Sunderland salon owner campaigns for VAT cut as pandemic devastates beauty industry

The owner of a prestigious Sunderland hair salon who fears for the future of her industry is backing a national campaign for support.

Saturday, 27th February 2021, 7:00 am

Susan Hall is owner and director of Reds Hair and Beauty salon in East Herrington, one of Wearside’s longest-serving and most popular salons, and is also a board member of The National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF), who has forecasted 41% of UK hair salons (about 20,000 businesses) would not survive the Covid pandemic.

She’s backing a national campaign for the beauty industry to have its VAT cut, after a similar reduction was made to help the struggling hospitality sector.

Susan explained: “Tens of thousands of people employed in the sector face the prospect of losing their jobs. More than 80% of those employed in the hairdressing sector are women, most of them under 35, so the continuing closure of salons is bad news for women and young people.

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Susan Hall, centre front, with Reds staff

“And yet we feel we are a forgotten industry. While the hospitality sector quite rightly and understandably had its VAT cut from 20% to 5% to help struggling pubs and restaurants, the hairdressing industry has had no support.”

In response to the growing crisis The British Beauty Council launched a Chop the VAT campaign which called on the Government to cut salons’ VAT bills to 5%, in line with the help the hospitality industry has received. That campaign, which has become a wider Save our Salons campaign, is gathering momentum as the March Budget approaches.

Susan added: “The Covid pandemic has had a truly devastating effect on hairdressing. Salons remain closed and we’re not sure what we will be returning to if we are able to open on the proposed date of April 12.

“But we still have to pay the bills, the overheads of running brick and mortar salons – and when we return we’ll have additional expense of PPE and social distancing measures. What were traditionally tight margins are now extremely slim – if exist at all.

“Hairdressing is already one of the most heavily-taxed sectors in the UK, with about 30% of every pound that comes into the till being paid in tax. I, and thousands of other salon owners, feel the only solution to long-term recovery is to reduce or abolish our VAT bills.

“The British Beauty Council estimates up to ten per cent of UK salons have already closed because of Covid. It is too late to save these businesses, but it’s not too late to help others battling their way through this crisis.”

As part of her support for the Save our Salons campaign, Susan contacted her MP, Bridget Phillipson.

In a written response, the MP for Houghton and Sunderland South – and the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – said she appreciated it was a “hugely challenging time for local businesses like Reds.”

She added: “While public health restrictions have been necessary to get a grip on this virus, these should be matched with appropriate economic support for businesses who cannot operate as normal, through no fault of their own.

“Labour have called on the Government to provide breathing space to small businesses, by extending the 100% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for at least a further six months. We have also urged the Chancellor to introduce these measures immediately, rather than waiting until the Budget.”

The MP said she had written to the Government sharing Susan’s concerns about the future of the hair and beauty industry and asked what assessment had been made of a reduction in VAT.

Susan said: “I’m grateful to Ms Phillipson for her support and will be interested to see what response she gets from the Government. As well as providing an invaluable service to our clients, salons like Reds are often at the heart of our local communities. We are hubs, providing so much more than a stylish haircut, blow dry or beauty treatment.

“The salons that survive this crisis will help reshape our High Streets that have been devastated by the pandemic.”

*Reds will be reopening on April 12, unless further restrictions are applied. The salon is expecting to be busy so is introducing a process in which clients who missed an appointment will be rebooked as a priority, and then a waiting list will be introduced on a first-come, first-served basis.

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