Looking good, feeling better, staying healthy: Salons and the Post-Covid Consumer

To comply with sweeping social distancing measures implemented at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, personal care businesses across the U.S. closed their doors alongside other businesses that were deemed nonessential. As the pandemic has worn on and hair and beauty salons have reopened, many of them more than once, it has become clear that a lot of clients get much more out of a visit to the salon than a simple haircut. 

Fairly or not, hairdressers and stylists have long played the role of sounding board and informal counselor, and salons have been places of conversation and community. That importance has been underscored during Covid-19. As salons throughout the U.S. are once again open, it’s clear just how much salons and salon workers are tasked with, from offering skilled services in a healthy and safe environment to improving their clients’ overall wellbeing.

Salon workers hear it all

It’s no secret that many beauty industry workers eventually hear their clients’ life stories. However, mental health probably isn’t one of the first things that come to mind when talking about the salon, even though salons often serve as a safe space for clients to confide.

Salon professionals provide one-on-one service, and they are usually outside the client’s normal social circle, so people tend to unload their problems while they’re ‘in the chair.’ So much so, in fact, that some states now require salon professionals to receive training in domestic violence counseling. Illinois became the first state to do so in 2016, and at least 14 other states have sought to follow suit.

Stylists also tend to form long-lasting relationships with their clients. According to one salon customer survey, 82% of respondents said it was imperative to have a good relationship with their hairstylist, and 49% said it was harder to find a good stylist than a good romantic partner.

Hair services are always in demand

With a majority of salon professionals working as independent contractors or on a commission basis, and an industry average profit margin of just 5 to 6%, closures hit the salon owners and workers hard. But the industry has shown its strength and resilience, with clients lining up to get their hair done as soon as they were allowed to (and sometimes sooner).

Even during economic downturns, people still need and want to look good; during Covid-19 lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, not only did essential and remote workers still have to present a professional appearance, but a lot of people just wanted to look and feel better. 

Customers are changing

According to McKinsey and Company, 42% of consumers now prioritize wellness as a top concern when deciding which businesses to visit, and that trend is likely to continue. 

Before Covid-19 put salons in the spotlight, businesses and salon professionals were already subject to stringent sanitization protocols from the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and local and statewide industry organizations. 

Now, consumers seem to care much more than they used to about a business’s health protocols, from tool sanitization to ventilation. Business owners, too, are very concerned with providing a safe experience for their team and their clients and how best to communicate what steps they’re taking. 

As measures regarding Covid-19 and other health regulations, protocols, and best practices continue to evolve, Klēn offers businesses a new way to clearly and consistently communicate with their customers about safety. For customers, the Klēn app also provides a channel for consumer feedback and business insights, allowing clients to connect directly with the business about what concerns them the most. 

Risks and resilience in the salon industry

Throughout the pandemic, restrictions on nonessential businesses have varied widely between states and regions, and businesses have struggled to keep up with openings, closures, and frequently changing industry restrictions. 

According to Yelp’s Economic Impact Report published in January 2021, between March and December 2020, more than 26,000 beauty businesses reopened once, over 6,000 reopened twice, and 2,849 reopened three separate times. This speaks to the resilience of salons and salon owners who have made their businesses survive the past year.

There has been debate over whether personal care services should be considered essential or not, but regardless, like other customer-facing workers, salon professionals risk their health to go to work. Some clients have been so desperate for a beauty treatment that they put the staff, other customers, and the salon itself at risk, but fortunately, prevention strategies like mandatory mask-wearing and enhanced sanitation protocols, are working.

The effectiveness of mask-wearing in a salon environment was shown clearly when two stylists in Missouri, who had unknowingly contracted Covid-19, saw a total of 139 clients while potentially contagious before they were diagnosed. They and their clients wore masks throughout all appointments, and none of the clients contracted Covid-19.

Communication is key

In an industry that thrives on personal connection, salons now also need to remotely showcase the lengths they’re going to keep their clients and workers safe during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. As health continues to be a central focus of the new consumer, and the salon continues to fill the roles of beauty enhancer and emotionally safe space, business owners and stylists can reassure customers that their physical health is also being well looked after. When it comes to health and safety, salon professionals have a unique opportunity to help build trust through technology between consumers, workers, and business owners. Klēn’s platform gives salons a user-friendly, go-to source of trustworthy information about current CDC, state, and industry guidelines, so business owners can focus on implementing safety measures, taking care of their staff and clients, and building their business.