Posted July 19, 2021
An Op-Ed by Maureen Harding, Chair of Hair and Beauty Australia and owner of Hairdressing by Maureen Harding in Ingleburn.
Hairdressers across the Greater Sydney area now facing their fourth week of closed doors. With staff wages, rent and other business costs to cover, and the possibility of closures throughout Australia hanging over all our heads, a feeling of abandonment and despair is settling in.
I have been a hairdresser for over forty years and own salon in Southwest Sydney. Many of my older clients come in daily, with the visit to the shop sometimes their only social interaction. One of my regulars brings in biscuits each day. We keep an eye on her and if she doesn’t pop by, I make a few calls to ensure everything is okay.
We also have working Mums who bring in their laptop and get through reports while being able to spend a few hours doing something that is just for “them”.
The local traders swing by and I always fit them in, even when it’s busy because they are always a bit time-poor!
Our salon isn’t just a place where ladies who lunch come to congregate, it’s a community.
As a small business owner, the key to success has always been focusing on my clients. Listening to their needs and ensuring that when they walk out the door, they feel more confident and positive about themselves is critical. I think hairdressing and beauty services is almost as much psychological as it is about good technique!
Our industry recognises that sacrifices must be made to keep our community safe during this pandemic. Last year, our businesses put in place social distancing measures, staff wore masks throughout the day, temperature checks on all entering the premises, QR codes mandatory and sanitizing each workstation were the norm.
This time though, it has been a complete shutdown for us. While the likes of Westfield juggernauts and many other “big corporates” able to continue to profit, small salon owners are left to shoulder the burden of trying to keep staff employed and figuring out how to have some kind of business to eventually return to.
As the Chair of Hair and Beauty Australia, I have been inundated with calls and emails from desperate salon and barbershop owners who are seeing their livelihoods decimated and frantic with worry about how to keep staff employed.
I would also ask State and Federal Governments to consider what mass closures of our salons would mean to main streets across neighborhoods. Our Hairdressers, Beauty Therapists and Barbers are often the linchpins of their local communities. We employ locally, we support the schools, the sporting clubs, and other community activities. Without support for us now, and a way forward in the future there will be salons unable to reopen by the end of the month with resulting job losses.
I commend the announcement of a formal framework announced by the federal government to help business when disruptions occur, but there is more that can be done. The current approach to dealing with lock-downs is confusing, with multiple governments and agencies involved and the system difficult to navigate.
The messaging around restrictions is also confusing and the lack of clarity on what defines an essential worker is causing harm. I would argue that the mental well-being and connectivity our industry offer to our community makes us more essential than a new pair of sneakers.
Of course, we must balance, the safety of our customers, staff, and most importantly the community that we are all a part of, with the needs of our customers and our employees.
If we are all in this together, then at the least we would hope there is clear support for those who are asked to sacrifice for the community.
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