Published: 12:31, 02 July 2020
| Updated: 15:32, 02 July 2020
A Kent business owner has branded the Prime Minister "downright disrespectful", saying he "mocked and laughed at" the beauty industry during yesterday's PMQs.
Kimberley Smith, who runs Purenique in Hawkhurst, felt the discussion between Boris Johnson and William Wragg MP about the reopening of beauty salons revealed "they have no education about the industry at all".
Mr Wragg (Con), who represents Hazel Grove in Stockport, began his speech in the House of Commons by saying: "Given the state of us, the Prime Minister and I will be among the first in the socially-distanced queues as barbers and hairdressers reopen this weekend. But neither of us is likely to be queuing for an appointment at a beauty salon. And sadly, neither will anybody else as many of these much-loved businesses remain closed."
His words were met with scoffing and giggling across the Commons.
With a smile, Mr Wragg continued: "Will the Prime Minister review this decision so that the likes of Lush Beauty in my constituency can reopen as safely as possible."
Mr Johnson replied: "I am sure that one day I will be going with him to Lush Beauty (laughter is heard from the benches) but it is a sad reality for many of these excellent businesses that they cannot reopen and I certainly share his sense of urgency and I know that people feel it across the country."
The PM closed the matter by saying he acknowledges beauticians "feel a sense of unfairness when they look at hairdressers reopening" but that these businesses will open when it is "Covid-secure" to do so.
Mrs Smith's initial reaction to the exchange was anger.
The 33-year-old said: "For an industry which contributes a lot to the economy, it is not very fair at all to be laughed at and mocked.
"This is an industry that donated all of their PPE to the NHS in their time of crisis when the government let them down. It's downright disrespectful."
The latest figures from the British Beauty Council show the industry is worth £27.2 billion, with 590,000 jobs linked to the sector.
But Mrs Smith fears the once thriving industry could collapse if the closures continue for much longer.
"I've already lost in excess of £40,000 and July is one of the busiest times for us so we could lose up to £15,000 just this month. We will be in jeopardy if this goes on any longer." she said.
Mrs Smith thinks that the beauty sector being predominately female might be a factor in the delayed reopening.
She said: "MPs, who are mostly men, haven't got the understanding of industry to make an informed choice. The fact they've opened chiropractors, osteopaths - I'd like to know the difference between our industry and theirs.
"We wear PPE and sanitise on a daily basis anyway so don't really need to change that much."
Along with many other business owners, Mrs Smith is just desperate to be given a reopening date to work towards.
"I understand the government needs to phase reopenings and I know they can't guarantee a date but they've stuck to all the others they've given so far. We just need a date but at the moment we feel we are being ignored and disregarded," she said.
Emma Foster, owner of Mirror Mirror, a salon in Aylesford, thought she’d get the green light to open along with hairdressers from Saturday.
The 37-year-old said: “I was absolutely heartbroken - for me the worst bit is the unknown. I am stuck in complete limbo with no idea now of when I can reopen my business and start to earn a living again as well as doing something I love.
“I feel like the last one standing, the forgotten industry.”
Ms Foster believes beauty salons could safely reopen now, as staff can wear full PPE, work on a one-to-one basis and sanitise stations after each client.
Suprim Jha, who owns Glam Lounge in the Mall, Maidstone, was also expecting beauty parlours to be given the go ahead to welcome back customers from Saturday.
He said: “We had prepared everything, buying perspex screens, masks, gloves... the announcement really shocked us.”
Mr Jha, who also owns Hair Lounge next door, says he is a bit confused as to why hairdressers are allowed to reopen but beauty salons aren’t.
“No one seems to have mentioned about hair dryers which will blow air everywhere which is surely a risk,” he said.
Clare Cockell, who runs the Reef beauty and lounge in Gabriel’s Hill, Maidstone, has shared a Facebook plea from the UK Spa Association, asking for the government to give a specific opening date which businesses can work towards.
However, not all beauticians think their businesses should be allowed to reopen yet.
Susan Tomic of Spirits Beauty in Maidstone said: "We can be very close to a customer's face for long periods of time for things like facials and perspex screens will make it a nightmare to do nails.
"Especially with customers in their 70s, I don't know if I'd feel comfortable doing these treatments yet."
Ms Tomic added she is unsure whether it would be economically viable to open while strict guidelines are still in place.
The 39-year-old said: "Doing someone's eyebrows normally takes around 10 minutes but it would now be a whole 30-minute slot with all the sanitisation."
Mr Wragg has since apologised on Twitter for any offence caused by his comments in the Commons yesterday.
More by this authorRebecca Tuffin
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