Barbers have their work cut out as beauty industry opens amid lockdown
For Yogi’s Barber Shop on Buitengracht Street in Cape Town’s CBD, the reopening has amounted to a new experience for customers and owner Yogesh Govan and his team.
“We’re very thankful to be back,” Govan said. “Work was phenomenal this week because there were loads of people waiting for a haircut.”
A customer waits for his hair to be cut.
A family-run business that has been around for more than a century, Yogi’s reopened on Monday, following the publication of the government’s new health and social distancing guidelines.
“I came in on Saturday. My shop hadn’t been operating for three months. We deep cleaned the place and then we opened on Monday.”
South Africa’s beauty sector is the latest to reopen under revised level 3 lockdown regulations.
Previously able to accommodate nine customers, the barber shop now only serves three at a time. In addition to standard safety measures such as hand sanitisers, gloves and masks, the barber shop does not use hairdryers or towels. Each station is sanitised after each client and physical contact is kept to a minimum. “It is a big jump, but it’s still working,” Govan said.
He said some clients took issue with the no mask, no entry requirement, though patrons can remove them during a cut. “These are the people who think the coronavirus is a hoax,” he explained. “But because we’re such an old barber shop with such frequent clients who have become part of the family, we understand each other. And if they don’t have a mask, I have masks for them.”
A major change has been the introduction of an appointments system in addition to the traditional walk-in service. “As much as I don’t like social media and websites - my dad never had all these things, the strongest form of advertising was word of mouth. Up until today, a barber shop can still do that we have a big clientele base and they’re still loyal to their barbers.”
An appointments system is recommended by the government’s guidelines and there are platforms that are helping local businesses introduce this.
Fleeker, a website run by a group of UCT students, serves as a portal for businesses to reach clients and for them to make appointments.
The idea for a website was one of saving time.
“We hated standing in long queues at our barber when we could be doing other things with our time,” said Fleeker co-founder and UCT economics student, Asonele Gevenga. “Our first website went live in September 2018. It was a testing website, very basic, but by the end of October we had over 100 users, people who had made bookings using it. We then decided to build a much better website and we spent 2019 doing that.”
It’s hair-raising stakes for South Africa’s beauty sector as barber shops and salons reopen and adjust to new health and safety guidelines.
Fast-forward to 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic, Fleeker could serve an adapted, though important purpose.
“We built Fleeker to help with social distancing for beauty salons and target the whole of South Africa,” Gevenga said.
According to Gevenga, the website now logs more than 450 appointments and hosts 29 different businesses in Mowbray and Observatory, with 15 additional ones currently being verified. The group expects to add a 100 more during the course of this month with an expansion into Johannesburg. They hope to add spas and tattoo artists to the website, as well as produce an app for smartphone users.
Meanwhile, some Capetonians have taken to cutting their own hair, such as CBD resident Nadim Nyker. “I’ve always been extremely pedantic about my hair, so it was a big step for me. It was just becoming too much to handle so I decided to order a pair of clippers.”
After watching videos on YouTube, Nyker felt confident giving himself a trim. “The back can be a bit difficult but you’ve got to have faith,” he said. “I feel bad for barber shops, but I don’t want to risk being irresponsible and go out during the pandemic.”
That sentiment was echoed by Edgemead resident Megan Ellis, who gave herself a trim. “I don’t want to risk unknowingly spreading it or exposing myself and therefore my family to the virus,” she said.