At the beauty salon run by Lucineia Flavio de Souza, 48, in Vila Curuçá Velha (eastern part of the capital), the impact of the extension of the pandemic and restrictions on activities can be measured by the rotation in the use of chairs and washbasins.
On a Saturday, the busiest day, 90 to 100 people would go through the hands and care of hairdressers and manicures. Just for cuts, treatments, dyes and hairstyles, there was a wait to fill the three chairs and two washbasins.
Almost 18 months after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are fewer than 50 customers who pass through the salon on the busiest day.
Even so, for Lucineia, the feeling is that the worst is over. The ruler of expectations for the future, however, is calibrated downwards. “With unemployment getting worse and less money, there’s not much we can expect it to get much better. Salon is considered superfluous.”
The most recent data released by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), referring to the quarter ended in May, point to 14.795 million people without formal or informal work.
In the first quarter of this year, the average per capita income in the country fell 11.3% compared to the same period in 2020, and stood at R$995, according to an analysis by FGV Social in microdata from PNAD Contínua, from IBGE.
The beauty sector association calculates that, since the beginning of the pandemic, 375,000 legal entities have been closed throughout Brazil. The account includes companies of all sizes as well as individual micro-entrepreneurs who typically have one or two employees.
According to the ABSB (Brazilian Association of Beauty Salons), a survey carried out in July with 200 establishments shows that 30% are still thinking about closing their doors or changing segments. There are 24% of those that are in arrears for loan payments, and the same percentage owes to suppliers.
José Augusto Nascimento, president of the association, says that now the salons are under pressure from two economic impacts. On the one hand, customers are cutting expenses and with that, the hiring of these services drops. On the other hand, those who follow with their doors open are in debt.
In the survey carried out by the entity, 60% said they had back taxes, and 32% did not have their rent up to date.
More than the restrictions on the operation and the duration of these measures, says Nascimento, the lack of support from the federal, state and municipal governments weighed on the salons.
The association started a public civil action in São Paulo seeking compensation for the losses suffered with the policies to control the pandemic. From March of last year, there was total closing, opening with reduced hours and capacity limitation. Since the 17th, there are no more restrictions.
“We don’t want to fight with anyone, but we want a counterpart. How will a salon pay IPTU without billing? It’s not enough to just split up”, says the president of ABSB.
The first week without restrictions has not yet brought any changes to the routine of hairdresser Cristiano Cassiano, 33. “There is no way to gather clients, because there is not enough movement for that. We realize that purchasing power has dropped a lot and this is one of the first expenses to be cut”, he says.
Cristiano says that he has seen many clients adopting domestic solutions for what was previously done at the salon. “Even those who came back come to do more technically complicated things, like progressives [procedimento químico para alisar os cabelos]. Even the court has people taking risks.”
Lucineia also says that many customers ended up abandoning, during the pandemic, procedures that require frequent maintenance, both to save money and to avoid long stays in the salon.
“Being blonde isn’t cheap, so a lot of people went back to natural color, others went white. Those who always retouched the progressive took the opportunity to make the transition to the natural”, he says.
Nascimento, from the association of salons, says that 60% of establishments still have professionals working directly at customers’ homes to overcome the fear of exposure to the virus.
According to Kantar consultancy, in 12 months until March, the consumption of products in the beauty category fell 25% in Latin America. In Brazil, makeup (-38%), waxing (-24%) and perfumes (-15%) were the ones that suffered the most retraction. On the other hand, creams and lotions became more consumed. In class C, these products entered the shopping basket of 1.2 million new homes.
To circumvent the drop in revenue, the salons have invested in packages, promotions and innovations. In Lucineia’s salon, a small boutique helped keep accounts up-to-date while the clientele did not return. The sale of service packages with a 30% discount also helped to make cash for the reopening.
Juliana Souza Pires, 48, says she has done “a little of everything” to maintain the relationship with clients at the salon she has had for six years in the region of Morumbi (west of the capital).
In the toughest period of closing, it launched a line of home care products, with a salon label. “I took it to the clients’ homes. The logo was a way of not forgetting us”, he says. It also carried out food donation campaigns for employees.
Currently, says Juliana, the accounts are already tying up. With about 80% of the pre-pandemic movement, the feeling is that things are going to get better. The year 2020 was worse. With the onset of the pandemic, a disagreement with the owner of the property required the move to a new space.
“It’s still not in order. Last year, in addition to all the charges, we had the unexpected need to change. I had to take out a loan to pay off another loan. Now I’m zero to zero.”
To reach the accounting balance, Juliana adopted packages with discounts and promotions. In the month of the salon’s anniversary, customers receive services and even vouchers for restaurants and pizzerias in the region. The strategy is adopted to overcome customer resistance.
“I feel that the client’s profile has changed. The one who came every week and spent without asking is now more careful. The packages make the customer come more regularly.”