Beauticians, hairdressers and tattooists in England have welcomed the news they will be allowed to reopen in April, but fear many businesses may not survive without support from the Treasury.
Boris Johnson said in Parliament on Monday afternoon that personal care services would be included in the second phase of the road map out of lockdown, and could open up from April 12.
But a consortium of industry bodies is calling for a £500 million recovery fund, pointing out the reopening date could well be pushed back.
The current date is dependent on the vaccination programme going to plan, a reduction in hospital admissions and deaths, a low rate of infection and new variants being kept under control.
Organisations including the British Beauty Council are also calling for a cut to VAT to just 5% to help salons get back on their feet.
It is joined by the National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF), the British Association of Beauty Therapists and Cosmetologists (BABTAC) and the UK Spa Association.
Millie Kendall, chief executive of the British Beauty Council, said: “For businesses to reopen they need money.
“Around two-thirds of our salons have run out of cash reserves and are in debt, while half of our business owners have been forced to use up their personal savings over the past few months.”
According to the British Beauty Council, full time employment in the beauty industry is down 21% on 2019 levels.
It added that many businesses incurred significant costs trying to comply with Covid-19 regulations when lockdown was eased last summer.
Ms Kendall said: “Without Government financial support, many salons will simply not be able to reopen and many will be forced to stay shut.”
In its 60-page strategy for the lifting of lockdown, the Government noted that the beauty and personal industry was worth £21.1 billion to the UK economy in 2019 – almost as much as pubs.
The sector accounted for 566,000 jobs, 85% of which were held by women.
According to data provided by NHBF, there are a higher proportion of personal care business than any other sector in the most deprived areas of the UK.
Richard Lambert, NHBF chief executive, warned: “April 12 is still seven more weeks without being able to trade, but still having to pay the overheads.
“So we still need a specific grant to support our sector through the immediate cash flow crisis to the point where we can re-open.”
Mr Lambert also noted saunas and steam rooms will not be included in the April 12 reopening.
Elsewhere, Chic Child, president of the Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union (TPIU), told the PA news agency he had thought that tattoo studios were unlikely to be allowed to reopen before May.
He said he expected most businesses to scrape through the next seven weeks.
“By and large people are clinging on by the finger nails and looking forward to getting back to work because we know we are going to be busy,” he said.
Mr Child did not expect tattoo artists and piercists to be included in any bailout aimed at the wider beauty industry, but said the union has a meeting set up with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
He said that the tattoo and piercing industry has historically been ignored by policy makers because it is smaller than the hair and beauty sector.
Mr Child, 62, who runs his own tattoo and piercing studio in Horley, Surrey, said he would “absolutely” feel safe returning to work.
“The thing no one seems to have taken into consideration with the tattoo and piercing industry is that we are very knowledgeable about cross contamination and caring for our environment,” he said.
“We have always used the PPE that is now being used by everyone else – the only thing we have had to add is face masks and visors.”
He added: “Essentially we have run along the same sterilisation processes as dentists and a lot of (equipment) is single use – on the whole 90% of the stuff we use is disposable.”
But Mr Child said that for the time being, his studio would continue to limit bookings in order to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection.
The TPIU is also considering drawing up guidelines for regular Covid-19 testing for all its members, he said.