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It's getting ugly for hair and beauty salons as up to 70% of businesses face closure as restrictions remain

25 May 2020 - 11:53 By Nivashni Nair
A barber cuts a man's hair in his barbershop in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, during the lockdown. He says the income helps him to buy necessities.
A barber cuts a man's hair in his barbershop in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, during the lockdown. He says the income helps him to buy necessities.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Up to 70% of the country's hair and beauty salons, spas and tattoo parlours face closure as their businesses remain under Covid-19 lockdown.

“Indications are that up to 70% will have to close. We will again be doing a snap survey this week,” said Employers Organisation for Hairdressing, Cosmetology and Beauty (EOHCB) national manager Cobus Grobler.

On Sunday evening President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the beauty industry would remain under lockdown as the country moves to level 3 restrictions on June 1.

There are about 90,000 people active in the hair and beauty sector, which is worth about R300bn.

Grobler told TimesLIVE on Monday that the EOHCB noted with regret that the personal care sector remains closed.

“As from today we will advise establishments about the steps to follow to reopen lawfully. We are desperately trying to get a copy of the Government Gazette for level 3 on the health department's website and the draft document. The president's speech differed in one small aspect that could be a game-changer.”

“In schedule two, where the sectors that may not reopen are listed, the draft document stated that personal care remains closed 'unless 1.5m social distancing between customer' is possible. If this rider is excluded in the gazette, then we are stuck and government did not accept our submission. If it is in, we have an avenue to start working and only need to clarify whether it will be with the phased-in process of level 4 regulations or 100% with level 3 regulations.”

Grobler said the beauty industry could not rely on Wednesday's court application to save it.

“We think it is possible for establishments to open should they be able to adhere to social distancing of 1.5m between customers. We cannot rely on Wednesday's case to save the industry because it was brought by an individual backed by a supplier, and specifically for hairdressers only. The industry is more than hairdressers. We will not oppose the case on Wednesday nor will we join as friends of the court.”

Two weeks ago lawyer Carlo Viljoen told TimesLIVE he had submitted court papers to demand an urgent reopening of hair salons.

Viljoen is taking on the matter pro bono “for the hairdressers out there”.

Several salon owners told TimesLIVE they face closure, but were not ready to announce this to their clients.

“I want to remain hopeful, but as it stands, I doubt I will be able to afford to reopen. I don’t want clients to know this until I am 100% certain it will happen. I am so stressed because I don’t have a plan B,” said a salon owner in Paarl, Western Cape.

Since the start of the lockdown, thousands of workers in the beauty industry poured out their desperation in submissions to national government. They spoke about losing their rental spaces, not being able to pay staff and closing up shop.

Terry Scott, owner of salons in Durban's Pavilion Shopping Centre, Musgrave and La Lucia, said the lockdown had been “the cherry on the top” after months of load-shedding drastically affected business.

“We rely on turnover to sustain our livelihood so this proverbially puts the nail in the coffin. No work, no turnover.”