Salons opened for retail sales ahead of Mother’s Day

Catherine Ann French said she’s grateful to be able to open for retail sales and gift vouchers, but is still waiting until beauty services are allowed to safely resume. Credit: Roslyn Clare Photography

Catherine Ann French, owner of Catherine Ann’s Beauty Therapy, is upbeat about government rules issued late last week allowing beauty salons to open for retail sales, but isn’t naive about the timing of the changes.

“I really feel that they have come in and opened us up for retail purely and simply to try and capture some of the opportunity for Mother’s Day,” she said, questioning whether the restrictions could change again after the holiday passes. 

“How do we know that they’re not going to shut us down next week again? I think they‘ve got to have a lot of clarity about the decisions they’re making.”

Despite the feeling of instability, Catherine Ann said she’s “extremely happy” to be open, enjoying “some really nice conversations” with customers since she doesn’t currently have the distraction of juggling services and staff and phone calls and booking and admin tasks all at once.

It was a different kind of juggling act last month, trying to balance the books, “pivot” her business and homeschool two kids. 

The salon is a distributor of Ella Bache products, which brought its own challenges as Ella Bache closed to wholesale orders at the beginning of the pandemic, to protect their brand from salons who might be tempted to flout the rules, and to preserve their own stock levels.

“Basically, as soon as we were given the message that business has to close, it was a few days of being overwhelmed, then it’s about getting into action,” said Ms French. “Ok, what can I do to put my business in the best possible position and my staff in the best possible position?

“I became the warehouse, the delivery guy, the receptionist, the whole kit in a very short space of time.”

Ms French said that while her storefront was closed, she and her children were reaching out to customers individually or through social media and sending packages in the mail.

“That was challenging, and then school went back,” she said. “I felt like I floundered for about five weeks.”

The National Cabinet is scheduled to meet again today to discuss current Covid-19 restrictions, and Ms French said she’s hopeful there will be further directions given for the beauty industry. 

Ultimately, she agrees with the government’s decision to close beauty salons even while hairdressers were kept open, but said it could be time for responsible services to reopen.

“You just try to just cop on the chin the decisions made, because the decision to close us was the right decision.

“We just have such close contact with people.”

Ms French said beauticians often touch clients’ hands and mouths and can be “up close” to clients for 30 minutes or more at a time.

“An eyelash lift can be an 1-1 ½ hour appointment. You’re really close to that person’s face.”

The part which she found disappointing in the government’s decision was that mobile and home beauty services were allowed to resume. 

“It made me ropable, but then you just can’t give it energy, because you turn yourself inside out,” she said.