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Hairdressing in crisis

Australian hairdressers are being “overlooked” by the government as the cost of living crisis continues to wreak havoc on businesses.

Photo credit: Pexels

Sandy Chong, CEO of the Australian Hairdressing Council says businesses are still recovering from the pandemic with “deferred payments like rent” and are facing more obstacles as inflation and interest rates rise.

Michael Ivkovic, Melbourne hairdresser and educator says the struggle of affording to stay open is being seen “across the board”.

“Anything that is coming from overseas stock-wise, like colour, your styling products, all companies will increase the pricing for products,” he tells The Swanston Gazette.

He says owners have “no choice” but to increase the prices of their services, but are then left with less customers.

“Clients are coming in asking for less services or trying to extend their appointments out. Traditionally blondes are four to six weeks, now they are 10, 12, 14.”

Sandy Chong says salon owners are having to “strategise” in order to keep clients coming in the door.

She says owners “encourage memberships with salons or Afterpay [to] buy now pay later, as it allows the clients to also budget”.

Haircuts and beauty appointments are the kind of expensive services that people use often, but are having to push further down the priority list as the cost of living continues to rise.

Anji Elliott, full-time university student at RMIT, says with increased rent and living expenses, she doesn’t have the funds to even consider “luxuries like that”.

She says, “my rent has almost doubled, and even grocery shopping is sending me broke at the moment”.

“I can’t even use Afterpay because I am scared I won’t be able to afford the payments when I need to.”

Mr Ivkovic says this mindset is all too common, and salon owners across Australia are taking a financial hit.

“I have seen firsthand friends of mine who are offering redundancies to some staff because there isn’t enough clientele to keep them busy in the salon,” he says.

When the Federal Budget was announced on 9 May, many salon owners awaited relief for financial struggles that had been brought by the pandemic.

Chong said, “some things were good for us and some things were not”.

“Well 85% of the industry is female so the single mothers support is good for our industry and also for our clients as well.”

However she says, “when it comes to migration, the decisions that have been made in the budget are very difficult for our industry”.

Applying to temporary skill shortage visas, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) will increase from $53,900 to $70,000 in July 2023.

The hairdressing industry has struggled over the last 20 years with a “critical skill shortage”, with a 22 per cent drop in course commencements and a 16 per cent decrease in program completions from 2015 to 2019.

Chong says, “being able to get skilled people from overseas is imperative for our industry”, following the lack of trained professionals within the country.

​​With increased business expenses and loss of clients, this cost has become unachievable for many owners and could have detrimental effects on staffing.

In Australia, most hairdressing businesses are small or family enterprises who rely heavily on customer loyalty and government understanding.

Chong says the government doesn't really understand the difference between a small, medium and big business.

She says “decisions are often made with businesses that are much bigger than ours”.

Her hope is, “when it comes to decisions that would affect our industry in any way, that we are not overlooked, always considered as a small business and not forgotten”.


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