6 October 2022

Since August 2020, the NHBF decided to issue their previously annual State of the Industry survey at quarterly intervals to track the sector’s recovery after the first Covid lockdown. We now have two years of data charting how businesses have coped with successive periods of lockdowns, business closures and restrictions – and can demonstrate how these surveys help inform Government decisions that have a direct effect on our industry.

The surveys of the past two years show how businesses experienced the rollercoaster of over 240 days of lockdown closure in 2020 and 2021 with continuing restrictions into 2022, across the nations and regions of the UK. After an initial recovery in September 2021, the scare of the Omicron virus had a negative impact over the vital Christmas period. meaning many salons missed out on a traditional ‘boom’ time. However, our July 2022 survey demonstrated that the future was looking brighter, with most salons at last returning to similar levels of business activity and confidence to those of September 2021.

Throughout the first lockdown the NHBF worked closely with various government departments and the devolved administrations, lobbying them to understand the effect the situation was having on small, usually female-led businesses and the plans to help them recover. When beauty was one of the last sectors allowed to reopen in August 2020, we knew that we were going to have to fight tougher and harder, and that we needed the data to build a stronger case.

The information supplied from the August and October 2020 surveys, along with information from other leading industry bodies, led to the formation of a Personal Care team in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for the first time ever. This means our sector has a team of civil servants responsible for monitoring it and acting as the main point of contact with the rest of Government. As the surveys continued into early 2021, they also led to hair & beauty being allowed to re-open together in April 2021 and in line with retail.

Most importantly, our surveys have helped demonstrate the continuing need for financial support to ensure that businesses recover properly.  We are regularly asked by BEIS, and the Treasury (which is in charge of government money) what is concerning our sector the most and where it needs help. This was particular helpful with the Additional Recovery Grants (ARG) which many local authorities believed weren’t applicable for hair & beauty businesses. We were able to ask our government contacts to make the point publicly that salons could apply for them, and so ensure they had access to vital funds. Survey data also helped us make the case for the Close Contact Services Fund in Scotland.

More recent survey waves show that debt is still an issue for many businesses; 42% of businesses are in debt, with nearly two thirds (63%) saying it would take more than two years to clear. 68% have had to use personal savings to support their business over the last year.  This has meant sector reliance on government support for survival has been heavy, peaking at 80% in January 2022 but still high at 50% in July 2022.

Richard Lambert, NHBF chief executive says, “These surveys are vital in informing not only how we as an organisation meet our Members’ needs, but in helping shape Government policy that affect all hair & beauty professionals. Most government departments make decisions based on the information presented to them, so the more real data we have to give them, the more seriously we as a sector are taken and listened to. The previous Personal Care Minister said he found the data invaluable. We can now show exactly what the past two years has done to our sector, and yet how resilient we are. It shows that providing support to our sector is not throwing money down the drain, but rather supports many businesses and their employees, helps our struggling high streets and looks after the nation’s wellbeing.”

The quarterly online survey receives responses each time from between 500 to 2,800 businesses. The survey is generally open for a 10-14 day period, gathering views from a good representation of businesses in the personal care sector across all areas including city centres, town centres and villages in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Respondents included salon or barbershop owners, chair or room renters, home-based business owners, mobile or freelance practitioners, employers and the self-employed. On average, during this period, the vast majority (around 80%) of respondents were salon or barbershop owners, around 10% are self-employed individuals and around 10% involved in the wider space renting, mobile and freelance part of the sector; this is either the sole focus of their business or in addition to being a salon or barbershop owner.

The full two year report, summary infographic and video are available here

You can read the full report here

The next NHBF State of the Industry survey results will be issued later this month.