The Gleaner, Jamaica: Since the advent of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, barber Marlon Phillips has been forced to employ creative techniques to get clients into his salon.
Like other member of his profession, the 2016 winner of the JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) Barber and Beauty Battle has experienced a dramatic downturn in his business, as clients are observing the guidelines in regard to mass gatherings, as well as close personal contact, to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The Government’s safety restrictions have also impacted his operations.
“It has been difficult because everything has come to a standstill. It doesn’t matter if you are sanitising or following the restriction guidelines set by the Government, most clients have put their haircuts and hairstyles on pause, mostly because they are not going to work, parties or other functions, and this has really hurt us,” Phillips related.
“Barbers and hairdressers get paid per client; therefore, with the restrictions, I am not able to earn, pay my utilities, the rent for the salon, and my business loans. The 5 p.m. closure made it even more difficult, because most persons come to salon after work, which is after the current closing time,” he added.
To keep his operation open, the award-winning barber has used the messaging service WhatsApp to advertise his opening hours. He has also offered discounts to clients, so as to be able to pay his bills.
“We used to have up to 20-35 clients per day at the shop. Now, we have between one to five clients daily, because most persons are staying away. What I have done is to keep telling my clients that I am open, post the hours on my WhatsApp and take more appointments. I have also been running videos on social media about the different styles that I have done. It is working, up to a point; however, the numbers are still low,” he said.
The barber noted that the restrictions, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, means that his shop is extremely quiet, as the robust discussions generated by the clientele he caters to have long ceased.
“We didn’t have much chatter because of our sparse clientele and our attempt to reduce waiting time. But, even where there was chatter, we no longer have that because no one will come out. It has been difficult,” he stated.
HIT HARD BY COVID-19
Bevene Alvaranga, president of the National Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists (NAHC), which represents hairdressers, nail technicians, make-up artists, and other members of the beauty profession, said that her members were also experiencing difficulties due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
“We had a meeting, via Zoom, with the members of our organisation recently, and they said that they were badly affected. Many rent chairs in shops, and they can’t afford to pay the rent or their other bills. Many are used to getting approximately 10 per day; however, that has declined to one person on some days,” she related.
Alvaranga said that many members have been reaching out for assistance, and the NAHC has been assisting as best as possible.
“We have encouraged our members who have loans, to ask their creditors for an extension. We have also reached out to their suppliers to get discounts or credit on some items. In that case, we encourage them to take only what is needed,” she explained.
The NAHC president added, “We’re also planning to negotiate with companies, such as JN Small Business Loan (JNSBL), to determine what type of assistance our members may be able to access.”
Gillian Hyde, general manager of JNSBL, explained that the loan company has been reaching out to those in the sector who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We understand that operating a business during this time comes with a number of challenges,” Hyde said. “We care, and we have undertaken several initiatives to assist our clients to overcome the current challenges.
“When the announcements about the outbreak and consequent spread of COVID-19 were made, we offered all our customers a waiver on late fees. Subsequently, when we became aware of the quarantined areas of Corn Piece, Seven Miles, EightMiles, and Bull Bay, we made special arrangements for our clients who were directly affected by the down time,” she added.
Hyde explained that the company is working on various options to assist members to include payment holidays, as well as rescheduling and refinancing.
“We remain committed to serving our clients, who, along with our staff and communities, are our number-one priority. We stand ready to continue assisting in whatever way possible and encourage everyone to keep safe,” Hyde affirmed.