Esther McVey: How Zoom culture has brought wave of vanity to Britain

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The latest Blue Collar Conservative podcast by former cabinet minister and GMTV host Esther McVey has revealed that during lockdown beauty products have still outsold medical ones despite the coronavirus pandemic.

In her interviews Ms McVey has also lifted a lid on how hairdressers and beauty salons have been networking around the world and stocking up on protective equipment to be ready to open in the next few weeks as lockdown is easing.

Ms McVey said: “Coronavirus has forced significant changes on the beauty sector too. Seen as a resilient industry, worth £500 billion globally and employing millions of people world wide, as department stores and shops closed, sales were forced online requiring tech solutions for makeup testing to be rapidly improved, and now as lockdown lifts, the beauty service industry has to adapt to the new social distancing rules & increased standards of hygiene to support customers and staff.”

Speaking to Ms McVey, Dominic McGregor, a consumer behaviour tracking expert and co-founder of Social Chain, revealed that 40 percent of 18 to 35 year olds have been buying beauty products during lockdown.

He said: “In lockdown clothes and beauty came second, ahead of medical products. People still see beauty as more important than medical products. It’s remarkably high.”

He went on: “There’s something about not having your camera on in a video call people, start to question what is going on.

“The nature of sitting at home seeing themselves on Zoom call screens all the time has made people more conscious about how they look.

“It seems that people want to look good more than ever. Fashion and beauty is a constant and we all want to make sure we look good, predominantly on a screen every single day.”

He also suggested that Britain is in better shape than during the banking crisis in 2008.

He said: “We are seeing higher consumer sentiment than at any point in 2008 and 2009.”

Meanwhile, Ann-Marie Baker, who runs Toni and Guy hair salon in Knutsford in Ms McVey’s constituency in Cheshire, said that customers are desperate to come back to get their hair cut after two months of lockdown.

Ms McVey said that “lockdown hair has passed the weather as the new favourite topic of conversation for people in Britain” because of having to cut their own hair at home. 

Ms Baker said: “Everybody is missing us so much. People can’t wait to be back.

She revealed how she has received tips on returning to work from branhhes of Toni and Guy around the world.

She said: “It has been great for us because we have all been able to speak to the Toni and Guys that have already been able to open. France is open, Paris has been fully booked for weeks. The Belgian ones, Australian and Chinese ones are open so we have had meetings with all of them. They have seen an absolutely phenomenal response.

“The Chinese owner’s main advice to us was get ready you are going to be really busy. He said they were absolutely packed out.”

Toni and Guy in the UK will follow some of China’s lead on salons such as protective covers on shoes and changing clothes when they get to work or wearing gloves while cutting hair as well as doing deep cleans. Most stylists will wear masks but some may wear face shields to allow easier conversation with clients.

She said: “The [Chinese] government inspects their salon every night. They get a certificate of health for the next day.

“In this country we will be clean and ready for the next day. Our head office might have mystery shoppers going around. I don’t think they would need to because salmon owners have all committed to the gold standard hygiene. But we will have local councils coming in to check.

“The Chinese have been using disposable PPE. Salonists are not used to cutting hair with gloves on so it is going to be a challenge for them. But they have been cutting hair with gloves on, using the masks and doing virtual consultations. That’s where we have got the ideas from.

She warned that the wait to return to salon means there could be long waiting lists while initially only core services of cut and colour will be offered although customers can have Zoom conference calls to discuss how to use products sent to their homes.

“If we can only use half the chairs, we can only see half the clients but there is this big massive backlog of clients so I suppose the question will be will they wait for us? Or will they go somewhere else if we can’t fit them in?

“We work on a Sunday anyway but we are extending our hours.

“When we open we will only be offering core services, cut and colour. We won’t be offering luxury blow dries to begin with.”

She also suggested that when immunity certificates come in stylists can be sent to the homes of the most vulnerable.

She said: “We are looking into the possibility if we have very elderly or vulnerable clients if they get these certificates of health, stylists who have had the virus or have immunity we might be able to send them to somebody’s house if they feel very vulnerable.”

But she admitted that her stylists are worried about returning to work.

“It’s quite nerve racking for the stylists and of course we need to make the clients relaxed. The stylists who have been at lockdown at home suddenly come into contact with 10 people they don’t know and don’t know where they have been.

“Have a team in at once and will get a set time to have lunch. Each staff allocated area and PPE to change and use every single client.

“We will be testing every stylists’ and clients’ temperatures. People won’t get to the chair if they are showing symptoms.”

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