Collette Clifton outside her her Bridge Street Barbers premises in Cootehill.

Backstreet barbers cutting on the black market

VITAL Easter trade is lost to traders

The run up to Easter is traditionally a very busy time for barbers and hairdressers but, given the current Level Five restrictions, those in the sector are missing out on valuable income to pay rent, and in some cases mortgages.

Collette Clifton has been 18 years in business at Bridge Street Barbers in Cootehill.

She found the first lockdown bearable when the Government directed banks to put a stay on mortgage payments.

“That was a great relief. First of all, we were in limbo – we decided on the 14th of March last year to close-up. There is a commercial mortgage on our premises, which means a fairly hefty monthly payment,” revealed Collette.

“That was fine and then we opened up at the end of June. I was busy for about a week and half with a new booking system and regulations in place. There was nothing open for people to go out to socially and we actually went down in business,” she added of the weeks that followed.

Backstreet Barbers

“This lockdown has pushed up the black market industry big time. Barbers are coming out of the woodwork in this town and advertising on Instagram. I know for a fact it is happening, because I know my own customers had their hair cut,” remarks Collette.

“Some people during the first lockdown asked me would I cut their hair and, when I didn’t, I noticed they did not come back when I opened up again,” she added.

It was around the twelfth week after they reopened the last time before Collette saw business picking up again.

“Hospitality started to open at that stage. I could see business turning around and the drop was reduced to about 30%,” she found.

“I was very shocked after going back after that first lockdown to see that business had dropped so much and I was seeing regulars who were not coming in and I was wondering where they were going.

“Now after a third lockdown, people are out of the habit of coming into a salon to get their hair done and have nowhere to go – they are leaving it longer anyway in between the haircuts,” noted Collette.

She explained that they were busy for the Christmas rush after things reopened.

“But that is not reality. That is not what we are going back to now. We are missing out on April. Easter is my most profitable time of the year,” said a dejected Collette.

Business owners are hardest hit, she feels.

“It is an employee’s dream to be off and getting €350 on the PUP and working on the side.

“Employees are better off than employers in the barber’s industry at the moment,” said Collette.

She is disappointed too at what she says is a lack of support for independent business owners like her.

“The Government did not step in this time and stop our mortgages. I had to fight to get on interest only in respect of my premises that is closed,” reports an irate Collette.