When Annismarie Macfarlane reluctantly closed the doors on her barber-shop as lockdown began, regular customer George Whyte of Anderson Road nurseries presented her with a brand-new pair of garden shears.
Everyone laughed about it at the time, but now, as she begins preparing to unlock the doors at Back&Sides on Bayhead, Stornoway, Annismarie is wondering whether she might actually need to use the shears for some of her customers.
Annismarie said: “We treated it as a bit of a joke when George brought the shears in, but who knew that four months would have passed before we could welcome customers again."
Since the Scottish Government announced last week (Wednesday 24 June) that hairdressers and barbers will be able to re-open from 15 July, Annismarie and her staff team have been making their plans.
So keen are they to get back to serving their customers, that the doors will open from 8.30am on Wednesday 15 July to add an extra hour on to the working day.
There will also be big changes both for customers and for staff, as Back&Sides works round Coronavirus regulations, customer concerns and staff timetabling.
Annismarie said: “Our customers are very important to us and we want to make sure they’re safe, so we are re-organising the room to make sure that all our chairs are at least two metres apart, with screens between them, meaning we can all work at once without exposing staff or customers to risk.
“There will be hand sanitiser at the door as people enter and we will be wearing masks ourselves and asking our customers to wear masks too.
“But the biggest change will be that we will not be operating the walk-in and queue system that all barbers have always used.
"Instead we’re now asking people to book their appointments by phone, so they will see fewer people when they come in and that will be in place for the foreseeable future.”
That in itself is a culture change for barbers, but one which Annismarie expects all barbers will have to adopt. In her 21 years in the trade, barbers have always had a line of men awaiting their trim, quite content to wait their turn and catch up on the news while they do.
There could be more changes in the pipeline, with guidance for barbers coming in a slow drip from health and government sources, but for now Annismarie’s principal concern is making sure her staff and her shop are ready for everyone to come back safely.
They’ve got extra stock in as well – especially to cope with the amount of hair that’s had time to grow over those four months. Those garden shears could come in handy after all….
Annismarie said: “I’m expecting that we’ll be facing everything from the people who wouldn’t let anyone near their hair for four months and have grown quite a fleece, to those who have let wives, girlfriends and friends have a go at cutting their hair and need ‘corrective’ work. We’re expecting a lot of shedding!”
The picture shows Annismarie ready to go with the garden shears – the customer is her nephew, Stuart Forbes Evans.