‘There’s a sudden frenzy to look groomed’
Though a few city salons were forced to shut shop given the uncertainty and lack of a steady income since March 2020, all is not lost yet. According to Pankaj Killa, the founder-director of a city salon chain, it seems people somehow spent the two-month lockdown waiting for salons to open again. “Business is picking up really fast now. There’s a sudden frenzy to look groomed. And more than 50% of our customers are men now since they require frequent haircuts. Women are also into straightening, smoothening and keratin treatments,” he said.
Moreover, for many, work has continued over video calls and even office visits, so looking groomed has been a priority. Joyita Majumder, a school principal, said, “The pandemic is an inevitable part of our lives now, but work has not stopped. From attending online classes and meetings to being present on the school premises in person, I’ve always been in the public eye. So, looking groomed and professional is important.”
‘Makeup and skincare have taken a hit’
People are visiting salons mostly for hair colouring, retouches, haircuts, straightening, smoothening, rebonding, keratin treatments and pedicures. Mousumi Mitra, the director of a city salon chain, feels the situation is far from being hunky dory. “There is a flow of customers now, but it’s not all good. The salon industry is still ailing. Demand for skincare and makeup has taken a hit even though we introduced a no-contact facial that uses only hi-tech machines. Also, while threading we don’t put the thread in the mouth anymore. We just loop it around the neck,” she said.
Though many customers are cautious about the bill, many don’t mind spending extra in exchange for good service. “I don’t mind spending extra if I’m sure to get special treatment. So, since last year I’ve stopped going to salons and visit the city’s five-star hotels for their salon services. They block the entire floor and you are the only customer on a given date and time. It makes me feel safe,” said Soma Banerjee, a city-based entrepreneur.
‘Digital presence has helped attract customers’
Many salons are going the digital way to reach out to customers. Priscilla Corner, creative head of a salon in the city, has a strong web team that converts queries into services. “Our digital presence has helped a lot. We have a strong web team that works almost 24/7. Though we still book on phone, the queries and leads come online. Business has not been that bad either. We have some regular customers, who are now spending more time in a particular day at the salon to avoid frequent visits. We are also getting customers seeking pre-wedding package services besides the regular ones,” she said.
‘Every customer has unique behaviour’
Another important priority while getting back in business amid the pandemic is hygiene. But every customer reacts differently to these measures. Jolly Chanda, a hairdresser and makeup artist who runs a salon in the city, said, “I’ve noticed how every customer comes with a unique behaviour and attitude towards the pandemic. Some are okay with our sanitisation process, but some are extremely wary, as if every little thing they touch will give them COVID. Then there are others who behave like they are immortal and that the pandemic is a myth. But they are all keen on getting their hair done and polishing their skin,” she said.
Many customers are still wary of visiting salons. Madhurima Guha, a software engineer, feels that it’s unwise to spend on salon visits now. “I’m too frightened to go for salon services and it doesn’t make much sense to have facials when you always have to keep your masks on. I’m also worried whether the equipment (shared among customers) is sanitised properly,” she said.