered through it, and hairstylists are often the people clients will tell them to. These stories can be hard to have to hear sometimes, but on the flip side, it’s also great to be part of the healing process for our guests.” — Roberto Sinopoli, Verde Salon, Winnipeg
As many businesses have had to step up their cleaning protocols, a lot more time
and effort is being spent on making sure they’re creating a safe environment for clients and staff. While it’s not new for salons to regularly clean and disinfect tools, find out why some say the recent added measures have not necessarily been a detrimental change.
“This is stuff we learned in hair school and did when we first [graduated]. We were always adamant about cleaning, but not to the degree we are now. I don’t think it’s a bad thing—I think it should have always been this way and maybe this is going to reteach people how to be careful.” — Claude Comeau, Spirit Spa, Halifax
“The sanitation and cleaning processes may look like overkill right now compared to how loose things were before, but you have to take a step back and ask yourself why would you change it— the safety of our guests and our staff is key. COVID-19 has really changed a lot of our processes, which are going to stick even after all of this is over.” — Roberto Sinopoli, Verde Salon, Winnipeg
Many salons have either removed their retail or added signage to discourage clients from touching products (which, in turn, would require disinfecting). While retail sales may have been challenging for some businesses pre-pandemic, they don’t have to stay that way.
“A lot of our retail is now happening when the guest is in the chair. A lot more conversations and education is happening, which makes it even more comfortable for guests to ask questions about products.” — Roberto Sinopoli, Verde Salon, Winnipeg
“Long term, I think people are going to be a lot more prepared for a second wave. We may not have all the answers, but we’ll be in the mindset where we can take on more challenges than we could have in the past.” –Roberto Sinopoli, Verde Salon, Winnipeg.
“If clients aren’t comfortable browsing around, they can go on their phone and look at our store online and purchase. The products are then available for them to pick up at the front.” — Liz Ogilvie, Hair Junkie, Ottawa
Getting your clients to pre- book has (or should have) always been a priority, but it’s even more important now as you’re managing your appointment books for the weeks and months ahead.
“We’ve been doing all of our pre-booking for their next appointment at the chair with a tablet, and our pre-booking numbers have gone up significantly; they’ve doubled, if not more.” — Roberto Sinopoli, Verde Salon, Winnipeg
“We’re trying to ensure our schedules will continue to be busy, while also trying to get in as many clients as we can, and that means spacing out our services and creating a good balance of haircuts and colour services. This way, you’re going to maintain the busyness, without having a huge gap of waiting and having clients all be ready again at the same time. We’re trying to stagger things now so that future bookings will be a little more spread out. So far it’s worked out really well.” — Claude Comeau, Spirit Spa, Halifax
After having months of time off, it’s given many people the rare, much-needed opportunity to reflect and prioritize a more balanced work/life schedule.
“Our staff are working no more than eight hours a day. We took a conservative route in getting more guests in the door, but are not pushing it. The last thing we need on top of all of the stress of returning back to work after COVID is to get burnt out.” — Roberto Sinopoli, Verde Salon, Winnipeg
“We had three months at home to spend with our families and loved ones, and just do things we love doing that we didn’t have time for before. Now we can ask ourselves, ‘Do I want to go back to working full-steam like I was before, or do I want a little home life, too?’ We can slow it down a little bit and not feel like we have to be there 24/7 to make everybody happy. People are going to adapt, and it’s going to be fine.” — Claude Comeau, Spirit Spa, Halifax
“With their hours [per day] cut down, stylists can now have more breaks. When their client’s colour is processing, the stylist can take a break to go outside or to the break room. They’ll have more time to breathe, relax, or get something to eat. A short 20-minute break to get some fresh air can really help a person both physically and mentally.” — Katia Jananji, MonoKrome Salon, Montreal