How have salons changed after Covid-19? To find out, we talked to Nicolette of Nicolette’s Nails in Waterlooville about the challenges posed by a year of lockdowns – and what she’s learned about business, safety and life in general.
“It was a bit of a shock!” says Nicolette when asked about going into lockdown for the very first time. “Luckily I do teach doing nails as well so I had a little bit of work to do. We used to run classes in person so it took a little while until they came online. In the meantime, it was a bit of a culture shock – going from working full time to having no clients; no income; nothing really!
“Because I’m usually so busy there might even been a little bit of joy enjoying some time off! But on the whole it was a hard few months until we really got some guidance about how to move forwards.”
Self-employed for nine years now, Nicolette has been in her current salon in Waterlooville for three of those and used the first lockdown in 2020 to freshen things up. “My work space is a cabin in my back garden so I ended up renovating that which hadn’t been done since it was built. I repainted, added some cladding and got some new furniture. Then I sat down and worked my way through piles of paperwork!”
“I basically used the early lockdown time to my benefit” she continues. “It meant I didn’t have as many stresses as I could have had as I’d gotten everything done during that time.”
“I also made sure I did lots of things on social media. At least every other day I tried to make sure I uploaded a video or photo about some sort of nail art technique or tutorial. I think that kept me in the loop as doing nails went and helped get me more customers for the education side of things. It definitely paid off.”
The shift away from regular salon life also allowed Nicolette to step back and take charge of her work-life balance. “I used to work ridiculous hours, sometimes until ten or eleven at night, then working again the next day. I didn’t really have any breaks. One of the big things the lockdowns taught me was I do need to take regular breaks. Now I make sure I’m giving myself a lunchbreak and a dinner break. It made me realise how stressed out I was all the time.
Reopening my salon after lockdown one I also wrote out my schedule and stuck to it. I found that when your customers become your friends and you get to know them well, you’ll get a message asking “can you just squeeze me in tonight” and I would feel bad taking time out for myself. Now I have a few evenings a week just for me and it helps to keep that work and personal life balance that bit better. I love my customers and I want to be there for everyone. But lockdown taught me you’ve got to have a good balance as well.”
Asked what the past year taught her about safety, Nicolette lights up with enthusiasm. “Oooh, quite a lot actually! I’ve had my VODEX SalonAIR® around three years now and I’ve always appreciated it because I get some irritation to some products. I’ve always associated it with the dust particles and fumes, but during Covid quite a few nail technicians were talking about ventilation systems.
“Because of all the different filters in it, my SalonAIR® also works like an air purification system. So having it running going back each time after Covid made me feel a little less stressed and a little bit less worried because I knew it was doing some good for the air around it.”
And air quality hasn’t been Nicolette’s only concern. “In regards to some of the rules and cleanliness, Covid just made me realise how many things my clients touch! For instance, I have a colour pot that all of my clients touch – a little like people touching pens in a bank. Nobody really thought about these things before, but after Covid it’s made me much more aware. Even though the Covid germs weren’t there before, other ones were – on places like the handles, the chair, my tools. I clean all of those now, and I think long term that will make everything feel a lot cleaner, so clients won’t be spreading sickness bugs or normal cold and flu bugs.”
Life after lockdown
As the conversation moves on to how salons have adapted since lockdown, Nicolette breaks into a smile, giving off a general air of relief that the past year is behind her.
“The most recent time we reopened was the easiest and most relaxed,” she says. “I knew how everything worked; everything was already sorted and routine; we were still getting help from the government so it was easy to make sure we had a 15-minute gap between each client to clean down all the surfaces.”
“However, I still had so much work to do before opening, and I still have a 10-15 minute gap between clients. My risk assessment showed that because my salon is quite a compact space, it’s best to have just me in here while I clean. So now I ask clients to wait in their car and then I send them a message when I’m ready for them. I think I’m going to continue to do that for a while because it helps clients not overlapping.
“I also still have to send them a Covid message before they arrive,” she continues. It lets them know I have a QR code and recommends they scan it for the Track and Track app. I probably lose about an hour a day with cleaning time and sending messages, but to be honest I’m going to keep that up. It lets me tidy and get a drink and make sure I’m sorted. Before it was one customer out of the chair, another one in. Now it’s more relaxed and a nicer way to work.”
Thinking of opening your own nail salon?
While this post isn’t exactly a reopening guide for salons after lockdown, it certainly shows that nail artists can thrive in a post-pandemic world. Nicolette became more social marketing savvy, more aware of her own wellbeing, and much more safety conscious – and with her help, you can too.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs and are looking at jobs where they can be self-employed. So I’ve had a lot of new people train to become nail technicians in the last year. I’ve showed them how I’ve worked around Covid and I’ve passed that on. I think it can be quite scary for them starting from scratch in a new career and I’ve been really happy to help get them started!”
If you’re just starting out on your journey as a nail tech, Nicolette’s training courses can help.
Additionally, our expertise in air quality and safety means we can help with all of your needs around at-source extraction in your salon. Check out our beauty and cosmetics extraction solutions or get in touch with us to talk through the best option for you.