BARBERS and hairdressers in Worcester have been left in limbo because of 'vague' Government advice about what to do when lockdown is lifted, including use of personal protective equipment.

However, many in the industry have faith in their loyal customers, which some compared to 'an extended family', and remain confident they can bounce back once they reopen.

Some city barbers will be wearing masks when they return to work - and will insist their customers do the same.

Beneath the laughs about home haircuts there has always been a deeper issue - how barbers and hairdressers can survive during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now another challenge looms - how they can keep staff and customers safe once they open their doors on July 4 at the earliest. Like many businesses they have been forced to close temporarily and furlough staff. But barbers and hairdressers face an added challenge. To do their job they have to get very close to their customers for some time which makes social distancing, in the strictest sense, impossible.

These businesses have used social media to keep in touch with customers and even provide advice on how they can cut their own hair at home. Barbertown is planning to introduce a virtual queuing app, perspex screens, cashless payments, sanitation stations and PPE. The owner has even changed the layout of his shops to manage demand safely when staff return.

Meanwhile, Inspiration Hair and Beauty in College Street, Worcester has used social media - Facebook and Instagram - to keep in touch with customers and offered live tutorials so people can manage their fringe and carry out home haircuts as well as introducing various safety measures, ready for reopening.

Staff at Peels & Adams Gentleman's Grooming in New Street, Worcester completed an online course and secured 'Barbicide' Covid-19 certificates to protect staff and customers.

In a Facebook message they said: "We will be following strict guidelines to make sure our shop will be as safe as possible. We will be wearing masks and also asking our customers to do the same."

Jon Bourne, owner of Barbertown in Worcester has been a barber for 30 years. He has three barber shops - in St John's and The Tything in Worcester and the third in Malvern, all offering a traditional barbering service for men and boys.

He said: "The main challenge has been the uncertainty, the fear of the unknown. No amount of business planning could have foreseen any of this happening.

"My three businesses have been closed for eight weeks so far with another seven weeks until we can potentially re-open.

"My staff are furloughed, not working. It's tough times for all of the hairdressing/beauty industry. My frustration has been that not everyone has been adhering to the lockdown measures, a small number of barbers have continued to flout the rules offering home haircuts. We all have a part to play it only works if we all stay alert, more needs to be done to stop bootleg cuts it’s a disgrace to our industry."

Mr Bourne says the guidance so far has been 'fairly generic' with the first clear direction being given on May 10 when the Prime Minister announced a three-step plan for easing lockdown which stated that under the Personal Care Services sector barbers will not be able to re-open until July 4, as long as the data supports this.

A member of various barber forums and the National Hair and Beauty Federation, Mr Bourne and others in the industry have been discussing what life will look like on the other side.

He added: "It’s all still guess work. I’m confident that we will adapt and thrive once restrictions are lifted. We have a great, loyal customer base who use us because we have high standards, experienced barbers who provide a good customer experience. This won’t change.

"We have asked our customers to subscribe to our newsletter on our website ( to keep them in the loop with when we can re-open and the changes we will need to introduce. We are looking at introducing a virtual queuing app for customers to make an appointment.

"We have started adapting the layout of the shops so our barber chairs are two metres apart, introducing sanitisation stations on entry, as well as looking at a new health and safety procedures and cashless payments."

He said of the Government's response: "They were slow in giving us a plan on what easing lockdown looked like for the phase three such as hospitality and personal care services. We have been left to ponder what changes will apply to us and look how other barber shops have abroad have adapted their services.

"Guidelines still remain vague about the degree of measures that will be required and the level of PPE that is necessary. Sourcing the PPE and anti-bacterial is also a huge issue – we have only recently started looking because of the national shortage (ensuring the NHS has the supplies remains the priority). The cost of these products has also increased considerably which all has a bearing."

They intend to use floor stickers to reinforce rules to both staff and customers. Staff will receive extra social distancing training. Barbertown will provide a 'sanitation unit' at the barber shop entrances. The aim is for barbers to wear PPE and take the cashless payment behind a perspex screen.

Mr Bourne added: "One of my main concerns is how these changes will be regulated. At Barbertown, we have always prided ourselves on providing a high standards and qualified, experienced staff but as an industry we are still not regulated (you don’t have to have a barber licence to practise here unlike countries like US). We don’t have a professional body overseeing that all of these health and safety measures are adhered to and practised consistently. We hope that regular health and safety inspections are carried out but ultimately, we urgently need to adopt a state registration type scheme to promote good practice."

Joanne Russell, owner and salon manager at Inspiration Hair and Beauty in College Street, Worcester, said the welfare of staff and clients was paramount to the business which has been in the city for 40 years.

They have been following advice from the National Health and Beauty Federation. Mrs Russell said they were fortunate enough to have a large salon but they had hand sanitiser ready and would also be putting screens into place with 'vigorous cleaning' between clients when they reopen.

Mrs Russell said: "We have done everything we can to keep everything safe."

Social media has been used to keep clients up-to-date and even provide tips on home haircuts, some of which she said had been 'really good' and others 'unique'.

Mrs Russell said: "There's going to be queues down the road - everyone is going to want their hair done at the same time. We will be doing our best to see everyone fairly but safely. We will be working long hours, seven days a week. We can't wait to get back and see our extended family."