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British Beauty Lobby Calls for Government Help Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Beauty, which employs mostly women, has been suffering the devastating impact of the pandemic with British shops and salons shut for much of the past year, and some businesses unable to survive.

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to reveal a roadmap out of lockdown on Feb. 22, and it cannot come soon enough for myriad industries blighted by lockdown.

The British Beauty Council, alongside other groups, said Tuesday it is working closely with U.K. government on a series of “industry-saving measures” including a value added tax, or VAT, cut for salons, and a “dedicated personal care fund” to support businesses with immediate cash-flow crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beauty industry businesses were shut for 140 days in 2020, and when they were allowed to reopen, social-distancing measures meant that salons and barbers were operating at around 70 percent of pre-pandemic capacity.

The Beauty Council pointed out that despite the government’s furlough scheme, full-time employment numbers are down 21 percent on 2019 as staff hours have been cut, and jobs and incomes lost.

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The organization pointed out that prior to the onset of COVID-19, the hair, beauty and holistic-service industry, which mostly employs women, generated more than 9 billion pounds annually to Britain’s economy. In 2018, consumer spending within the sector totaled 27.2 billion pounds.

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As part of its appeal to government, the British Beauty Council said that debt within the sector continues to rise, with two thirds of businesses now in debt and 61 percent with zero cash reserves. It cited figures estimating that more than 4,700 business, or ten per cent of the sector, folded in 2020.

“There is an urgent need for targeted support to sustain our vital and inclusive sector through this immediate crisis until it can re-open and return to the profitable, community-driven and dynamic sector it was,” the Beauty Council said in its request to government.

Among the requests being made is a “personal care emergency fund” to help businesses through the immediate cash-flow crisis akin to the money that the arts, cinemas, and live performance venues have received.

It is also asking that VAT be reduced to 5 percent from the current 20 percent “to counter the financial impact of social-distancing restrictions and help businesses to recoup their losses and recover.”

Helena Grzesk, chief operating officer at the British Beauty Council, said: “We are impressing upon government that we need to act now to minimize the already-extensive damage to our industry. Lobbying for financial support is just one aspect of the work that we are doing with government to support the immediate, short- and long-term recovery; and future of the sector.”

As part of the industry’s call for government help, the British Beauty Council also said that journalists from The Telegraph newspaper and Glamour magazine are spearheading an open letter from beauty press and opinion formers to Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, later this week, echoing the Beauty Council’s requests.