Sun | May 31, 2020

Barbers worried as COVID-19 shaves earnings - Salons also feel heat as clients dry up

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2020 | 12:12 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Marlon Gray, head of the Clarendon Barbers, Hairdressers and Nail Tech Association, cutting a client’s hair.
Marlon Gray, head of the Clarendon Barbers, Hairdressers and Nail Tech Association, cutting a client’s hair.

Barbers, hairdressers, cosmetologists and other beauticians are lamenting the heavy hit their operations have taken with the emergence of the deadly coronavirus in the island and the measures introduced by the Government to contain its spread.

The Government has restricted these businesses to operating between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Additionally, no more than 10 people, including no more than two customers waiting to be attended to, should be in the salons at any one time. Breaching the order, which is in effect until April 23, attracts a fine of up to $1 million or 12 months’ imprisonment.

Marlon Gray, who heads the Clarendon Barbers, Hairdressers and Nail Tech Association, said he has been in constant communication with members of the body and they all are all echoing the same cry: “Nothing is happening.”

SIGNIFICANT HIT

“It has affected me significantly,” said Gray, who operates Series of Change Beauty and Barber Salon.

“In the slow off period, I would see three persons coming for the day, now I haven’t worked for days,” he told The Gleaner last week.

He said the restricted operating hours pose an added challenge as most of his clients would usually drop by after work in the evenings. He admits, however, that despite the challenges, he is in solidarity with the measures to keep the highly contagious virus at bay.

Mandy Young, who is a member of the association and lives in Longville Park, said she has been unable to work full time.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19, I have been out for two days for two weeks,” she shared, adding that she has since shuttered the business as her clients were not coming in as they are just as fearful of the virus as she is.

“So I am at home. Business is closed as we speak and it’s affecting me greatly, as is everybody else,” she said last week.

Kamile Lewin of Woodhall had a similar tale of woe as her clients have also stopped visiting the salon.

Menesha Jennings, who operates Menesha’s Beauty Galoure Hair Studio out of Bushy Park Mews in May Pen, said since COVID-19, she has also lost a lot of business.

“I am not getting the support I used to get on a regular basis. I [used to have up to] five persons per day, and now, it’s one or none at all,” she said, adding that it was particularly distressing since she is the main breadwinner for her family.

While the Government has announced a $10-billion COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme, which will also provide a cushion for workers in the industry, Gray, who is batting for more than 25 active members in his association, pondered whether everyone would be able to benefit as only 40 per cent of his association’s members are licensed.

“Fifteen per cent got their health permit, which is the first step to get their licence, but because of financial challenges, they are unable to pay for the licences,” he said.

Commenting on their earning power, Gray said about a quarter of members, who have community-based operations, earn an average of $6,000 per week.

Another quarter with out-of-town operations were able to earn $9,000 weekly. The remaining half, who operate from in May Pen, earn an average of $12,000 weekly, he said.

He is making a plea to the Government to find a “middle ground” to assist unlicensed operators as the assistance is badly needed.

“We would love the Government to pay keen attention to these entrepreneurs and to these young professionals and have some kind of dialogue with them,” he said.

Gray said the association has been working to regularise members and last year, five persons were registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica and 25 persons received their barber’s licence.

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