Sun, 11 April 2021

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Hair And Beauty Leaders Say Government Treats Them As A “Hobby” And Demands A Final Cash Injection

Hair And Beauty Leaders Say Government Treats Them As A “Hobby” And Demands A Final Cash Injection
4 min read

The multi-billion pound hair and beauty industry has cautiously welcomed confirmation salons can re-open in April, after months of feeling like they're treated as a “hobby” and not a business by government.

Haircuts, waxing, beard trims and manicures are all allowed to restart from 12 April, if a customer visits a salon alone or has a hairdresser visit their household.  

Millie Kendall, the chief executive of the British Beauty Council, told PoliticsHome that the £28 billion beauty sector had suffered enormously during lockdown, only being able to trade for a few months of the past year.

Financial support for the final weeks of the third lockdown is now desperately needed, she said, and is renewing her call on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to reduce VAT to five percent for salons and introduce a grant scheme for businesses which are now extremely cash poor.

“It’s welcome news and I’m delighted we’re opening again on 12 April, and hopefully we’re open for good," she said. 

“This is a cautious reopening and there’s no reason why we can’t stay open but we do need to push for a personal care fund and a cut to VAT.”

She described getting recognition from the government in the early days of the pandemic had been like “pushing a boulder up a hill” but significant progress had been made.

“We have a very good relationship now [with government]," Kendall, who founded makeup brand Ruby & Millie in the 1990s, continued.

"Eighty percent of our workforce are women and a lot get into this because it’s the only thing they can do and pick up children from school, and have flexible working hours.

"Somehow they just kept missing that really crucial point.

“The government think it’s a hobby. They are starting to take it seriously now and see it for the value but we’ve had to push this boulder up a hill.”

Millie Kendall (right) with makeup brand co-founder Ruby Hammer (left)

Even today Kendall said it was clear that when the Prime Minister mentioned that it was possible to get a haircut from April, people in the Commons started laughing.

She said it does make the industry paranoid that they are not being viewed in the same light as other multi-billion economic sectors.

The hair and beauty industry now has direct liaisons within the department for Business, Innovation, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who are dedicated to working with the sector during the pandemic.  

The National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) – the UK’s largest trade body for the hair, beauty and barbering – is also backing calls for the VAT cut to five percent and a personal care fund ahead of hthe April reopening date.

Richard Lambert, the organisation’s chief executive, said representations have been made to the Treasury and the sector is now waiting for the Budget to hear if there will be financial support for the last weeks of lockdown.

Pension and national insurance contributions for furloughed staff, contributions to the financial package for furloughed apprentices, as well as bills, repairs on premises and rent and insurance has led to spiralling costs.

He said hair and beauty businesses saw an average loss in turnover of 45% in 2020, and as much as 57 per cent in some regions.

“We have called for an emergency financial support fund to get through the cash flow crisis. This would be a one off payment between £5k and £25k depending on the size of the business,” he said.

“It is a sector that is overlooked. It’s not well understood and has been taken for granted but during the lockdown, last year people realised quite what they were missing when they didn’t have access to the beauty sector. It’s about making government and the general public aware of what the sector brings to the economy.”

On the 12 April date, he said: “In all honesty we’re pleased. It was as early as we could have hoped for.”

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