We all have heard, “You have to keep up with the times.” That usually is a gradual process, over the course of a year or bridging a generational gap. But with life-altering events like COVID-19, it's immediate and inconvenient, and we must adjust on the fly. This pandemic is such a seismic life-altering event that it has crippled human interaction and stifled economies across the world.
So what does that mean going forward—the period between now and when the scientific and medical worlds have vaccinations and treatments—for businesses that depend on social environments like barbershops, salons, bars and coffee shops?
In Pennsylvania, shops/salons are asked to cut capacity inside by half, take appointments, eliminate walk-ins, introduce more in-depth cleaning methods, and require employees to wear masks and social distance.
But how do we accomplish this new version of doing business and still make a profit?
Some have suggested increasing pricing—I agree with that, if you have a clientele that will support you. If you do increase prices, explain to clients that you’re not able to see the same number of guests each day, the costs associated with the increase in cleaning supplies and PPE, and the time gap between appointments to allow for disinfecting the chair, combs and tools. For me, that cuts my average of two clients an hour to about one-and-a-half, which means I lose at least three clients a day. Therefore, I try to make up that difference through pricing.
I've also developed signs that say, “After you get your hair cut, please leave in a timely fashion to respect the appointment time of others, maintain social distancing and keep capacity numbers low as mandated by state regulations."
Like I mentioned, this is only if you have the clientele to support a price increase—in many cases, clients have lost their jobs, businesses and income, or they might be going through another kind of hardship. In that case, how can you charge that client more, or at all? This is where being a public servant comes into play, and you may have to give a free or discounted cut to help them feel better, be motivated to look for a job, or have the confidence to deal with a failing business.
The hardest challenge for barbershop/salon owners with four or more chairs is how to get employees on board with the new standards, and have them press upon their clients the need to comply with the new procedures to protect others. Not everyone has the intestinal fortitude for discipline and respect for change. This is where the owner has to step up and hold everyone’s feet to the fire.
Because of the pandemic, certain grants, unemployment benefits and relief funds were made available, but a lot of owners, barbers and stylists were left out in the cold because they didn’t have their business or taxes structured to be able to benefit from these programs. With this time off and income lost, I hope most took the time to make their financial structure stronger so they can withstand another potential shutdown.
Lastly, it is my hope that we all have learned to be more efficient, that we're currently practicing better sanitary practices, and that we continue to maintain them even when we get back to a comfortable social work environment.