For global companies such as TONI&GUY, the shutdown of the world’s economies brought challenges never seen before.
“TONI&GUY is 57 years old and we have survived and thrived through recessions, but this was completely different. It has brought challenges we have never experienced and forced us to look at the business in a way that was unprecedented,” explains global creative director, Sacha Mascolo-Tarbuck.
“Normal ways of working were no longer appropriate; we had to change our leadership and communication. Our focus is usually planning three or five years ahead; this changed to focusing on the tomorrow. Our number one concern was our communication with our teams, their mental and emotional health.
Week by week our journey was changing. Every country had its own challenges and rules but the principles were the same – professionalism, social distancing and PPE. Then we focused on client communication and getting ready for reopening.”
“We looked at all our services, what was financially successful and what wasn’t. We looked at our business through our client’s eyes and gave every salon in the UK a refresh. We worked on our social media channels and launched #toniandguyathome with videos from our art team on how to care and style hair at home. We introduced product promotions to encourage retail and talked about the new protocols we had in place so they saw the salons as a safe and professional place to visit.”
Cos Sakkas, international artistic director and nominee for British Hairdresser of the Year, UK
“We were quite late to lockdown in the UK but we knew it was coming. We had seen the effects of Coronavirus on our salons in Asia and Europe and knew we were next. However, it didn’t make it any easier. We suddenly went from being fully booked in the academy to being empty and clients not travelling to salons. And no one expected us to be isolating for quite so long! For us, the most important thing was to make sure all our teams were OK – there was a lot of uncertainty and fear and we spent the first few days making sure people felt safe.
The UK government gave us two week’s notice before we opened in England, but we had been working for weeks on safety measures; after speaking to salons around the world we knew what worked and what didn’t.”
Bill Watson, educational director for TONI&GUY Asia
“Warnings about closing down Asia varied from 1-3 days depending on where you were based, so preparation was pretty much instantaneous for all our salons. Lockdown varied from seven weeks in Beijing to three months in Delhi and Chennai in India. Government requirements varied quite a lot too, as did financial support. In some territories, like Japan, the Government didn’t have the power to force closures; China, on the other hand, saw swift strict actions.
From the outset we were concerned for the mental and emotional wellbeing of all our team members. So online communications went from regular emails to Instagram, Zoom, Microsoft teams – we used it all. The most important thing was we wanted our team to know we were all in it together. However, the opportunities that have come through this will probably change us forever.
Foot fall in Harajuku in Tokyo is a lot lower, but our salons are doing well. Wellness seems to be a high priority for spending, a re-prioritising of where your cash goes. Hair in that case is a fundamental, closely linked to emotions or confidence, simply feeling good. So I think compared to the rest of the high street, we are in a better place.
Jose Boix, head of TONI&GUY Spain
“Lockdown was announced on 13 March and initially the Spanish Government wanted salons to stay open because we were considered key to society. However, it wasn’t long before we realised we were going through a big health scare and clients were staying home, so it didn’t make sense to open. The lockdown has been very difficult for some people – many people were depressed and the uncertainty of jobs, families and the economy effected a lot of people.
For me, it was the uncertainty of what was going to happen to my life – I had spent 15 years building up the business and every day brought mixed feelings. We had to consider our expenses, our team members and our clients. Being positive was the only way to get through it and we spent a lot of time talking as a team, connecting with other people in the industry and looking after ourselves mentally as well as physically. Communication from the Government wasn’t great and many people didn’t really understand what was happening, so as well as negotiating rents and evaluating our finances, we communicated with our team to make sure everyone knew what was going on.
When we came out of lockdown after nine weeks, we were fully booked. We were only allowed 30% of the team to work at the same time and one hairdresser per client. However, we wanted the customer experience to be incredible and our clients certainly felt they were being looked after. The first month was hard as people were nervous, but after a few weeks everything started to settle and now, life is back to a new normal.”
Charity Cheah, co-founder TONI&GUY Italy
From the outset, we made sure we connected with our team and our clients – we constantly communicated in a positive and empathetic way and helped them navigate the ever-changing scenarios. We offered daily tips on how to care for their hair at home through virtual consultations, video tutorials, weekly Instagram Lives and focused on how to stay positive and centered.
The biggest challenge for us was bridging the physical distance between clients and hairdressers and we made it a priority to keep these relationships alive.
Once it was announced we were reopening, we had a long waiting list and the first 4-6 weeks were really intense – our constant client communication and materials support to them prior to their visit had worked and they felt safe and knew exactly what to expect. They were very happy to come in and get their hair done. We adhered religiously to strict protocols to assure that our clients knew that we take their safety seriously and they are coming for a safe, feelgood experience with us.
We offered a higher standard of service excellence with temperature checks, longer opening hours, sanitised the salon and offered individual sanitisation packs with mask, disposable towel and gown.
Consumer behaviour has changed; they now appreciate brands and companies stepping up even more in service excellence and professionalism with an eye on health and wellbeing. Average spend is 30% higher and clients are purchasing more products than before. It has been a most unprecedented experience but an important learning curve too.