Your monthly visit to the salon for a grooming session will now entail an appointment and no walk-ins, stringent safety and hygiene measures, and social distancing norms to begin with. Be prepared to sanitise your hands through a contactless sanitiser dispenser installed right at the door, keep your mouth covered with a mask, and get a thermal temperature scan done. The staff too will now be clad in single-use PPE kits, your hairstylists, beauticians and pedicurists will religiously sanitise their hands repeatedly, use disposable paper towels in place of cloth, and maintain safe contact.
All salons have put in place arrangements to minimise contact and sanitise every piece of equipment and furniture. After every use, seats are thoroughly sprayed down and sanitised. While customers are rapidly shifting to contactless payment methods, such as Google Pay, Apple Pay and BHIM app, payments in card or cash are sanitised with anti-bacterial sprays. In front of every seat, one can find a bottle of sanitiser and services requiring up-close, personal contact, such as massages and body polishes, have been discontinued for now. “We have also put in place capes, shoe covers, gloves, masks and head covers for all services,” says Sumit Israni, creative director, Geetanjali Salon and Studio. They currently have 100 salons pan-India in over 22 cities and are operational only in the northern belt.
Reopening salons has not been an easy task. Looks Salon, which has 140 branches pan-India, is slowly adapting to the ‘new normal’ by re-opening its salons in Delhi since June 6. In the NCR, high-street salons have opened up, but those within shopping malls are still awaiting approvals. Clients are cautious but keen to get services done, however, salon owners are dealing with logistical issues—people booking but missing appointments, walk-ins, ensuring all safety precautions, over and above the salon’s protocols, and going ahead with the service only when they feel secured. “Post the lockdown, haircuts and hair colour have increased, pedicures, manicures have become an essential service for both male and female clients. Waxing is quite in demand, and we are gradually looking to restore facial and make-up services,” says Vikram Dutta, director, Looks Salon.
Salons, where one indulged in some small talk once with a fellow customer, will now rarely see clients interacting with a friendly familiarity. “Since the pandemic, the social aspect of stepping out has changed for everyone, affecting the intensity with which individuals are connecting with each other. The crisis has cast challenges upon people’s ability to feel secure and create a social network, and this could have an influence on their overall well-being in the longer run,” says Kamna Chhibber, clinical psychologist and head of department of mental health and behavioural sciences at Fortis Healthcare, Gurgaon. Burdened with anxiety and general irritability, maybe dealing with feelings of loss or grief, people are skeptical about interacting with each other. Exchanges, therefore, at salons will be all business for the foreseeable future.
For Himanshu Kundnani, a regular walk-in customer at Geetanjali Salon, in Gurgaon’s Galleria Market, the first significant change was having to book an appointment. “Earlier, I used to reach out to my hairstylist directly. But on my recent visit, I noticed that the salon, usually packed to capacity, was working with reduced staff and customers,” he says. The salon also required him to provide an update on his recent health, as well as travel history, which were then recorded in a Google form. But since the scissors, combs and tweezers were all sterilised before use, Kundnani, who was anxious before the service, felt at ease. This time, though, he refrained from buying his usual salon products and preferred to use whatever was available in and around his house. “I have been visiting the salon for years and have, over a period of time, built a relationship of trust with the staff. I wouldn’t want to experiment with a new one, especially at this time,” he adds.
Into the Future
With one eye on the future, salons are coming up with different ways to engage with their customers. “We are encouraging complete digitalisation of service consultations and bookings,” says Israni. This could also be an opportunity for salons to cash in on the DIY (do-it-yourself) trend that became popular during the lockdown with many coming up with skin care routines at home and learning to self-groom through online tutorials, in the absence of their regular salon visits, but salons are quickly catching on and upgrading their own list of services.