Businesses that rely on physical contact are fighting to reopen after lockdown

Linda J. Dodson

She says a shift to working from home in lockdown has seen demand for services such as osteopathy surge, forcing many clinics to operate longer hours.

“Demand has been off the scale,” she says. “We have waiting lists every day, it’s been really busy particularly because nobody was prepared to work from home full-time so they did not have laptop risers or the right chair. I’ve been giving a lot of advice around that.”

While the pandemic has delivered some major challenges for businesses which rely on physical contact, it has provided an opportunity for others. 

Alex Collinson’s business, Pod, was one of the few massage studios allowed to open its doors to customers on Saturday and has been recognised as the only Covid-19 secure business of its kind by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Using the latest technology in massage chairs, Collinson says she and her business partner have created an experience that is relaxing and enjoyable while being entirely contact-free.

The service was due to open in February but was delayed by difficulties in obtaining equipment from China, the epicentre of the outbreak. 

Collinson’s business allows customers to book appointments directly but she also has chairs which can be hired by other companies which may not be able to operate as usual due to social distancing.

“There is an opportunity for us to partner with other organisations that don’t necessarily want to stop doing hands on contact but it would be a potential way for them to future-proof their business,” she says.

Beauticians have expressed frustration at being left out of the Government’s super Saturday reopening and continue to await clarity as to when they will be able to take appointments. 

Lianne Rispoli, who owns Bellatique Studio, a beauty salon in St Albans, argues that the Government does not recognise the high level of hygiene standards within the industry. 

She says customers will be banned from using mobile phones in the salon when it reopens, and all staff will wear masks and visors. For treatments which are usually carried out face to face, such as manicures, beauticians will sit side on to the customer.

“What we have to do is so vigorous, I don’t think you could be in a cleaner place,” she says. “I think visiting a salon would be safer than going to a pub or a supermarket.”

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