A barber cutting a customer’s hair at Chaps and Rebels. Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Local barbershops and beauty salons have seen a drop in footfall due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the sultanate, creating challenges in their day-to-day business operations.

Owner of Jambang’s Barbershop Mohammad Khairul Abdul, who is also known as “The Kampung Barber” would be seen constantly cleaning every part of his equipment from scissors, clippers to the electric razors.

Cleanliness has always been a priority for the local barbershop but in light of the COVID-19 they have taken it to another level.

Throughout the day, the staff at Jambang’s Barbershop would be deep cleaning and sanitising the shop. 

Jambang’s Barbershop in Tanjong Bunut. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“Business hours are still the same, nowadays, we just need to open and close 30 minutes early to clean the shop with disinfectant spray, and also to brief the team on health and safety”. 

“The most important thing is to protect the health and safety of our customer and crew,” he said. 

However, business for the local barbershop has slowed down over the last few weeks.

“It is a huge challenge for us financially. The number of customers coming into our shop has been less compared to a few weeks ago.”

“On a normal day, we would receive an average of 10 to 12 customers a day. Now, it’s been less than half,” he said.

Staff cleaning and sanitizing utensils at Jambang’s Barbershop in Tanjong Bunut. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

He also added that: “For safety reasons, we had to turn down walk-in customers. We would limit our slots to one customer per session and only accept bookings”.

Meanwhile, Manager of Chaps & Rebels Barbershop, Jae Ahmadkhan said they usually serve 25 people a day prior to the pandemic, however, with the coronavirus entering our shores, the figure has been reduced. 

“Nowadays, we receive less than 10 customers a day,” he said. 

“In the first week when Brunei was hit by the pandemic, my shop was nearly empty. Customers were scared. Even us…,” he added.

Chaps & Rebels Barbershop was caught in a dilemma on whether they should serve their customers amid the pandemic or hang up their clippers temporarily.

“There was no directive from the government to close all barbershops either, so we remained open,” Jae added.

“However, when we posted our cleaning procedure video on our Instagram page on how we properly sterilise the equipment and disinfect the chairs, we slowly gained our business back,” he continued. 

The two-minute video shows one of their barbers putting on high-quality rubber gloves, with a face mask on while also making sure his customer is clean and comfortable.

Since the video was posted, the local barbershop has been overwhelmed by the support from loyal customers.

“It is important for our customers to see how we work, it’s all about transparency and trust,” he said.

One of the barber’s chairs at Chaps and Rebels. Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Meanwhile, for Bryant Leong of Stay Traditional Barber & Shop, the pandemic could spell the end of his business, which prior to the outbreak was performing really well. 

“I used to have an average of five customers in a day and twice that amount towards the end of the month. But now, having five customers is quite rare,” he said.

For now, Bryant is looking forward to better days where his business would return to normal, holding on to hope despite the uncertainty of the situation.

“I try to keep myself busy and positive and thankful that I am healthy (because) the more we sulk, the longer this pandemic feels,” he added.

The barber’s pole at Chaps and Rebels. Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Sharing the same sentiment, local beauty salon, Shahdon’s Styleicon is also struggling with their finances, with business slowing down to a crawl due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A representative who did not wish to be named said that the salon receives an average of five to 10 customers daily however, amid this outbreak, there have been days with no customers at all. 

Despite putting in place measures to ensure the safety of customers and their employees, such as sanitizing the salon and all the equipment three times a day, the business has yet to pick up. 

Staff cleaning and sanitizing the counter at Jambang’s Barbershop in Tanjong Bunut. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

With overhead expenses such as rent, the salon is understandably worried about the representative adding: “We could hardly rotate our money where we used put up our income and petty cash to cover other expenses”.

To sustain itself for the time being, Shahdon’s Styleicon is also selling their hair products online as well as providing online consultation for their clients.

Staff cleaning and sanitizing the chairs at Jambang’s Barbershop in Tanjong Bunut. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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