Kirsten Kennish is the owner of award-winning salon Absolute Hair, based in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast.
Kirsten Kennish is the owner of award-winning salon Absolute Hair, based in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast north of Wellington.
She is also the founder of Salon Owner Solutions, which empowers salon owners to run thriving and successful businesses, and she has the following tips for responding and adapting to Covid-19.
OPINION: The first thing most Kiwis did when lockdown ended was to visit their hairstylist.
Regrowth and unruly hair were trimmed and tamed, but as a nation, we realised how important the relationship with our hairstylist is. This overwhelming response showed the vital role hairdressers play in our wellbeing and overall community connection.
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New Zealand has around 12,000 hairdressers. We’re considered a trade, but are also creatives, which presents our industry with a unique set of challenges as we respond to Covid-19.
Before Covid-19 came along we had a skill shortage – now, it’s even harder to find qualified stylists.
Many salons are thinking twice about their apprentice programmes. It takes time and resources (beyond wages) to equip apprentices with the skills and habits they need to succeed in the industry. If time and energy are going into keeping salon doors open, how will people find the time to train new apprentices?
The Government’s Apprenticeship Support Programme will help – but if people choose to take on fewer trainees, it will impact the depth of talent in the industry and long-term skill capability.
Owner burnout is also an emerging issue. We are creatives running a business – working long hours, and ultimately the buck stops with us.
Barbershop & Co in Auckland’s Birkenhead opened its doors to customers at 12.01am on Thursday as the country moved into alert level 2.
Financial challenges will be very present and continue for some time yet.
The initial wage subsidy was a blessing, but the 40 per cent revenue loss threshold to be eligible for the extension meant most salons couldn’t apply.
Some salons have taken out loans to pay outstanding bills; rent was a significant issue during lockdown. Salons already have small margins – managing a loan, and a 20 per cent decrease in turnover will make it difficult for some salons to be profitable.
Of course, the big question remains – how will Covid-19 impact the economy in the medium to longer-term?
If people have less money to spend, they may cut back on services and treatments, which will impact business confidence. Salons need to focus on keeping customer flow consistent, teams engaged and passionate, while still planning for potential growth in an uncertain climate.
Creativity and innovation
Overseas events and training have all stopped, so our local industry needs to be inventive – to remain educated, energised, and creative.
Local regions may flourish if more people work locally, so salons could optimise this interest and market themselves to a new audience.
Salons will need skill and dedication to navigate our new economy and meet the changing needs of our customers.
Three tips for a thriving salon
Know your numbers
If your turnover is down, cut back your costs comparatively. Wages and product bills will be your downfall if you don’t measure and react to what you are seeing.
If you are busy now, make sure you are putting money away.
Connect with your customers
Use inventive and creative ways to attract and connect with new customers and add value to your existing customers.
Encouraging people back to habits such as rebooking their next appointment, and encouraging loyalty and referrals is important.
Care for your team
Invest in team-building – look at your training systems and work habits of senior staff. Keep communication lines open and be open to considering suggestions from your team.
Work on your values and culture so you can connect and create a work environment that is supportive of everyone’s needs.
There is a lot to benefit from in retaining stylists – for the industry, your salon, and your customers. Keep working on it, and the value will spread to your customers and ensure that your business is consistent and sustainable.