23 December 2021

Tom Arthur MSP
Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth
Scottish Government
Via email

22 December 2021

Dear Minister,


As you may be aware, the National Hair & Beauty Federation is the trade body for over 6,500 hair salons, beauty salons and barbershops across the UK including 550 members in Scotland. The sector overall contributes £8 billion to the UK economy every year and employs 288,000 workers, most women and young people, across the UK. Pre-Covid, the sector was in the top three fastest growing parts of the retail sector.

We welcomed the announcement by HM Treasury yesterday to offer further support to businesses in England in the form of a top up of over £100m in Additional Restrictions Grants (ARG) and a reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme for Covid-related absences, as well as the additional funding provided to the devolved administrations through the Barnett formula. However, I am concerned that no additional financial support targeted to the hair and beauty sector has been forthcoming to date in Scotland.

As you know, the recovery in the hair and beauty sector is still finely balanced with respondents to our State of the Industry survey in September saying that two thirds are still either partially or completely reliant on government support (slightly higher in Scotland) and one third are not sure of their survival to the end of the tax year.

As we have previously communicated, despite the sector showing growing signs of resilience, the indicators are more negative in Scotland. Businesses in Scotland are less sure about their survival than those in England, more likely to say that their salon is quieter and more likely to have cut back staff hours.

The situation changed suddenly last week with the growing concerns about the Omicron variant building on the additional restrictions announced in in all four countries of the UK. This was particularly worrying for the hair & beauty sector: December is normally one of the busiest times of year, and cash generated is essential to see businesses through the quieter months of January and February.

In response to this, we ran a snap poll which found that 73% of respondents had experienced cancellations with 56% reporting a reduction in advance bookings and more than half saying that the fall-away was seriously affecting their business. We followed this up with a further poll to gauge the situation over the past weekend (17-19 December), which found that in Scotland (302 responses) 35% of booked appointments had been cancelled and the walk-in trade had fallen to 26% of what would have been expected. 46% of respondents estimated they had lost between 21-50% of their expected revenue over the weekend and around 27% lost between 50 and 100%.

I would be grateful for an update as to the current thinking of the Scottish Government in terms of support to the sector which has clearly been hit hard recently, and which has not received the media attention given to hospitality and some part of the retail sector. I would be particularly interested to know whether the proposed support to the wedding sector and its supply chain is intended to include the whole of the hair and beauty sector, or only that directly related to bridal services. I hope that you will be able to confirm that further support will be provided as soon as possible.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Lambert
NHBF chief executive