The beauty industry suffered another huge hit last Saturday when Boris Johnson postponed the opening of close-contact services.
The first instance was met with frustration, but now many fear for how they’re going to survive.
Katie Hulme, an established celebrity lash artist, opened her salon and academy at the start of 2020 with her business partner Sophie Dumville.
They closed just 11 weeks later due to the coronavirus lockdown, which means they’ve now been shut for longer than they were up and running.
Although some salons opened on July 13, the government stated 'only services that do not involve work in the highest risk zone – directly in front of the face – should be made available to clients', as it banned eyelash treatments and eyebrow services.
“I am just one of thousands that this decision by the government is devastating. It’s incredibly wrong and it’s destroying the beauty industry,” said Katie, who has a number of soap stars on the books.
She continued: “We’re drowning; I feel low, worthless.
“I don’t know what to do. I live in a really nice house that I've owned for 20 years, I could sell it, but why should I?
“If you look in my cupboards now, I've joked about it, but I am literally living off soup.”
The lash and brow salon and training academy in Monton, BY KASO, is in the former premises of renowned fashion store Fabric Boutique, which left the site after 20 years.
Katie recalled the times her mother, who passed away in 2018 with COPD, took her to the store to buy outfits as a teenager. She described the salon as her mum’s ‘lasting legacy’.
In tears, the businesswoman said: “My mum used to take me to the shop for many years. When it came up for rent, hundreds applied for it.
“But there was something about what I said to the landlord... he saw my vision.
“My mum had left me some money when she passed so I piled every penny that she left me and took loans out for it.
“It was my dream to open up my own training academy; so when I got it, I felt like I'd won the lottery. It was like my mum had done it for me.
“The shop is her legacy.”
The business partners, whose outgoings at the salon are £2,300 a month, received a government grant which has seen them through until now. They haven’t had a rent break, still have to pay insurance and other bills, but haven’t earned since March.
“I’m absolutely terrified. The grant runs out this month so we don’t have September’s rent. I’m going to have to beg the landlord.
“But we don’t want any more from the government, we just want to be able to work. The first push back was frustrating, but the most recent one, to be given less than 24 hours notice when we had clients booked in, it was gut wrenching…soul destroying.”
An analysis by the British Beauty Council found that in 2018, the beauty industry made a total contribution to UK GDP worth £28.4 billion.
This figure equated to 1.3 percent of the UK’s total GDP, and was equivalent to all the economic activity undertaken in Manchester the year before.
They calculated that £8bn of this was spent on the huge range of beauty services, while the industry supported a total of 590,500 jobs.
Katie told the M.E.N. she has been in touch with 150 other therapists in similar positions.
“It’s heartbreaking. One woman sent me a message and said she can’t put food on the table to feed her children. She’s fallen through the gaps of the grants and universal credit.
“It's so wrong. You can go and get your fringe trimmed, your beard trimmed, sit in front of someone and have your nails done, but I'm happy for that side of the industry. I'm over the moon that some of my close friends are back at work.
“It’s the line I don't understand that they’ve drawn between us. The more frustrating thing is the pubs; they’ve closed the wrong businesses down. They're completely screwing us over.”
Katie said the salon was ready to reopen 'months ago'. They've spent hundreds on automatic sanitiser dispensers, disposable aprons, visors, masks, temperature checkers, signage for the floor and shoe covers.
They've also invested in medical-grade disinfectant for their apparatus, staff took health and safety courses online, and Covid-19 forms for clients to fill out had been drafted.
“It’s a clinical environment. It’s disinfected to an inch of its life and it was before coronavirus.
“Yet the entire UK can hop on a plane and go and sit in a club abroad with hot sweaty people, or at beaches in the UK - no one is taking their temperature when they’re walking onto the beach.
“It’s heartbreak what we’re going through right now. I face closing the door on my business.”
When asked what she would like to say to the Prime Minister, the former flight attendant responded: “I’d like to stand in front of him in my full PPE holding my disinfected tweezers and say I’m no closer to my client than what a hairdresser is. We work from behind the client.
“And I would want him to explain to me why I can get a plane - the most unhygienic environment you could possibly be in - and expose myself to hundreds of people on holiday that aren’t in PPE, but I can’t wear a visor, gloves, an apron, and do my client’s eyebrows or lashes with her wearing a mask, why can't I do that?”
While some, including skincare influencer Caroline Hirons, have cited sexism for not allowing the sector to fully reopen, Katie said: “I think it’s ignorance and a sincere lack of respect for the beauty industry.”
Caroline Hirons has launched a campaign, Beauty Backed, to support the therapists, artists, and salon workers with a petition and a fundraiser, which has so far received more than 23,000 signatures and £170,000 in donations at the time of writing.
“Outside of medical environments, if any community can maintain the level of standards required for safety during the Covid-19 crisis, it is Beauty,” the campaign reads.
“The health and safety of clients and makeup artists is and always has been taken very seriously.
“Now it’s time our industry is.”
While Katie has treated pop stars and Coronation Street cast members, among other celebs, she has a loyal customer base of local residents who have inundated her with 'the most amazing support'.
The lash expert added: “We’re all in it together and we want to stand up and be counted. We can't keep doing this; we are going to go under.
“I’m single, my mum was my only family, there’s nobody to help me out. What the hell do I do?”
On August 1, when Mr Johnson announced that treatments had been pushed back until August 15 at the earliest, BABTAC (British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) said they were 'absolutely devastated'.
A statement read: “We had hoped that by today we would be welcoming back most businesses and instead our industry continues to face enormous challenges and heartbreak.
“We will continue to challenge the disparity of decisions made with government and urgently press for financial relief.
“This does remain a very painful reminder of just how difficult this pandemic is to contain.”
A government spokesperson told the M.E.N on Friday: “We know this is an incredibly difficult time for beauty therapists, but as the Prime Minister said, they will need to remain closed until 15 August at the earliest.
“To help avoid a second wave, we have made this decision on health grounds as the highest risk of transmission is through aerosols and droplets when people are in prolonged close, face-to-face contact within two metres. At all times we are guided by the science and it is our ambition to reopen them as soon as we can.
“Beauty therapists can access to the Government’s far-reaching package of support to help businesses through the coronavirus pandemic, which includes loans, tax deferrals, and cash grants.”