Many businesses that rely on customer interaction have suffered a great deal during the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, those in Leicester and other cities in the North of England with extended lockdowns and stricter regulations have been hit much harder.
One such business is the Beauty Refinery on Leicester’s London Road. Owned by Minal Parmar, the beauty salon has reopened its doors to clients although it has been surprisingly quiet. Whilst barbers and hairdressers have become fully booked in many places, the confusing announcements and back and forth on lockdown rules have left some places without any clients.
Minal said: “It’s very, very quiet to be honest. What has happened is, twice we have had the announcement that we could open. So we started taking bookings, and then we couldn’t open because of the Leicester lockdown. I had to ring everyone and cancel everyone’s appointment and it was really, really bad. They were coming through all different social media platforms, so I had to go through every single message and email to let them know.
“So, due to this disappointment, I didn’t take any bookings after this, just in case we had to cancel every appointment all over again. I had been checking everyday since the lockdown, to see if we were allowed to open, as many of us have. As soon as we got the announcement, I had so many phone calls. So, we’ve had some bookings, but not many today because of this uncertainty.”
With the opening of beauty salons, and not too long ago, hairdressers and barbers, there are many queries and confusions as to who is allowed to offer what services and why. For example, Minal said: “I’m quite surprised that barbers can do beards and we can’t do face treatments. Especially if I want to work on the eyebrows or the upper lip. If the barber clients don’t have to wear a mask when they’re getting their beard done, why should we not be allowed to do these treatments? That’s quite unfair, actually.”
There are many concerns amongst business owners that lockdown will have a long term impact. Minal said: “I sent a text message to my family group, which is me, my husband, and my kids. I said that the salon is very quiet, scary, and worrying. This is my fear. I’m worried that we won’t have regular income. I am having faith right now, and hopefully, with the amount of calls I’ve taken during the lockdown period, I’m hoping they’ll all come back. The fear of losing clients is a big one.”
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, who has been the driving force behind the covid-19 local lockdowns told Times Radio: “We see from what’s happened in Leicester over the past few weeks that where we put a local lockdown in place it then has been effective and we have been able to announce yesterday that Leicester is coming out of most – not all – but most of the local lockdown measures because the numbers are under control.
“Obviously that has had a huge impact on the people of Leicester, including businesses, and of course I regret that in the way I regret a huge amount of the impact of what we have had to do to tackle the virus.
“But we will do what is necessary and we will work very closely with the council, who have also got a really important part to play in this.”
By Sam Ellison