Hairdressers start campaign for better Covid-19 support

BUSINESS owners in close-contact service industries have called for better government support for small family firms – with some saying they are relying on savings to support their families.

Rebecca Pirouet, of Sorella hair salon, with her husband, James, and son, Beau. (30015919)
Rebecca Pirouet, of Sorella hair salon, with her husband, James, and son, Beau. (30015919)

Five women in the hairdressing industry have spoken about what they describe as the ‘devastating’ impact of delays to the reopening of retail and close-contact services.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Richard Renouf announced that all non-essential retail stores must remain closed until at least 3 February, with close-contact services due to open a week later, following the detection of a cluster of Covid-19 cases among retail supply-chain staff.

Rebecca Pirouet, who runs Sorella hairdressing salon, in St Brelade, with her sister, said she was ‘devastated’ by the news. Mrs Pirouet is one of five women behind the Support Jersey Family Business campaign launched on Facebook earlier this month, which calls on government to provide better support for small family businesses. A petition was also lodged – which now has nearly 1,600 signatures – requesting government to offer one-off grants for the worst-affected industries.

‘Morale is low with our staff and with ourselves, so it’s just another knock,’ said Mrs Pirouet. ‘It’s now coming to the point where businesses are running low financially and mentally. Personally, I don’t sleep very well and have actually come out in hives from the stress in the last month. I have constant headaches, teeth grinding and strain on muscles. The term “health before wealth” gets bandied around an awful lot, but this isn’t about wealth and making money – this is what stress does to your body.’

Fellow campaigner Lauren Layzell, owner of The Parlour salon, in Burrard Street, added that morale in the industry was at ‘an all-time low’. Mrs Layzell said that she opened the salon in 2015 to provide a better future for her daughters, who were five months and two years old at the time.

‘It’s all been very upsetting, with so much time wasted rearranging clients,’ she said. ‘During the first lockdown, most businesses started out in a much better financial position than they are now. This time round we have all lost that drive to power on and are feeling completely defeated by the lack of support and uncertainty.’

A common concern among the campaigners is what they describe as a lack of clarity regarding financial support for small-business owners.

Victoria Queree owns NEON Salon Training School, which she launched in 2016 when her first daughter was two, before having twins in 2018. ‘We welcome the news that a grant system has been put in place, but we have no further details on this,’ she said.

‘We’ve got to find money to keep us employed and the government have been a bit slow with providing us with the details. We heard last night that two salons that we know of have had to close because they don’t have the money to continue.’

Sophie Walton, who runs Stylistics Hair Studio, in St Saviour, echoed Mrs Queree’s sentiments, adding: ‘The support package that was announced is available until early February and we still have no terms and conditions for applying, leaving us in limbo. The guidance on this package has been shambolic and has left me feeling so anxious and depressed. It’s been hard over the last few weeks to even contemplate the future and moving forward.’

Mrs Queree said that the feeling within their campaign group was that hairdressing salons should be able to open alongside non-essential shops. ‘We wear full PPE and trace everyone before they come in – if they are displaying symptoms or have been in contact with somebody with the virus, they aren’t allowed in. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to open with retail.’

Many of the salon owners had spent hours preparing for their businesses to open next week, before learning that the date was to be pushed back.

‘This whole period has been very stressful,’ said campaigner Ana Gomes, owner and managing director of Splendida Hair and Beauty Salons in St Helier. ‘We were ready to open on 3 February – major orders [were] placed with suppliers and a large number of hours were spent making new reservations, to now be delayed for a further two weeks.

‘I am married and I have a 17-year-old son and a mortgage to pay like most people. As we are once again closed, I am relying on my husband’s salary and on my savings to sustain my family.’

Beverley Le Cuirot, who set up her own Facebook group – Small Business Support re Covid-19 Jersey – in March, said. ‘We are seeing an increasing – and worrying – number of small-business owners suffering with severe anxiety, stress and distress. We are supporting them through our small-business groups, providing a listening ear, and answering their private messages at all hours of the day and night.’

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