While the COVID-19 lockdown has adversely impacted the
entire economy, the ensuing Unlock stages have helped ease restrictions in many geographies of the country, allowing businesses to open in a phased manner provided they follow safety and hygiene protocols set down by the government.
One business vertical, which has been unable to welcome customers till very recently has been the Salon business. The industry has been greatly affected by not just the lockdown, but also the pandemic itself since it works on the principle of physical contact. This means that even though limitations have been eased, customers are cautious, not yet willing to go to salons which are frequented by many. However, salons have decided to take the initiative and educate customers on the hygiene and safety measures they are taking to ensure consumer and employee health and wellbeing.
The Lockdown Impact
“The lockdown brought the industry down to zero for some time. However, we are now seeing customers come back, although cautiously. For the first four months of the year, we are looking at a 90 percent shortfall as compared to the last year,” says Krishna Gupta, Co-Founder & Managing Director Lloyds Luxuries.
However, despite a physical lockdown, salons such as Truefitt and Hill and Enrich Salons have ensured have worked to ensure that there is an undisrupted supply of their DIY self-care products on e-commerce portals – either their own or by partnering with e-retail giants.
“The connect we built with the customers via surveys, calls made by our experts to help with DIY self-care techniques and social media content on safety measures has been well-received by the customers. Aside from this, the customers who have visited us so far are quite happy with the precautionary measures taken,” says Vikram Bhatt, Founder, Enrich Salons.
Other brands such as Lakmé Salons have used the lockdown period to not just digitally market their products but also to train their teams in the new normal.
“Our 5,000 team members have attended a cumulative 500,000 plus hours of high-quality education to enhance their skill and execute the highest standards of hygiene and safety. The entire team – housekeeping staff, experts, salon managers, office teams and business partners – have also undergone rigorous training in the new safety and hygiene measures to ensure complete adherence to protocols and highest levels of safety standards on ground,” says Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO, Lakmé Lever.
The Consumer Perspective
The new normal has changed the dynamics of the salon industry. While many consumers are forgoing services because of concerns about close physical contact, the industry has been quick to alleviate their fears by fast adopting new methods of working, new patterns of consumption as well as new ways of interacting. This change has been led by stringent hygiene and safety measures.
“Since we have reopened we are looking at no more than 50 percent of footfalls, and this is set to reduce this month as most of the customers have already availed necessary services. We also have challenges with staff attendance, as public transport is extremely limited,” states Gupta.
Enrich Salons has experienced a drop of about 20 percent footfall due to the social distancing norms that the brand is following in the salon. “In the last month we have seen a great demand for products from our online site plus from other online marketplaces like Amazon and Nykaa. There seems to be pent-up demand for our DIY multifunctional products that LuxaDerme offers. Customers who are not able to go to a salon can still get to experience a spa like pampering session with our masks products and maintain a healthy glow in the comfort of their home,” says Shyjo Paul, Associate Vice President – LuxaDerme New York.
“In this new Covid era customers can still indulge themselves anytime they want by buying our products online. In light of the new paradigm there have been several new enquiries we are catering to by retail establishments who want to offer their clients a do-ityourself at home service. We are also aligning ourselves to the directives of the authorities to cater to our current and new salon and spa clients as they streamline their processes to ensure a safe experience for their customers,” he adds.
Innovative Ways to Survive the Pandemic
During the pandemic, salons are being‘in touch’ with their customers – using digital and social media when they could not meet them personally.
“We started a bi-weekly ‘Beauty from Home’ series – with tips, tricks and hacks on make-up, skin and hair by our Nation Creatvie Directors on the Lakmé Salon Facebook page. We also invited brands like TIGI and Dermalogica to host special sessions for our customers. We also launched the Lakmé Salon web shop, to ensure that our customers could get salon-like care at home with professional products delivered to their doorstep by our team,” explains Shenai.
Lakme has developed stringent operating guidelines including rigorous screening of salon teams and customers with the help of the Aarogya Setu app, following strict social distancing by calling in only 50 percent staff and servicing customers by appointment only, daily deep cleaning and disinfection of all touchpoints and sterilisation of tools , providing employees with protective gear – including single-use kits for most of its services. The brand will also increasingly use biodegradable disposables apart from promoting contactless, digital payments.
On the other hand, Enrich Salons announced ‘Me to We’ campaign to introduce a new outlook to tackle the ongoing pandemic.
“Brand Enrich has set the way by taking cognizance of the learning from this pandemic and harnessed it into a new way of thinking for the brand that is more inclusive and effective as we all work together to address the situation. The well-being of our community, team and customers is paramount; hence
these initiatives are our way of reaching and building a support system,” Bhatt states.
“Focusing on cost reductions, becoming extremely efficient and negotiating with all vendors, suppliers and landlords to reduce costs is the mantra to survive.
“In case any store is suffering losses, we are shutting it down to ensure that the company survives. Apart from this we are also focusing on optimizing sales and maximizing conversions,” states Gupta.
“We have opened up in all the cities now and observed that the transition and settling with the pandemic will take some time. We are now heavily focusing on online product sales as well to ensure steady revenue,” adds Bhatt.
What the Future Holds
Going ahead, ensuring the safety of customers as well as employees, maintaining hygiene standards will be the key focus area for any salon.
“Improving customer relationships and ensuring our service quality is the highest priority for now. We are looking to keep all costs down and be extremely efficient in order to survive and continue offer our brand experience to customers,” says Gupta.
“At Enrich, we see the future for us being more inclusive and holistic. We were largely offline so far, operating from salons. We will now strengthen our online play as well, information and bookings on our website and mobile app as well including retail aftercare products. Earlier, we were predominantly about services and products comprised only about one fourth of our services revenue. We are setting up e-commerce system to increase focus significantly on product sale as well. Also, we will now increase our focus on home services as well,” Bhatt shares.
“We are constantly upgrading our processes to ensure that the highest safety and hygiene standards are followed on ground. We have also launched new services with high performance products like TIGI SOS Repair – a quick keratin treatment that reverses hair damage in just 5 minutes – to provide quick, effective solutions to post-lockdown needs and maximise the customer’s time in the salon. New skin services have also been rolled out along similar lines,” concludes Shenai.