Barbers, hairdressers and beauticians are bracing for the economic impact of COVID-19 mere days after Barbados recorded its first cases.
Despite numerous efforts to improve the cleanliness of their establishments, the mostly small business owners are reporting numerous cancellations for their services, which usually involve close contact with clients.
Should the situation worsen, they are content to close their doors in the interest of national safety. But with bills to pay and families to support, many are concerned about the possible fallout if the crisis drags on.
Kelly-Ann Browne, owner of Forever Awesome by Kelly, who specialises in natural hair styling, manicures and pedicures, told Barbados TODAY that a decline in business started well before the unfortunate announcement earlier this week.
“People who do come are extremely cautious even when using the bathroom. They’re walking with their own sanitiser and alcohol and I even had a lady who walked with vitamin C tablets,” she said. Browne added that if things get worse, she would be forced to make a tough decision in the interest of her family, by closing down altogether.
In Speightstown, Sade Gibson, the owner of Hair2fab Hair Salon has been thoroughly sanitising her establishment multiple times daily over the past few weeks. Appointments are now being staggered to ensure customers never come into contact and persons feeling ill have been asked to stay away.
But like others, she has been experiencing daily cancellations and admits her precautions may not be enough if the country moves to phase two and COVID-19 is being transmitted within the country.
“If it comes to phase two, I will have no choice but to close my doors to protect my clients and myself. My main focus is my clients, so if they are not comfortable, then I cannot have a salon open because not everyone will be honest enough to admit that they are feeling sick… and that could hamper my safety and my clients’,” she added.
In the meantime, Gibson has been initiating her “plan b” by making wigs which could be distributed to her clients in the event that her business is forced to close.
Keno Davis, a barber at St Michael’s Row, in The City has been mulling over similar options as he stocks up on cleaning products to keep his workspaces clean.
“Some of my clients have been messaging to tell me they will ease off the haircuts until this thing blows over. I may have to resort to doing some house calls whereby I would have less interaction with the public. As the epidemic continues, we will have to try and work something out along the way. I haven’t planned anything yet, but I am going to play it by ear while I prepare,” he told Barbados TODAY.
His colleague, Justine Lawrence, a natural hair stylist expecting to give birth sometime soon, admits that as the situation unfolds, she may be forced to stop working prematurely to ensure her unborn baby is not placed at risk.
“But this is my livelihood, so what should I do? It’s like being between a rock and a hard place,” she indicated.
“The Government may have to help us by asking landlords to forfeit rent and utilities or something like that because at the end of the day, if you’re going to shut down the country, nobody will be making money, but the expenses will remain. It’s going to be rough. The Prime Minister said we’re in phase one, but we don’t know what the other phases are or what procedures are being put in place to help Barbadians and make sure we can still live,” said the concerned service provider.
Diana Moses, owner of Sugary Touch Waxing Services, has placed signs throughout her establishment asking clients to wash their hands before and after their appointments.
Her decision to stagger appointments has also been assisted by a sharp falloff in demand.
“I can’t blame people if they don’t want to come and I understand the circumstances. I have a full-time job, but if I just had this as my full-time business, the impact would have been tremendous because we have utility bills, responsibilities; we have to eat and get around,” said the esthetician.
“I think the Prime Minister has been doing a great job of communicating with the public and the internet has been providing information that we need. I am not fearful and what will be, will be,” she added.