Oamaru hairdressers and beauty therapists have never been so sought after.
Almost the entire population is keen to have tresses trimmed after nearly two months in lockdown. That is placing unprecedented demand on an industry that was already extremely busy.
Raelene Guthrie, owner of North End salon Razors Edge, said she and her staff were working 10- and 11-hour days.
That was likely to continue for several weeks until all customers had been fitted in.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday, May 11 that the country would go into Covid-19 Level 2 on May 14, Razors Edge had 250 customers on a waiting list. That leapt to 300 in no time, and Mrs Guthrie was still receiving 40 to 50 phone calls a day.
She had been phoning customers from 6am to 10pm to make sure she contacted everyone.
“I’ve still got 100 on the wait list.”
Mrs Guthrie started planning to reopen the salon ahead of time.
“It felt like we were preparing a bomb site.”
Staff had been taken through stringent new health and safety protocols. They were wearing protective face shields in accordance with what had been agreed by members of the association of registered hairdressers during online discussions held throughout lockdown.
Mrs Guthrie had also kept in touch with many clients during lockdown, as she wanted to look after those whose loyalty had helped her business to succeed.
She had advised them on how to care for their hair, and posted advice on Facebook warning of the risks of some colouring treatments.
No dire cases had come through the door yet.
Mrs Guthrie said she was sure all local hairdressers were doing what they could for their customers. It was their way of thanking the “amazing community” they lived in.
Fusion Hair owner Anna Rae agreed.
“We’re fully booked through to July.
“It’s great – it’s so nice to be seeing our clients.”
Things were “a little bit crazy” in the lower Thames St salon, where every second hairdressing station was being used. Staff were wearing face shields, customers were wearing face masks, and each station was sanitised before and after use.
That had been advised by the hairdressing collective to which Fusion belonged and would stay in effect for at least two weeks, Mrs Rae said.
“We’ll reassess it as things progress.”
The added personal protective gear came at each salon’s cost, she said.
Extra days and hours were being worked to accommodate customers, although Mrs Rae was mindful of looking after the staff as well.
Their feet and arms were sore after their first day back after lockdown.
As creative people, the hairdressers had missed their work, she said.
She had not seen too many hair horrors yet, but expected some would appear in the near future.
“There has definitely been some fringe trimming going on and home hair dyes that are not coming out.”
La Beaute beauty salon owner Nicole Webb described her situation as “manageable madness”.
Clients were booked in for a full year in advance, so she had effectively wiped out the lockdown period and started again when Level 2 came in.
“We’re really fortunate we’ve got a very supportive and loyal client base.”
It was taking longer to sanitise the premises before and after treating customers, she said.
“But we’ve got to do our small part.”
Adore Spa owner Fiona Pearson said her phone started ringing a minute after Ms Ardern’s Level 2 announcement.
Bookings were “really steady – it’s a bit like Christmas”.
The salon’s capacity was reduced and no walk-in customers were being taken, Mrs Pearson said. Staff were wearing masks and gloves, and had face shields to add for prolonged up-close treatments.
“Our rooms are very minimalist now. The beds have been stripped right back. We clean them down and the chairs customers have used.”
The lockdown had made Mrs Pearson “completely re-evaluate” how her business operated. She was now offering virtual consultations, contactless delivery of products, and encouraging online bookings.