Barber shops, hair salons feel the virus pinch

Azlan Othman

As Brunei reported no new positive COVID-19 cases for over a month and most restrictions were lifted, members of the public and business outlets are having a sigh of relief.

Businesses have faced a decline since March and hair salons and barber shops are not exempted.

People usually go for haircuts only once a month, unlike a restaurant where customers come in regularly. With such conditions, hairdressers and barbers have felt the pinch.

A barber from KFK Enterprise Sdn Bhd in Kampong Mulaut named Asai shared that business has dropped 50 per cent since COVID-19 hit the Sultanate in February this year, while rental charges of around BND2,000 for two storey units have added salt to the wound.

Asai, who has been in the country for 10 years, added that for the safety of customers, they have adopted a number of measures, such as pasting a QR scanning code; wearing gloves, face mask, and apron; having thermal scanner; and always practicing social distancing by ensuring a safe distance of one metre between customers’ seats.

“Besides social distancing, we also practise cough etiquette and always ensure hand hygiene by using sanitisers. We also disinfect the seats and haircut tools. Customers should not be afraid as we clean our shop regularly and follow government guidelines.”

“We only allow three customers at once, unlike five customers during the non-COVID-19 period,” he shared. “We are thankful that COVID-19 situation in Brunei Darussalam is now under control with no new positive cases for over a month.”

Another to comment was Josephine from Yakis Sally Hair & Beauty in Gadong, who has been working as a hairdresser for two-and-a-half-years.

She said business has slowed over the past four months since February. “During normal days, we have an average of 10 customers, and more waiting in line but at the time of this pandemic, we only have a maximum of about three customers a day, and sometimes
not at all.”

“Despite the absence of new positive cases of late, customers are still reluctant to go for hair-dressing as they are still scared with physical contacts,” she said. “But they should not be anxious as gloves, face masks and aprons are used as stipulated in the guidelines by the Ministry of Health. In addition, the equipment is also sterilised.”

“We hope that this pandemic will end soon and business could run as usual,” she added. “Amid this outbreak, we can only cater to one or two customers as social distancing needs to be observed inside our premises.”

Meanwhile, a barber from Artika Enterprise, Mukim Sengkurong named Anbarasan, who has been in Brunei over the past six years also expressed similar views saying people are scared to have haircuts these days.

“We have around five to eight customers these days unlike up to 15 customers before. The elderly citizens are hesitant to enter our premises as they have old phones that are not compatible to scan QR codes. We have been struggling for the past four months as we did not have good income.”

He added, however, that as the virus situation improves, people should not be scared. “We also practise safety measures for the benefit of the customers.”

Another to comment was a staff member from a hair and beauty salon in Gadong who wished to remain anonymous. She said that, due to space constraints, they can’t afford to cater to all customers as they have to practise social distancing. “We set appointments with clients to avoid crowding at our premises.”

She shared that there has been a drop of up to 80 per cent in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Normally Hari Raya period is the busiest time of the year, but that is not the case this year.”