Life After Lockdown with Ruksher Malik
Seven weeks post-lockdown, Ruksher Malik, founder of Pastels Salon Group UAE, filled us in on salon life after lockdown...
In line with Dubai Government guidelines, we reopened our Jumeirah and Mercato branches on April 26th, while the Ritz Carlton branch opened on May 10th as we had to wait to get permission from the hotel as it was closed.
Unfortunately, as any business owner will tell you there are hiccups along the way and we have had some issues at the Ritz Carlton branch after opening. We had been open a week and had to close for a fortnight (until June 6th) as we had a staff member come into contact with COVID-19 and subsequently test positive. To ensure the maximum safety and wellbeing of staff and clients we had to make the decision to close the salon until we get the COVID-19 test results for all staff to ensure they are virus-free.
It also provided the opportunity to sanitise all areas of the hotel through which clients pass as they come to the salon, as well as the salon itself. We contacted all the Ritz branch clients to keep them informed and assure them of their safety and they have been incredibly supportive and grateful for our honesty and openness. Initially when we opened we could only offer hair and nail services and operate at a 30% capacity. It was only at the end of May that we were allowed to offer facials, waxing, threading and spray tans and given these additional services, we can now have 50% capacity.
It has been great to have this staggered approach as the staff have had the opportunity to become accustomed to the protocols we have in place and to get used to wearing all the PPE equipment (face shields, masks, gloves etc) so now it is very much like second nature to them!
The client measures we put in place initially are still being strictly followed. Before we opened we created a google document to send to clients ahead of their appointment that details all the measures that Pastels is taking to ensure their safety as well as a detailed outline of what to expect when they came into the salon. Within the document we have a questionnaire for clients to complete and sign before submitting to us prior to their appointment asking them questions such as “Have you been in touch with anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms within the last 14 days?” and “Have you had any symptoms within the last 14 days?” etc.
Upon their arrival at the salon there is very clear signage with instructions about measures that are in place such as a staff member taking the client’s temperature at the entrance to the salon to ensure it is within the normal range before they can enter. If the temperature is slightly above normal it could be that the client had rushed from her car or had been out in the heat a little too long so the client will be given a chair to sit just outside for a few minutes before her temperature is retaken. I have checked that this would be the right procedure with the doctor who agreed this would work. If it appeared normal, the client can be admitted into the salon. If not, they are asked to leave and return at another time.
We have instigated a flow within the salon – the main door is where clients come to enter, while the side door is the exit door. Once inside the salon, there is clear signage regarding the 2 metre social distancing throughout. We have removed alternate chairs from the hair stations and placed “not to use” stickers on alternate backwash stations so that social distancing is easily maintained. We do not have a waiting area in use at the moment, so when the client enters the salon she is asked to sanitise her hands and is then taken immediately to her seat for the start of her service where she is asked to put on her mask. For clients who are having colour, we have asked them to have two masks with them in case one gets dirty during the colour service, it can be replaced with their spare one.
Any refreshment given to the client is in disposable cups and everything in terms of gowns and towels are single use at the moment. Clients cannot touch retail products so they need to ask a stylist or receptionist for assistance, and after any service all products and tools used are sprayed with sanitisers. For payment we have asked clients to pay by card or Apple pay where possible to avoid cash handling. If they need to use a pin code, the card machine is sprayed before and after. I believe that until the COVID-19 crisis passes this modus operandi is the best option, as it keeps both staff and clients as safe as possible while allowing salons the chance to open and for people to come and enjoy a bit of me-time.
For the first week we all felt nervous second-guessing whether we had taken enough precautions but we had Dubai Municipality inspections at two of our locations and it has gone really well. I have also had feedback from clients which have been overwhelmingly positive. Some of these clients are doctors and have told me they are impressed with everything we have put into place. Other clients have admitted that while in the past they may have come to us for big services such as colour and then went elsewhere for a blow-dry now will no longer be the case.
Thanks to the measures we have put in place and the open manner in which we have communicated with them they feel completely safe and trust wholly in the Pastels’ brand, and so will now come to us for all services and recommend us to their friends and family.
As a business owner this is wonderful feedback for me to receive and motivates me to continue. The trust and esteem that clients have for us is invaluable and will lead to the procurement of new clients. I truly believe that post- COVID-19 clients will look to brands who were there for them and put their health, safety and needs before profit.