Beauty industry taking a hard knock!

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Beauty is more than just glowing skin. It reflects your physical and emotional well-being. When people are healthy, it shows. Beauticians understand the importance of appearance, and it is their mission and vision to help their clients look and feel their best, inside out, with beauty care.

However, Sri Lanka’s beauty culture is currently being threatened by an Extraordinary Gazette that was issued recently. The Government temporarily banned imports of over 300 ‘non-essential commodities’ with effect from 23 August, until further notice. Accordingly, over 300 items including, cosmetics, perfumes, beauty or make-up products, shampoos, musical instruments, clothing, electrical goods, chocolates, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were temporarily banned from being imported.

Ceylon Today inquired about the current state of the beauty industry from several well-known leading beauticians. According to them, the situation has changed from difficult to worse.

Chandimal Jayasinghe, National Director of Mrs. Sri Lanka World, a well-known Cosmetologist and a philanthropist in Sri Lanka said, the beauty industry in Sri Lanka is on the brink of collapse.

He stressed, with the previous increase in the rates of cosmetic products and at the moment with the product ban, life as a beautician has become horribly difficult. He lamented that due to these reasons he already had to close down one of his salons.

He complained that the rates of products he generally uses have been increased by 70 per cent.

“We cannot charge that high cost from the client while they are drowning in the economic crisis. We provide our services and charge today for the quotations we passed last year. So, if we are to add the increased rates to their bill today it will cause major problems between the salon and the clients. We cannot pressure clients like that. We are all humans after all,” he stressed.

Jayasinghe also said that recently there was another shortage of cosmetic products.

“At that time, I had to buy a hair spray for Rs 10,000 which normally costs around Rs 2,000. At the moment, if a hair spray costs about Rs 5,000 it is sold in the black market for Rs 7,000. Because we are so used to using a particular product, we buy it despite the high cost. Also, electrical items are very expensive. We need dryers, irons and other electric items in a salon. Now with the ban, the rates will be up again. The beauty industry has collapsed,” he said.

He added, “We had the ability to order the relevant products online. However, now it is impossible and also because the rates of air tickets are so high one cannot go abroad and buy the essential products either. It has come to a point where we are helpless. There are particular brands that we are familiar with when it comes to make-up, hair and other beauty products. We are so used to using them in
day-to-day life for years. Therefore, if in any case we are not able to obtain them it will be really difficult for us to continue in this industry. There are financial issues, there are several crises taking place in Sri Lanka and now life has become difficult.”

The beauty industry is one that does not cause harm to anyone. But when this kind of hardship occurs many tend to move out, he claimed.

“Even I feel like leaving the country and settling down overseas. There is no one to speak against these issues,” he said.

No idea

Jayasinghe also said, the Government has no idea about the beauty industry as the correct information is not being passed on in a proper manner. “Some individuals who claim to be in the know about the beauty industry hold discussions with the authorities and relay a wrong perception and have no idea about the industry whatsoever. There are a few groups here and there and they go and meet top officials. However, they do not know about what is going on in the beauty industry. They do not know what we need. They are not even working in the industry. The people who attend these discussions are not the correct people to talk on the subject . Therefore, the Government is unaware of the actual situation,” he said.

“My Negombo salon has been closed down due to the current situation. There were issues of paying rent and obtaining fuel. Also, the Covid-19 hit hard. Workers in the salon began seeking overseas employment. Due to the above reason, it became very hard to maintain the salon and it turned out to be a headache,” he stressed.

“I have been in the beauty industry for 20 years and I have saved up money to maintain my lifestyle. However, there are juniors in the industry, who have newly opened salons or joined the industry recently. They will be helpless. If it is difficult for us to survive, just imagine how it would be for them!” he asked.

Hasini Gunasekara, a leading, well-known beautician in Sri Lanka said, before the ban came through, the authorities should have spoken to the industry experts to understand as to what extent or what stages this should happen.

She said that they could have been prepared for the current situation if they were informed before-hand. 

“It was so sudden, and no preparations were made regarding the ban. People had no idea that things were changing overnight. The economy must run, and it is important to keep the jobs and it is also important to keep a business going. Therefore, the Government should have at least considered and have had a game plan. However, now we have to face it as it comes which is very risky,” she said.

Gunasekera said that it is a huge challenge for them to maintain the business because most of the products that are required for the business have been banned. It is going to impact the normal process of the business and a great inconvenience from the customer’s point of view, she said.

Lifestyle

Gunasekara claimed that the salon industry was a lifestyle and it is about maintaining somebody’s personality, hence, everybody now have to adjust according to what is available and what is not available. These are of course going to be major challenges for the industry but also for the customer, she said.

“At present, we are unable to even decide on the present price. Because everything changes on a daily basis. Even without the ban, prices have been fluctuating. It has been a challenge that we have been facing for quite some time now. It is like forever increasing therefore, we are unable to make a price list and also finalise costing. Because we might purchase something today, but the price can change tomorrow. Customers are also reluctant to go and spend as they used to since rates are fluctuating.

It is not only because of the ban, previously there were other import restrictions also, ever since then, the rates have been fluctuating and now with the ban it will make it worse, she lamented.

Small-scale salons

 “If you take small-scale salons, they do not have extra stocks. They are unable to stock up. They are actually risking their business. If any equipment breaks down or it needs to be replaced, they will have to make some kind of an amendment or temporary service and continue their work. The customer can also be at risk at times like this because the equipment are not functioning properly,” she said.  

“It is an inconvenience as the hairdressing industry relies on too many tools. And without these tools we are unable to create even a basic haircut. So, it will be difficult for us to manage. Small-scale salons will be the worst affected. Most of the time we absorb most of the cost as much as possible because the customer also is conscious. They are not going to spend money unlimitedly. It is about giving discounts, promotions to get the customer to come into the salon and right now people are not in the mindset to spend,” she added. 

“With that, it is very difficult for us to do a proper pricing and at the same time our employees are our responsibility, we have to make sure we secure their jobs and make sure that we are able to maintain their calls. It is the owner who faces the brunt of this exercise because product cost has increased and everything else as a result has increased,” she said.

Gunasekara added that if we are to be positive about it, understanding the country’s current situation, they might have to forgo some services. “For example, keratin treatment, the treatment that we do importing products which are specific, male extensions, hair extensions. These are treatments that we definitely have to bring in from a different country, so, we might have to forgo these services. There are some skin care products that are been manufactured in Sri Lanka, so, we might have to shift to these local brands,” she said.

She emphasised that small or large, any kind of business is highly import dependent.

“These may have been things that should have been addressed many years ago, but that has not been the case. It is a challenging time due to the lack of proper leadership and industries are not to blame nor are the people of the country because at the end of the day, it is the consumer as well as the entrepreneur or anyone else in the industry that suffers,” she added.

BY Aloka Kasturiarachchi