One of the most popular memes currently making its way around the internet jokes that we are about three months away from seeing everyone’s true hair color. While providing a brief moment of levity in a time of crisis, the truth is that the closing of retail service providers across the nation impacts us all.
According to Stephanie Wissink, equity analyst for Jefferies, as of March 22, 75 percent of salons nationwide planned to close for at least two weeks. That affects the $64 billion professional beauty industry in several ways, including lost salaries for salon employees and a halt to backbar retail sales. And although not an essential business, Americans rely on the professional beauty industry for the confidence offered by a fresh cut and color, perfectly polished nails and other grooming services.
Already salon closures have taken a toll on operators. Mynd Spa and Salon, previously the iconic Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Heyday laid off more than 300 employees. Ten Over Ten and Naturapathica also announced layoffs. As of Sunday, March 22, Glamsquad put its services on “pause.” And as beauty retailers such as Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Nordstrom and others temporarily close their brick and mortar locations, data provider, Poshly, estimated one million cosmetics services sector workers would lose wages. Even in the few markets salons could remain open, owners reported rampant cancellations as people decided to stay home.
“Even greater unknowns surround independent service workers within the beauty industry: brides are cancelling appointments with makeup artists, proms are called off, customers are cancelling hair and skin care appointments, and face-to-face consultations are on hold indefinitely,” said Brandon Garcia, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Mira Beauty, a universal search engine and catalog for beauty products. Moreover, he said, beauty students are being forced to postpone their schooling, or to graduate into an uncertain landscape.
It wasn’t enough for Brandon to just watch the picture unfold.
“While the government is starting to take strides to protect massive verticals like the airline industry, we’ve not seen any substantial steps taken to support beauty professionals: makeup artists, advisors, estheticians, salon owners and more.”
So, Mira stepped in, and last Wednesday unlocked a $10,000 relief fund to help support makeup artists and beauty professionals who are out of work due to salon closures in response to COVID-19.
“We are inviting beauty brands, retailers, creators and anyone who can afford helping, to send contributions to our relief effort,” said Brandon.
In just one week, Mira received more than 2,000 messages prompting the need to establish a dedicated team to respond to all notes—even comforting those in distress. The influencer community, which has close ties to professional beauty resources, has started to donate. Mira is working on a creative challenge to inspire influencers to help support beauty professionals who have been so important to their growth. For those who have reached out but can’t donate now, Mira is working on a program where they will hire and pay them to help fine-tune the site. “We’re looking at giving them a stipend in exchange for helping us perfect the Mira experience,” said Benjamin Lord, Chief Marketing Officer for Mira.
Here are some ways Brandon said beauty service professionals and business owners can keep up with such uncertain times:
- Due to brick and mortar closures, the industry is seeing an increase in video consultations for beauty products. Beauty pros should share their Skype, FaceTime or YouCam —with other industry pros. Think of incentives and discounts that will encourage customers to book virtual appointments.
- Know that the industry does have ways to support. This tool can help you find out about benefits in your state.
- Take the opportunity to create use-case driven content to support your community. There’s a massive opportunity to connect with those searching for remedies for their specific needs, including Mira.
- Suggest clients reschedule appointments for the summer or fall.
- Ask friends to leave recommendations on social media.
Consider the following organizations for support:
- PBA – Professional Beauty Association
- Freelance Co-op
- Covered CA
- IRS Corona Virus Tax Relief
- Women Arts
Brandon also provided the following tips on how small businesses, who could be most affected by the current industry challenges, can survive.
- Deploy video chat and other conversational interfaces for professionals and customers online. From social media to streamed events, retailers and businesses have an opportunity to both keep their customers engaged and employees working.
- Ask your friends and customers to leave a review online for your salon or store. Reviews are good for search visibility and, when done right, will help you drive more traffic to your site!
- Create a waitlist for loyal clientele to have first access to your business once you re-open.
- Move product sales to eCommerce. “Despite serious drops in overall sales for beauty retailers, we’ve seen some early signs that may point towards increased e-commerce activity and digital engagement. We anticipate seeing the industry’s low e-commerce penetration start to widen with changing purchase behaviors through the pandemic and beyond.
- If you cancel an appointment due to COVID-19, consider paying your hair stylist, make-up artist or esthetician since the expense was already in your budget. If paying is no longer feasible, consider a tip.
“We want to be on the front lines helping beauty professionals,” Brandon said.