The Australian Hairdressing Industry (AHC) has turned directly to you, hair salon owners and the people financially, mentally and professionally affected by the difficult year that was 2020, to find out the specifics of these challenges.

From ascertaining its effect on mental health, seeing what strategies worked for salon owners in terms of communication, the potential challenges of rent agreements and what businesses were entitled to from the government and more, the organisation put forward a survey that puts these situations in the spotlight.

Through twelve months that traversed droughts, bushfires, floods, cyclones, hail storms and the COVID-19 pandemic, the report obtains insights from hundreds of salon owners (90 per cent hair salon owners, with other barber and beauty professionals and suppliers, and from all over the country, mostly NSW, VIC and then QLD) to move forward. The report will be shared with the industry and government bodies to use this intel for greater strides as the industry progresses and moves through these challenges.

The report features an abundance of noteworthy information. Almost three quarters of responders closed their salon doors from anywhere from a week to up to six months in 2020, and mostly between two and twelve weeks. Within these difficulties 20 per cent needed to terminate staff.

In their relationship with the government and its constantly evolving platforms to assist businesses through the pandemic, 87 per cent of responders were eligible for JobKeeper and 22.4 per cent were eligible for the extension on top of that. Just over half were eligible for their State Grant for business recovery. Worryingly, 32 per cent of responders found employees on JobKeeper unwilling to work.

In other financial areas, 50 per cent of surveyors needed to renegotiate their lease. 37 per cent of responders were able to have their rent payments frozen by their landlord and over half negotiated a discounted or deferred rent. Discussions with landlords seemed positive overall, as 70 per cent of responders found them approachable. 87 per cent of surveyors are not having any current problems with their landlord and the same number didn’t need a lawyer or mediator in these discussions.

Mental health and wellness was a major factor and worrying figure quite generally around the world. For local salon owners, 80 per cent claimed stress due to uncertainty, over a third struggled with mental health issues, almost a quarter of responders noted feelings of depression and over half felt financial stress. Much of these problems fell heavily on business owners but employees suffered as well. 60 per cent cited their stress and uncertainty, over a third struggled with their own mental health, 30 per cent worried financially and 16 per cent claimed feelings of depression.

COVID continued to affect businesses in unique ways. Half of responders and their employees had to take time off work for COVID testing, 63 per cent attended virtual classes with their product company and 30 per cent claimed their apprentices attended virtual colleges. 28 per cent of surveyors created an online retail platform for clients but only 35 per cent who did found it successful.

In a new realm of communication, responders stayed in touch with their staff mostly via text, as stated by 54 per cent of responders, while around a quarter of responders turned to Zoom meetings and then Zoom trainings. News, updates, guidance and resources were accessed across the board from avenues such as the state government, the AHC, social media and product suppliers, in that order.

There were some clear positives in the report. 46 per cent of responders employed new apprentices in the past year and 48 per cent were eligible for extra apprentice incentives to aid in this endeavor. More unfortunately, two thirds of responders stated their turnover is down since December 2019.

When asked how businesses were feeling in 2021, answers varied quite consistently from very positive to slightly optimistic, anxious and, less so, ambivalent. Among concerns is financial stress and the worry in not qualifying for government assistance in its various forms, COVID regulations affecting the salon business and the changing industry practices that are hindering aspects of salon life such as recruitment and employee management.

There are a lot of important insights in this report, which will hopefully be used to truly create a better hair industry through 2021 and beyond. Until then, compare your own experience and remember that in all aspects of communication, financial concerns, finding resources and tackling mental health issues, you’re never alone.

Read the full report here.

For more information visit www.theahc.org.au