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It is a moral victory for the hair and beauty sector that the government has slotted the sector in with other retail businesses for a re-opening of 12 April. It puts our sector on an equal footing with retail and an acceptance that it has a proven record in using PPE to deliver a COVID secure service with little negative impact on the infection rate. The beauty sector is a £28 billion industry – making a bigger contribution to the economy than car manufacturing. So it deserves recognition in the revival of the economy this summer.
Of its workforce 88% are women compared with 47% across all sectors. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that working mothers are almost 50 per cent more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit during the pandemic. This will be partly due to the extended period of lockdowns the health and beauty sector and the responsibility of women on home schooling children during the lockdown. So the relaunch of the hair and beauty sector is also about supporting mothers regain their financial security and contribution to the economy.
The Local Data Company calculated that almost 5,000 salons nationally had already closed on Britain’s high streets for good. That is an astonishing figure and impact on the capability of town centres to recover post lockdown. As a service industry hair and beauty plays a key role along side cafes and restaurants in the town centres being able to thrive. Yet the National Hair and Beauty Federation found that 60 per cent of businesses entered 2021 with no cash reserves. As an employer ourselves we are totally dependent on government lockdown grants to pay ongoing rent and utilities until reopening. If the sector is to survive the cost of reopening and building back a customer base to profit when it reopens ongoing government support – extension of business rates relief and furloughing of staff until footfall returns.
If the government is so strict on following the data then the question is whether they are taking an overly cautious and immovable approach or taking into account the impact of the lockdown on people’s mental health, on companies’ financial liquidity with closure and the impact of vaccination programme being both ahead of schedule and reducing infection rate ahead of modelling, and seriously consider moving the return to opening forward from 12 April. Naturally many individuals are fearful after two previous lockdowns. But the chosen date is just as fluid as the data. Now the schools have returned we can analyse the impact on the infection rate and make an objective judgement on the reopening of businesses. The government has published its roadmap and is clearly confident that the relaxation of regulations is manageable.