Barbers, hairdressers and nail technicians are bracing for details of a government order limiting opening hours, further trimming their bottom line as the novel coronavirus outbreak drives away touch-conscious customers.
Some operators are on the brink of shutting their doors, while thousands of usually on-the-go employees hunker down in the safety of their homes. That reality will worsen as the Holness administration imposes a 10-person limit as a safeguard against mass gatherings – quickfire transmitters of SARS-CoV-2, which has infected more than 370,000 and killed 16,000-plus globally.
In the heart of Spanish Town, St Catherine, Milton Chambers of Lavish Barber Shop at 2A March Pen Road lamented a significant slowdown in business and can’t wait to see the back of the virus. He said customers just need a quick “trim” these days.
“Di customers say … , ‘Barber, just get to work. No long talking,’” said Chambers, adding that customers have been insisting on strict sanitisation of hands and tools.
Chambers said that Monday revenues have plunged by more than 50 per cent from $7,000 to $3,000.
At the Spanish Town Shopping Centre, barber Carlington Mullings at Jolly’s ‘N’ Hers Salon said that foot traffic had fallen except for “some brave customers” who were loyals.
Frank Stern, a customer to whom Mullings was tending, said that he had never seen the shop so empty. Usually, each of the roughly four barbers would be busy.
Immediately next door, the ladies salon section was padlocked, with Mullings explaining that the woman in charge had to “tek weh herself” because of the COVID-19 fallout.
Offended when asked to wash hands
Lavern Ricketts, one of the proprietors at Natural Hair and Nail Salon in Greater Portmore, St Catherine, was emphatic that business had tanked.
“The main feature is less customers. On a usual Monday, for a nail tech, we normally have four or five customers,” Ricketts told The Gleaner.
“So far, I only did one from morning. … We put up signs because when we ask people verbally to wash their hands, they are offended.”
The rules of engagement have changed dramatically in chatty salons where customers and workers catch up. Now, beauty artists are now insisting on arm’s-length treatment to preserve their safety from the flulike disease.
“When I am doing a pedicure, the customer normally sits forward, and I don’t want when they are talking, anything come at me. I respectfully ask them to sit back,” she said.
Ricketts’ only hairdresser at work yesterday, Vennice Doure, had one concern: When will it all end?
“I am scared because I can’t look at someone and say this person has it,” said Doure.
In the same plaza, Chris, a barber at 117 Cutting Edge Beauty Barber Salon, said customers were saving their cash to buy food instead of getting their hair cut – which now is a luxury with tightening finances.
“Nuttn nah gwan. A pack me a pack up and a lef. Barber shop empty,” he told The Gleaner. “Seven barber and four ladies normally deh yah, and a only one lady deh yah and three barber.”
The sole woman present at Cutting Edge yesterday was Tashalee Mitchell, who said that “business stinks”.
“From weh day we nuh really deh yah. Mi affi tweeze his face, and that’s why mi affi come work,” she said, pointing to her customer. “I work on certain appointments.”