Hair colouring, manicures and facials to take a backseat as non-essential services close from April 7

Customers at a beauty salon in VivoCity on April 4, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Come Tuesday, hair colouring treatments, manicures and facials will no longer be essential services for those who make a routine of them.

Beauty businesses across the island have been grappling with various degrees of disruption, after the new Covid-19 restrictions announced on Friday. The stricter safe distancing measures require most non-essential businesses to be shut for a month from April 7.

Some are hit harder than others.

While hair salons can still open to offer only basic haircuts, facial salons like Kew Organics have to close entirely for a month. Founder and CEO Lily Kew, 49, is most concerned about her team of about 10 employed in three salons and a franchise store.

"For beauty therapists, if their hands stop, their income stops," said Ms Kew, who is still uncertain about leave arrangements for her staff. She hopes for more support and understanding from landlords in these tough times.

"I'm very in favour of the stricter measures. But no boss would want their staff to go on no-pay leave, because they're family."

Beauty salon chain Estetica is also trying to maintain staff headcount despite rental and manpower costs. The company, which had been tightening its hygiene measures since February, will close its seven salons that offer facial services, for a month.

The validity of customers' existing packages will be extended by six months, said operations director Karen Lam.

"It is our hope that the Government can freeze rents and provide ample subsidies for our retail staff during this time, so we can overcome this crisis together."

For multi-services salon Prestige Hair and Beauty Salon - which offers hair, nail and facial services - the measures mean asking staff who do only manicures or hair treatments to stay home.

Business has fallen by more than half since a month ago, said managing director Susan Lim, 62. The salon will remain open to offer basic haircuts, but she expects business to continue falling.

"In my 30-plus years in this business, this is the worst economic situation we've ever been in," she said.

On the up side, this has led to a sudden spike in business for some this weekend. Director of hair salon Sonder Hair at Shaw Centre, Ms Delos Oh, 42, said "it feels like Christmas came early".

Her salon, which offers a full suite of hair services, received an influx of bookings from customers asking to colour their hair this weekend, after the measures were announced.

The 20 to 30 per cent spike in bookings, however, translates to fewer takings than normal given that clients have to be seated one metre apart, said Ms Oh.

Customers at a hair salon in VivoCity on April 4, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The last 18 hours have been hectic for grooming salon Sugar(ed), said founder Jasmine Yong, 34, whose four parlours have to close from Monday night.

To accommodate this weekend's bookings, she offered off-duty staff the opportunity to work one last time before Tuesday. After that, all staff will be on paid leave for the month ahead.

Despite the situation, Chez Vous Hair brand director Eugene Teo, 34, remains upbeat. His two salons in Ngee Ann City are favoured for hair colouring and chemical treatments.

From Tuesday, Mr Teo's 50 staff members in both salons will be reduced to 11 at each. The rest will be on paid leave.

He projects bookings to drop to around five a day, from the usual 40 to 50.

"We calculated - closing the salon for the month will actually cut costs more than staying open.

"But our customers need us. We have to reciprocate their loyalty for all these years - if they can only do a haircut, then we'll do a haircut."

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