Hair salons will be more like operating theatres, says David Marshall

Hairdresser says underground market poses a health risk, and will damage industry

David Marshall, at his hair salon on Fade Street, Dublin, before reopening. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

David Marshall, at his hair salon on Fade Street, Dublin, before reopening. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

David Marshall’s hair salon opened on Dubln’s South Great George’s Street in November 1974 and the coronavirus pandemic was the first time it had to close down.

The business survived the 2008 financial crash and the “dour” 1970s, but Marshall says resuming business post-lockdown will be another significant challenge.

When the salon reopens on Monday, the veteran hairstylist says it will “reflect an operating theatre” more than a hairdresser’s.

“I will be making sure that our environment is absolutely spotless. There will be hand sanitisers everywhere, there will be all of the equipment that is required. They will have a faceguard mask, the usual paraphernalia that goes with PPE,” he says.

“Every client will get a fresh gown and towel, then it will be discarded immediately, or put through the wash. Clients will get a mask too. Each staff member will only work in that station and they will only work at one client at a time until that client comes and goes and then the next client will come in.”

The number of clients allowed into the salon at any one time will be reduced by “at least half”, he says, with a maximum of seven or eight clients, down from between 15 and 20 in pre-Covid times.

The 15 employees will be working on a rota system so the salon can have longer opening hours – from 9am to 8pm– and the store will be open six days a week instead of the usual five.

If people are going out and doing it for cash, they’re taking clients out of the shop and that is going to have a knock on any business

For a long time, Marshall operated from two locations – his current location and on Dawson Street.

The last recession led him to close his Dawson Street salon in 2011, a decision, he says, he is thankful for now as it makes social distancing “easier to manage” with only one premises.

Marshall and his daughter Laura, who is the “new face” of the business, are in the process of contacting clients to organise appointments.

He says that demand is “like Christmas”, but that it won’t look like the festive season.

“I have a couple of pages full of people wanting to get back in. Everybody, hopefully, will be catered for equally in the best possible way. But we have preference bookings a little bit, and our very best clients will get those priority bookings,” he explains.

A tough time

Despite the demand for hair services, he predicts the business will still face financial challenges post-pandemic, like many other SMEs.

“We’re in for a tough time,” he says. “VAT coupled with what needs to be paid back due to Covid-19, that could be the final nail in the coffin for many businesses. I don’t see the future being that bright for smaller businesses.”

He adds: “We still have to cover our rent, and our utility bills are still coming in, not to the same extent, but obviously rent has to be paid unless you can negotiate with your landlord. I have yet to sit down with my landlord but hopefully he will be kind to us.”

There have been anecdotal reports that the closure of hairdressers due to coronavirus restrictions resulted in some people opting for underground operators, a move which Marshall describes as “dangerous”, due to the risk the virus poses.

He adds that people doing “nixers” will ultimately have a negative impact on smaller businesses.

“If you’re in business like we are, you have to pay your taxes, you have to pay your employees, you have to run it legitimately. If people are going out and doing it for cash, they’re taking clients out of the shop and that is going to have a knock on any business,” he says.

However, he doesn’t believe such operators will eclipse the need for salons in the future.

“I always believe the salon experience is the best. You don’t want to be having your hair shampooed in the bath or in the kitchen. Of course it will survive, but it’s not helping when you have all of this undercutting [of prices],” he adds.

Concerns about the economy and an oncoming recession are prevalent but Marshall says the salon experience “is more than just getting a haircut” and that it is an industry that “does well in recession time”.

“People go out and get their hair done to make themselves feel better, it gets you out of the house,” he adds.

Despite the challenges ahead – both financially and operationally – he and his staff are looking forward to getting back to business.

“This is the longest holiday I’ve had in 40 years. It does become part of you. I love the whole thing. We can’t wait to get back to it. This is what we do. It’s part of your DNA,” he adds.

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