Victorian clinics are urging the government to reassess restrictions in response to double standards for beauty therapists and hairdressers.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday revealed the roadmap that will lead Victoria out of stage four lockdown back to ‘COVID normal’, and feelings amongst the beauty industry went from hopeful to heartbroken.
“Yesterday I thought, okay great I am opening, being in regional Victoria, and then I looked back onto the government website and I can’t open until the 23rd November,” Maddison Sontemo, owner of The Aesthetic Skin Clinic in Geelong, told SPA+CLINIC.
The Andrews’ government detailed a five-step plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria. The city curfews are set to lessen gradually, and constraints around gatherings will follow suit. Construction will be allowed to resume along with limited dine-in options at restaurants and cafes. Still, businesses like Maddison’s will only reopen in the second last step, and even that is conditional.
Beauty parlours can reopen on the 23rd November providing the state records an average of five or less new daily cases and five or less “mystery cases” over two weeks. This is a full step behind hairdressers who are categorised under the same award but will open in step three. Sarah Holland, owner of Skin Co, says there are double standards for the hair and beauty industries, with some regional salons remaining fully operational under safe haven stage three restrictions.
“I don’t understand how they can have one set of rules, which are just so lenient for that industry, whereas our industry has been punished with a complete close down for this entire time,” Sarah said.
Skin Co is located in the regional town of Ararat, and communities like these have only experienced a maximum of two active COVID-19 cases over the past six months. Sarah has started a Facebook group called “Bring Regional Victoria Beauty Back”, which currently has over 100 members and counting in protest of the harsh restrictions. At the same time, Maddison is in talks with TV networks to place these issues in front of policymakers.
“It may be the end of Victorian beauty. I’ve had so many people send me their heartfelt messages that they won’t be able to survive this lockdown and that it will destroy their business and their family’s lives, and that is heartbreaking,” she said.
Skin clinics have pivoted to online tutorials and virtual consultations to stay afloat financially during the closures, but the owner of Me Skin and Body Brooke Holmes says she can only “reinvent the wheel” so many times for procedures clients can perform at home.
“Businesses are doing as much as they possibly can, and we can’t keep coming up with new home treatments because, at the other end of this, we don’t want to devalue what we do in clinic totally,” Brooke said.
“Restaurants can do takeaway food, but we can’t do takeaway treatments,” Maddison adds.
Clinics are turning to online retail to help with cash flow, although it’s not enough to cover all expenses. It’s not a part of the business model nor is it a sustainable source of income. Sarah enquired with the COVIDsafe hotline on whether she could allow clients into the clinic to pick up products they had ordered. She was denied, despite the fact that The Reject Shop only two doors down could trade at full capacity.
“First and foremost we’re therapists, we are not Adore Beauty,” Brooke said, who had her staff pick and pack orders in the clinic mainly to boost morale. Her business has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last six months due to the closures.
“I’ve been helping those with younger businesses too because it’s even harder for them. My business has been around for quite a long time, so we have a well established social following and database of clients, but we are only just treading water,” she adds.
“I think if we can band together as an industry, connect as business owners, and keep making noise, it will be the best thing for our industry,” Maddison concludes.
Are you a VIC spa or clinic? How do you feel about the roadmap that was announced? Let us know in the comments.