As the Coronavirus outbreak spreads, many salons are now facing a huge decision: should they remain open or is it time to close up for the foreseeable future?

We know that this is a choice that is very difficult to make – it may come down to your personal situation, such as whether you have elderly or at-risk relatives at home. However, we have heard from a number of salons who are determined to be there for their clients for as long as possible – which means introducing an isolated appointment process.

For instance, Nicola Hughes from Saks Chester was interviewed on BBC Radio Merseyside yesterday, and talked about her decision to remain open.

Here’s what she said on why she chose to offer isolated appointments…

“I work quite a lot with chemotherapy clients who have lost their hair, so I’m quite aware of the emotional impact our hair has – and I just like to help people.”

“So I thought, I love what I do, I love hairdressing, I want to continue and keep my business going and keep strong. And actually, at the same time, if I can continue to keep some normality to the average person, who has got such a lot of things to worry about anyway then I’ve got to try.”

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WHAT WE’RE DOING IN TRICKY TIMES As we all navigate the quickly evolving COVID-19 situation we want to 100% reassure you that we’re doing absolutely everything we can to ensure your safety during your salon visit. Our top priority remains the wellbeing of you and our team and in providing a safe and clean environment. We continue to stay well informed of the developing situation. We're following latest official advice and recommendations and have made our hygiene and cleaning protocols *even more* rigorous than usual. Including asking our customers and ensuring our team: – Follow guidelines on self-isolation and personal hygiene to avoid spreading or catching the virus – Wash hands on arrival, throughout time at and before leaving the salon – Make use of the anti-bacterial gel/wipes and tissues provided – Along with sterilizing all kit and cleaning touch points between customers – And cleaning the salon thoroughly at the end of each day AIR HUGS FOR NOW Huge thanks for your continued support; it means the world. We look forward to welcoming you in. Stay healthy, love Saks xx

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We also got in touch with Nicola to ask her what she would advise to salons who are worried about keeping open…

“I would say your main priority is to look after your staff wellbeing and to put your clients’ health and safety first. Just as importantly, try not to loose faith, remember that there is always a solution and if you have a strong relationship with your clients, they will always support you, too.

“At my salon, I have reduced all staff hours slightly to try and reduce overheads. I have two ‘teams’ of stylists who alternate week-by-week so we can continue to function if staff do need time off sick. We’ve got extra face masks coming in, too. Always make sure you follow the government’s advice while still trying to do best by your business, staff and your clients. I know it is hard, but remember that even a small income is better than no income”.

Obviously, this does mean some significant changes will need to be made. Social distancing and a constant dedication to ensuring the highest level of sanitation and disinfection are also needed – we’ve listed some of these in our advice on protecting your salon against Covid 19 blog.

One key concern for many is the impact that isolation and social distancing has on the elderly and more vulnerable people who may now be facing long periods of time spent without anyone to talk to. As their weekly salon appointment could have been the only conversation they had that day, the concern is them losing touch with those outside connections.

BBC Radio 5 Live also got some information from Dr.Zoe Norris, who said the following…

“From a health advice point of view, what we’re trying to do is to make sure people are no closer together than two metres for no more than 15 minutes. Now obviously, if you are going to cut someone’s hair, you’re going to be much closer than that and it’s probably going to take you more than 15 minutes. So from that point of view, it doesn’t seem like a sensible idea.

“However, this kind of dilemma about older people and isolation is very much what we are dealing with in primary care as well. So I think if you are in the lucky situation of having separate rooms then you do have the possibility of trying to space your appointments out, where there is only one customer coming through the door at a time, they go directly into a room, they are then in there with the stylist who would obviously needs to be doing all the things to do with hygiene, checking their temperature on a regular basis, observing all the basic precautions.”

Nicola from Saks agrees that salons can continue to do all they can to support their older or more lonely clients. “If you can provide provision for your clientele, then do. We are a big salon, so obviously this is more manageable for us than for smaller salons.” Nicola suggests running schemes such having a ‘phone appointments’ with those clients who depend on you for their social interaction – obviously they don’t get their hair done, but they still have that much needed chat and support.

So, what precautions should you be taking if you do decide to offer isolated appointments in your salon?

Over at Saks in Chester, Nicola Hughes describes her set up…

“Originally when I started I was just going to put a mirror in there and a seat and that was it. As the Coronavirus has come out more, we need more implementations in place. So now I’ve got the backwash put into there, I’ve got an industrial extractor that we can turn on once a client has been in there to ensure that all any airborne spores can be sucked out, we’ve got masks so that if my stylists are carrying anything, they are less likely to pass it on to clients.

“I’m looking at splitting all my staff’s shifts. It’s a significantly sized salon I’ve got, so I’m looking at having only three members of staff working at one time as a maximum. If we choose, we can create more isolation areas, but I do think that this is something I’m going to have to take further still”

Are you thinking of offering isolated appointments in your salon? If so we wish every salon the very best of luck, whatever decision you make.