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NHBF State of the Industry Survey – sector trade and confidence levels still muted

May 09, 2022

As the National Hair & Beauty Federation publishes its latest State of the Industry quarterly survey , the report shows some level of hope in the industry, with businesses across the hair and beauty sector only seeing a slight improvement in trade, following the lifting of restrictions across the UK. Now 41% of businesses report being either busy or steady, an increase from January’s report which showed just 13% of businesses reporting a steady footfall.

The previous survey in January reflected the difficult winter experienced by many businesses and whilst there are some signs of sector resilience, there is still not yet the more confident signs of recovery that we saw in September.

The latest State of the Industry survey found that:

  • 44% are breaking even, with 30% making a small or good profit (up from 19%) and 27% (down from 40%) are either making a small or substantial loss.
  • 43% of respondents raised their prices over the last three months. A further 58% will do so over the next three months.
  • Reliance on external support has reduced from 81% in January, but is still high, with 58% of businesses either partially or completely reliant on Government support.
  • The numbers of businesses carrying debt has reduced slightly from 54% in January to 42%. However, 63% say that it will take more than two years to clear.

Staffing, recruitment and apprentices

  • Recruitment intentions are static; in the next three months, only 17% are definitely or likely to take on new staff (up slightly from 15% in January and down from 27% in September).
  • Over the last three months, 16% have cut back on apprentices (18% in January) and only 9% were definitely or likely to take on apprentices in the next three months.

Looking to the future

  • Business confidence in the sector has strengthened slightly, with 57% now confident of their survival (up from 40% in January, but not as high as 63% in September) and a significant 38% unsure that they will survive over the next six months until the end of September 2022.
  • Growth intentions are a little more muted than previous surveys, with 38% saying that they intend to grow their business (down from 42%), 44% to remain the same size and 17% planning to downsize or handover the business, similar to January.

The latest survey findings show that the sector remains fragile, as it faces a perfect storm of rising costs for staff, energy and supplies.

The longer-term future of the personal care sector depends on business owners being able to afford to keep and take on staff. Employment intentions remain flat and there is no sign of a recovery in salons taking on apprentices in the near future. The emergence of a skills crisis is clear as the data shows that current initiatives are continuing to fall short of the mark.

The NHBF is therefore calling for the following:

·          An increase in the 50% discount on business rates for 2022-23 and flexibility on repayments of CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) and bounce back loans to offer much needed support to those suffering financial hardship.

·          The reintroduction of the Job Retention Bonus (£1000 per eligible employee) through to the autumn of 2022 to sustain jobs and businesses and restraint on further increases to the National Minimum Wage and apprenticeship rate until such time as the sector can continue its recovery.

·          More attractive apprenticeship incentives to employers, focusing on the development of affordable apprenticeship schemes specifically for small businesses in order to make it financially viable for them to recruit and retain apprentices.

·          Continued consultation between the sector and UK and devolved governments to tailor future guidance in a clear and accessible way with more forward thinking to plan and implement any future changes giving businesses adequate time.

Richard Lambert, NHBF chief executive said, “After a difficult winter for the sector, trade and confidence levels are similar to where they were in July 2021. We are grateful for all the government support provided to the sector to date. However, continued support from each national government is needed through the recovery phase, particularly in the form of incentives for apprenticeships to fuel the future talent pipeline of the personal care sector. With this targeted support, the sector will be in a position to play a key role in sustainable economic recovery, wellbeing and thriving high streets.”

The survey received 913 responses between 29 March and 6 April. It gathered views from a sizeable representation of businesses in the personal care sector across all areas including city centres, town centres and villages in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Respondents included salon or barbershop owners, chair or room renters, home-based business owners, mobile or freelance practitioners, employers and the self-employed. Over three-quarter (76%) of respondents were salon or barbershop owners, 20% are self-employed individuals and 18% involved in the wider space renting, mobile and freelance part of the sector; this is either the sole focus of their business or in addition to them being a salon or barbershop owner.

In 2019 the NHBF reported that UK’s 45,000 salon business’ (hair, beauty and barbershops) delivered a combined turnover of £8 billion.