New Normal: Safety Measures at BBLunt Post Lockdown
As the salon & spa industry reopens for business post months under lockdown, there are new rules and regulations set in place for the benefit of both customers as well as the service providers. Spoorthy Shetty – CEO, BBlunt details the safety measures being taken by the popular salon brand as it resumes operations and also talks about the brand’s way forward as COVID continues to advance in the country.
Safety Measure in Focus
The salon & spa industry is a high touch business and understandably there are concerns/ myths around its safety. As I speak to my industry counterparts, it is evident that everyone is committed to abide by all the Health & Hygiene Guidelines and norms released by Beauty & Wellness Sector Skill Council (B&WSSC). One wrong move and the authorities will clamp down or call for a mandatory shut down of the entire industry. It will be a body blow to every brand if there is even one weak link in the salon industry.
At BBlunt, we will access our salons depending on the green/orange COVID-free zones and sanitise the salons, do a “fire drill” exercise and ensure that all Hygiene Guidelines and norms released by B&WSSC are in place before we open our doors to clients. Post opening, we will relentlessly pursue the new protocols, which are as follows:
- Splitting the team to work on rotational days where one group has no exposure with the other so as to minimise the risk.
- Visor, protective glasses and mask to be provided for stylists
- Disposable towels, gowns & covers on all chairs
- Sterilisation of all equipment before it is used
- Infra-red temperature checks for everyone entering the premises
- Digital payment options to encourage cashless billing
- Client visits to the salon by appointment only & front desk to ask relevant questions to screen clients
- Refreshments in disposable cups
- Installing exhaust fans to maintain the flow of air.
- Products which come in from warehouse to be sanitized first before use.
- Decommissioning the middle chair for every three chairs to ensure social distancing
- Health/ Travel declaration form to be filled at the start of the service
- More frequent deep cleaning of the premises
Educating the Staff
We are training our teams to follow the guidelines proposed by B&WSSC, which are aimed at minimising the risk of further spread of virus & loss of lives. We are educating the teams through video conferencing, but a lot of the practical training can only happen when the salon doors are finally opened. There are safety and salon hygiene certification for salon professionals that is also underway. Besides, GCPL (BBLUNT shareholder) has launched the Salon Suraksha Program under Godrej Professional range. We are obviously leveraging all these channels. Internally, we are revisiting all our customer meet & greet, service and billing protocols to practice social distancing and hygiene norms.
BBLUNT is not in the home service space and we will be wary about getting into that at this point as they are two different channels with varying degrees of risk. Health and safety of our employees are as important as the health and safety of our clients. Not all salons will look to shifting to home services as a home is an uncontrolled environment and 80% of the COVID cases are asymptomatic. Physical store is a more controlled environment where guidelines can be implemented & monitored. The omnichannel is now being discussed more than ever but we would take baby steps as of now.
The first few months may see 50% of our usual footfalls, making up for revenue loss. Everything hinges on the extent and depth of the spread of the COVID infection. Big shifts will have to be made and we will have to come up with creative & critical solutions to minimize the business risk. April and May clearly have been a washout where we have had cash burn even when revenues are zero and that puts tremendous pressure on working capital. On the face of it, it seems like business is going to shrink post lockdown is lifted, it will take many months to even reach our past performance levels, so there will be a razor-sharp focus to reduce overheads.
- We may have to consider limiting the number of days and working hours to cut down utility costs
- Work on inventory rationalization as we don’t want money sitting on the shelf
- We may want to review the compensation structure, align the salary with higher variable and lower fixed
- Speak to the landlord for more consideration, where a part of the rent can be fixed & some part can be on a revenue-sharing model
- Have a rigorous follow-up mechanism to collect receivables faster (maybe offer early bird cash discount)
- Will not make fresh marketing investments to acquire new clients, rather focus on your regular client base
- Reduce value-added service
- Negotiate credit period with product partners, keeping in mind that they too have a business to run. Trade-off non-cash perks like annual trips/sales incentives/ marketing investments for direct invoice discounts, if possible.
We are in the process of putting in place robust short-and medium-term plan as well as rework on our Annual Operating Plan assuming few impact scenarios. To ensure business continuity we will relook at allocated budgets from what one calls a MOSCOW prioritisation POV – this acronym stands for 4 different categories of initiatives planned. ‘M’ in the acronym stands for Must Have, S – Should Have, C – Could Have & W – wish to have. It means that look at what is non-negotiable and temporarily suspend the “Nice-to-Have initiatives”, and maybe, even do away with the S, C & W. Budgets will drive the company’s strategy, for example, we had plans to add company doors this year in Mumbai & Bangalore; clearly, that’s now pushed for another day. Hopefully, 2021 is when we should be healing.
Nobody really has the exact math but it seems like the cost of increased hygiene could be an additional 8-10% hit on the bottom line. We haven’t so far thought about taking the prices higher but yes, brands will think in that direction if the bottom line becomes negative. We are focussed on rationalising our salon spends and absorbing the hygiene cost for now.
Back to Basics
Share of wallet spending post-Covid will change – that is something we really have to track and work on. There could be a hit on discretionary spending. For all the right reasons, hygiene will be at the top of everything. Waxing and beauty treatments will be suspended as high contact. Enough steps will be taken to alleviate the fear of the client as well as the staff. We and our industry friends are following a common template of safety and hygiene reassurance messages on each of our social media handles every week. Hopefully, this regular reassurance going out to the larger community will help dispel some myths around salons. A pledge by salon brands and team members to follow all safety measures has been posted across all social media handles, recently.