With two years having passed since the start of the pandemic, the lasting impact on beauty services is only just emerging. But there are several indications of potential for positive growth on the horizon. In this report, we explain how the landscape has now changed and what's to come.
What positive impact did the pandemic have on beauty services?
Despite having dire economic effects, the COVID pandemic proved just how adaptable the beauty sector can be…
- A surge in beauty start-ups:
More than 3,500 businesses set up with the term 'beauty' in their name in 2020 (compared to less than 500 in 2014) and 'beauty' now appears in more business titles than any other word.
In total, a staggering 7,083 hairdressing and beauty treatment businesses launched in 2020 – likely as a result of people choosing to go self-employed or pursue their beauty 'side hustles.'
- Increased public support:
Lockdown triggered a newfound public sympathy for small business owners with many consumers becoming more accepting of deposits and cancellation fees. This is now helping to counteract the impact of no-shows, a decades-long challenge for our industry.
- Digital innovation:
During lockdown, many salons implemented systems enabling virtual consultations, which has given them access to entire new customer bases nationwide. Other innovation that has occurred includes improved online booking systems, live video masterclasses, and e-commence offerings, with many salons opening up online retail stores alongside their in-person services. Salons are even replacing print magazines with virtual entertainment content, giving consumers a more tailored experience during their treatment.
- Boosted social media operations:
At the height of the pandemic, social media pages were often the only way businesses could keep in touch with their customers. We saw much of the beauty sector seize this opportunity for engagement (44% of salon owners said they were focusing on growing their social media profile in 2021), gaining large new followings as a result.
- Increased demand:
When salons reopened in June 2020, there was a whopping 2,250% rise in bookings compared to pre-pandemic figures, a pattern that continued after the lifting of subsequent lockdowns – proof there is no shortage of demand for beauty services. The predicted shift from consumers prioritizing wellness over work and culture of ‘care-taking’ has been a driving factor in this increase as people strive to take better care of themselves. So much so that the Global Wellness Institute has predicted that the global wellness economy is set to grow by 10% annually through to 2025.
- Shift to skin treatments:
Following the trend for going makeup-free during lockdown, we're seeing a new demand for all things skincare. Data analysts are expecting consumer spending on in-clinic aesthetic treatments to rocket by almost 25% throughout 2022. Forecasters have also named the 'facial and skincare salon' segment as a particular area of predicted growth between now and 2030.
- More round-the-clock bookings:
The continued trend for consumers working from home has inevitably led to reduced footfall for inner-city salons. However, for mobile therapists and those located on local high streets, there is now a steadier flow of clients throughout the week.
So what challenges does the beauty services sector still face following the pandemic?
The personal care sector was one of the hardest hit during the COVID pandemic, with the crippling effects leaving long-term difficulties…
- Loss of earnings:
Hair and beauty professionals were found to have lost on average £11,603 in earnings, by April 2021. 40% of salons said they lost between 20-49% of their revenue in December 2021 – usually the industry's busiest month of the year.
- Fewer jobs:
39% of eligible beauty and wellbeing roles were also furloughed by the end of April 2021 and there was a dramatic drop in apprenticeships. 20% of beauty business owners also said they would have to incur some staff redundancies, whilst 24% were considering further reducing staff hours.
- Rising costs:
Along with the rising costs due to inflation, while most regulations have now been lifted, consumers also have even higher cleanliness and hygiene expectations. While this is no bad thing and the industry already set the bar high in hygiene standards, it has led to an increased financial outlay for salon staff.
- Competition with DIY treatments:
Lockdown prompted a spike in at-home treatments, from hair dyes to DIY gel manicure kits, and many salons face the ongoing challenge of enticing these newly-savvy consumers back through their doors.
What does the future look like for the beauty services sector?
Lesley Blair MBE, CEO and Chair of BABTAC, says: "Having suffered ravaging economic effects and limited government support during the pandemic, the beauty sector is only just getting back on its feet. We can also not ignore the impact the rising cost of living is about to have on our industry. Almost half of beauty businesses say they have recently been forced to cut other business costs, including wages or reducing opening hours, to afford sky-high utility bills.
She continues, "Despite these limitations – which BABTAC is continuing to fight tirelessly against – there are several signs our sector is adapting and evolving. We're seeing rising demand, particularly in wellbeing and skincare treatments, an increase in beauty start-ups and unprecedented innovation. "Those businesses that can successfully capitalise on these opportunities are set for a booming period ahead, against a backdrop of greater public support and a newfound appreciation for the work we do."
 Source: Companies House
 Source: The Accountancy Partnership
 Source: SimplyHair
 Source: Cosmetics Design Europe
 Source: Research Reports World
 Source: Simply Business
 Source: House of Commons
 Source: BABTAC survey of 100 members in September 2021