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Hairdressers trim the load in fine style

Even reporters need haircuts. Times-Age reporter Tom Taylor gets his locks chopped by BarberShop Jordy’s Oakland Dean-Pene and Jordan McDowall [owner]. PHOTO/JOHN LAZO-RON

Frustration and screen time usage grew considerably during the latest lockdown … so did people’s hair. JOHN LAZO-RON writes.
BarberShop Jordy has five barbers dealing with the influx of customers wanting to get their locks chopped.

Post lockdown has become a bit of a hairy time for many businesses trying to desperately recover after three long weeks out of business. Yet, one industry on the mend from the latest covid-19 outbreak is hairdressing.

Ever since most of New Zealand came out of level 3 lockdown a fortnight ago, people have been flocking to hairdressers and barbers looking to get their locks chopped – in turn overloading booking systems.

Feeling that heavy demand right now are hairdressers and barbers across Wairarapa, with some businesses stacked with bookings right up to the end of October.

Owner of La Cutting Crew in Greytown, Siobhan Jephson, said the phone in the salon had been ringing nonstop ever since they opened their doors again.

“It’s been flat out,” Jephson said.

“We’ve been really busy with a lot of big jobs. In the morning when we get here, it [the phone] doesn’t stop. Now, we’re booked right up until October.”

Greytown’s La Cutting Crew owner Siobhan Jephson.

She said managing to comply with social distancing rules had been one of their most significant hurdles in dealing with the large client numbers.

Workers must keep two metres apart from their clients, except for when close physical contact is needed to provide a service.

“We’ve had to stagger our appointments as much as we can to keep social distancing and be spaced out in the salon. So that’s put a lot of stress on to us working without getting people into everybody’s environment [social distancing space]. Trying to have as many options available for people to do their contract tracing has been another stress.”

Jephson initially had anxiety about returning to work after previous post-lockdown experiences. However, she made the conscious decision to deal with the pressure as positively as possible for her staff’s wellbeing and her own.

“The first lockdown was a lot longer, so that was insane coming back,” she said.

“I was so stressed about coming back to work this time around, but I eventually decided that I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself and my staff because it’s not worth it.”

Despite the obstacles, Jephson said it was amazing to see clients at the salon again.

“Really good to see clients back. When you’re a social person, you really miss that interaction with other people and the community.

“They’ve [clients] been saying ‘oh that feels so much better’, and ‘I really needed this haircut’. But I feel really sorry for Auckland because they’ve got to hack it out for longer.”

Also battling to keep up with demand is Carterton’s Midway Barber Shop.

Carterton’s Midway Barbershop post-lockdown bookings go well into October.

Owner and sole worker of the store, Gibson Noema, said he was fully booked for more than two weeks and expected to be busy for the rest of the year.

He’s had to extend his hours, working now till 7pm each weekday, and more hours on a Saturday, when he usually wraps up his day by 5pm.

“Demand has been pretty crazy with everyone back to school and back to work, so have had this backlog of bookings,” he said.

“With Christmas coming soon and all this happening now, it’s all a bit whack, so I’m probably going to be busy all the way up until the end of December.”

Noema said he was on the lookout for more barbers to help ease the flow of bookings.

“I was trying to find more barbers before lockdown, but it’s easier said than done, and going through lockdown definitely put a big spanner in the works for that.

“I’m on my own and so busy that I just can’t take on a lot of clients. That’s what mucked it up for me, so I need to find some more workers moving forward as a business. I can only do so much by myself.”

Debbie Fox, who owns Featherston’s Hair Stop, said she’s had to “turn lots of people away because of the demand.”

“First morning I got in here, I had 13 phone calls waiting for me to answer, and since then, the phone’s been constantly ringing, and people coming in trying to get appointments. And that was just the first day.”

Featherston’s Hair Stop owner Debbie Fox.

She said Featherston’s power was cut for most of the following day [September 9], which caused further bookings disruption.

“Many of my bookings were messed up because of that power cut. I could only do dry cuts that day. Usually, I would work half a day on Saturday but had to work a whole day just to catch up.

“Most people have been understanding, not everybody, but most realise I’ve only got one pair of hands and can only do one thing at a time. Normally, I take people who just walk in or can give an appointment within one or two days, but it’s closer to two weeks now.”

Owner of popular Masterton barbershop, BarberShop Jordy, Jordan McDowall, said the shop had been overloaded with clients rushing back for a much-needed snip.

The barbershop opened on Wednesday when alert level 2 was reinstated and had booked out the entire week within half n hour.

However, the stress factor had been much lower this time round, with McDowall saying he learnt many lessons from previous lockdowns, which better equipped him to deal with the most recent one.

“It’s been very hectic on the admin side of things, that’s for sure,” he said.

“That first week back, we only had two people who missed out on our services, but I learnt after the last lockdown that we needed a couple of more workers. So I did that, and that has helped keep things ticking over.

“I also assumed it [lockdown] might happen again, so had some rainy day money put away. I paid bills right from the start this time rather than try to pay them back afterwards. Paid advance rents as well just to keep on top of things.”

McDowall said the wellness of his barbers was his biggest priority, so he chose not to extend business hours as he did in previous lockdowns to keep the pressure off his workers.

“Last time we extended the hours and worked all manner of late nights, but this time we’re trying to stretch the work out.

“We don’t want to put as much pressure on the workers because we’ve got some new workers. Looking after us is important and not making it as much of a stressful time as last time.”

None of the businesses disclosed how much they had lost over the three-week lockdown period but said that despite the influx of bookings, they are still very much in recovery mode.

“It was really hard,” Fox [Hair Stop] said of the three-week pause.

“I didn’t really cope well with that, and neither did my clients because having to rearrange everything when we come back is just extra time and extra stress. The Government tried to help a bit financially, but it doesn’t really cover everything. I’m still recovering, so not quite yet, but hopefully, I should be able to catch up in another couple of weeks. But it’s better than not working.”

Noema [Midway Barber Shop] said the frightening part of going through lockdown was not knowing how he was going to pay the bills.

“It’s always a little bit scary when you don’t know, but that’s the thing with this. It’s really tough because every time we have a lockdown, we don’t get that work back.”

Jephson [La Cutting Crew] said despite the influx of clients, it hadn’t made up for the revenue lost in lockdown.

“Well, it’s not recovered,” she said.

“We’re definitely not recovered from that, but it puts us back up and helps us get there, but we definitely lost money.”


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