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Beauty industry looks at bleak future, Retail News, ET Retail

Shuttered shops, silent scissors: Beauty industry looks at bleak futureNEW DELHI: Sitting in a high chair with black leather, bracing for a spray of cold water, and the snip-snap sound of deftly moving scissors behind the ears have recently become things of the past as hair cutting salons and beauty parlours across the country fell silent due to the nationwide lockdown.

As the country stumbled back to a semblance of normalcy in lockdown 4.0, most salons and parlours remained shut, leaving the beauty industry dry and desperate for business and their owners hoping to survive the financial pandemic.

It has been over two months that 40-year-old Arif last opened his salon. He left without any income when he decided to go back to his village in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh because there he has “something to eat at least”.

“Hum chote logon ke bare mein kaun sochta hai shehar me (in the city there is nobody to look after us, the poor people),” said the father of four over a phone call.

“My shop is rented, so is my house in Ghaziabad, how will I pay that rent? Here in the village we have our own house and a small farm, we have grown some wheat and that’s all we have as of now,” Arif added.

Arif is not the only one feeling the sting of the nationwide lockdown. The beauty industry, which includes hair cutting salons, spas and beauty parlours, has faced the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

While most states including Telangana, Gujarat, and Rajasthan allowed salons and parlours to open as per the Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines for lockdown 4.0, states including Delhi, Assam and Maharashtra among others decided to keep the shops shuttered till May 31.

The Uttar Pradesh government had allowed salons to open but not beauty parlours, which caused more confusion than clarity to shop owners.

“Some of my clients told me that a few shops have opened, others said it is not allowed. I don’t want to come back and open the store until there is a clear guideline,” Arif said.

Sandhya Roy of Sparsh Beauty Clinic in Ghaziabad has also refrained from opening her shop till there’s some clarity.

“The business is badly hit, but I can’t really do anything about it. I may have to cut our staff too, but I don’t want to risk breaking any rule,” the owner of the 22-year-old parlour said.

Unpaid salaries of the staff, mounting rent and uncertainty of the future have the shop owners concerned while preparing to reopen the business after May 31.

Pooja Gupta, owner of Silky and Shine beauty parlour in Laxmi Nagar, is worried for the future not only because of her shuttered shop but for her husband’s property business as well.

“Although it’s a small parlour, the lockdown has affected us badly. My husband’s property business is also in a downturn. I have let go of my helpers, but we still have to pay the rent and electricity bill for the parlour,” she rued.

She believes the government should help the sector survive this business.

“There has been no help from the government at all, they should at least think of us,” Gupta added.

Despite the mounting expenses and credit card bills, Prashant Rajput of Sanrix Salon in Pashchim Vihar has prepared his staff to adapt to the new normal.

Rajput has not only invested in disposable hand towels, cuttings kits, PPE kits, sanitisers, he has trained his staff to follow the guidelines. However, he is not sure for how long he can invest without a return.

“I have paid enough to my staff of 13 people to keep them afloat. But I have run out of cash while paying the shop’s rent, electricity bill, investing in PPE kits, disposable hand and wash towels, and sanitisers. I don’t think I will be able to retain the entire staff,” Rajput said.

Even if the lockdown is lifted, he added, there is no certainty when his customers will return in full swing.

“I am sure to lose about 70 per cent of my business post-lockdown. It is going to be very difficult to survive for the next six months, and even when the customers return I don’t think they would want to get a facial or a massage,” he said.

“You simply can’t make a profit on haircuts,” Rajput added.

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