‘We’ve lost two weeks but we can live with that’
Gyms, nail bars and various other businesses in England were disappointed last month when the government failed to give them the go-ahead to open at the same time as pubs and hairdressers.
But they carried on preparing for a green light – and now their efforts finally look set to be rewarded.
Beauty salons, tattooists and tanning salons can reopen from Monday 13 July.
Gyms, indoor swimming pools and leisure centres will have to wait a little longer. They can open from Saturday 25 July.
Vanita Parti is founder and chief executive of the Blink Brow Bar walk-in beauty bar chain, which has 11 shops in London.
She said the announcement was “fantastic news”, but questioned why she could not have opened earlier this month.
“We had to cancel 2,000 appointments in the first week of July, That’s £3,000 that we had to write off,” she told the BBC.
“A lot of people have escaped on holiday and they were looking forward to getting a beauty treatment before they travelled, which they didn’t get.
“Now we’re getting our staff off furlough and planning to open up, but they just haven’t got much notice.
“I think the government were trying to show they were being cautious without really thinking it through. We’ve lost two weeks, but hopefully we can live with that.”
A similar reaction came from the UK’s biggest tanning business, the Feel Good Group, which has more than 90 tanning salons and employs more than 400 staff across the country.
Adam Mooney, group’s founder and chief executive, said: “While we welcome the decision to finally allow us to reopen, the government could have allowed us to open last week, when hairdressers reopened.
“We are ready to reopen today, not next week.”
Mr Mooney added: “More than 90% of our staff are women, and most in the 18 to 25-year-old age group, which is the demographic which has been worst hit financially by the pandemic, and they are very keen to get back to work.”
However, he anticipated keen demand, given the recent “dismal” weather in the UK and the difficulties in travelling abroad.
“Perhaps our tanning salons will be the suntan saviour of staycationing Brits this summer,” he said.
Indoor gyms and swimming pools will have to wait a little longer before they can reopen, although outdoor facilities can reopen from this Saturday.
Huw Edwards, chief executive of health body UK Active, told the BBC that the government’s announcement brought “welcome relief” for his members.
He said many gym owners and staff had felt “understandable frustration” not to have been included in the first wave of lockdown easing, but added: “We are where we are.”
Mr Edwards said the reopening of gyms was “an important moment for the health of the nation”.
“This is a health crisis, so we now look forward to playing our central role – using our facilities and staff to help combat Covid-19 by strengthening the physical and mental health of people in every community.”
However, he said that like the hospitality industry, the fitness industry would be looking for “urgent financial and regulatory support from the government to ensure that reopening is financially viable, both for private and public operators”.
Rob Ward, who runs YourGym, an independent fitness centre in Lytham, Lancashire, says he is ready to welcome people back to work out from 25 July, but they will find there are some changes.
“They’ll be noticing lots more sanitising stations around,” he says, while equipment has been moved to comply with social distancing rules.
“We’ve got our own app and they’ll have to book their space to avoid congestion at busy times.”
The only trouble is that he’s not quite sure yet what time of day that peak demand is likely to be.
“We think there will be a new normal. The busy times then may not be the busy times now,” he says. “People still on furlough may be more flexible with their time.”
Mr Ward’s staff are returning from furlough, so they will have to get used to that “new normal” as well.
“Everyone’s on a learning curve when they get back,” he says.
“The journey will be a little different, there will be time between classes, so it’s not exactly as it used to be, but we will adapt.”