The Beauty & Grooming industry when social distancing is the new norm

Is beauty relevant in a social distancing world? We have moved into a time that demands little physical touch – both of people and objects, and to showing less of ourselves as we mask and glove up? Now more than ever we need to ask if there is a need for make-up, perfectly manicured hands (and feet) and even lipstick. In the midst of a global epidemic, where ‘black lives matter’ and the ‘power of women’ is magnified, where does this leave the beauty industry?

Ethiopian born, Getty Gizaw, female entrepreneur and founder of SOHO Nails|Beauty|Waxing (a thriving business which predominantly targeted the female consumer at inception in 2011, but now caters to a large male following), needs to continue with ‘business as usual’. The law requires faces to be covered, hands to be regularly washed and disinfected, leaving no room for beautifully manicured body parts.

After 90 days, and into a Level 3 lockdown, beauty salons were allowed to open shop for business. The question was: how to build a relationship with the consumer and how to regain the trust of regular customers when doubt around physical contact is the number one concern?

“Winter has always been a little more quiet for us, and reopening saw a definite shift in our business with more male customers opting for pampering vs women,” says Getty. “The foot traffic for women reduced, with most choosing to stay home to either home school their children, or to work remotely. Requests for home-mobile services have however increased”.

The beauty industry and how it is perceived, needs to adapt. And her business must stay above water, stand out and ultimately thrive.

SOHO has taken stringent measures to ensure the ease and comfort of their customers. On arrival, guests are asked to sterilize their footwear before entering the salon; the standard sanitization of hands and even shoes is adhered to along with temperatures being taken; personal details are recorded in guests’ profiles on SOHO’s advanced POS system, before making their way to the station where their treatment(s) will be done. The salon has also invested in custom designed glass shields and barriers (not the usual perspex) shields which form part of a cubicle (and not just a screen) reassuring social distancing. There’s even a pen sterilizer should the customers need to sign anything.

Taking into account the requisite for cleaner air & ventilation, the salon frequently changes the air filter in the HVAC system. As a further preventative measure, SOHO had extractors installed in their HVAC system to ensure robust ventilation and to extract fumes and/or toxins out of the store while working with acrylic and liquid monomer.

Getty’s mantra is to work with ‘integrity, consistency and persistence’ bearing in mind that it is incredibly challenging to succeed in such circumstances. She also attributes her usually pedantic approach with the business’ by following stringent sterilization, cleaning and organization protocols. SOHO is regarded by South Africa’s most prominent podiatrists and doctors as one of, if not the cleanest & most sterile salons in the country. And although the customers come to the salon with dry hands, chipped nails and in dire need of some pampering, she believes that the SOHO experience is what makes the customer feel better, which mostly guarantees a return visit.

After 9 years of being in the business and with a new world dawning upon us, all businesses need to thrive and ultimately survive. And with the public carefully considering where next to spend their money, the time is crucial for reassurance. And SOHO offers just that by way of experience.

“We continue to create an experience that allows for peace of mind, taking care of your essential needs while sitting back and not worrying about what hasn’t been done on your checklist. We cater to every need. While you get your treatments done, our SOHO team is on standby to take care of just that: we offer a shopping service where we will do your shopping for you and will pick up or drop off your dry cleaning. In further ways to ensure our guests safety and a COVID-free environment, SOHO has digitized all our previous paper menu options.

SOHO’s Treatment Menu of Services, retail catalogues as well as restaurant menus used for you to order from, all currently have QR Codes to ensure that we adhere to any unnecessary touching of items. All you have to do is take your own mobile phone, scan the QR Code and in a few seconds, you can download all the menus right on to your own mobile device”.

Getty continues, “The same has been done with the over 20 magazines and newspapers which previous to COVID were handed to guests to browse through and read during treatments. Don’t worry if your battery dies as you read through all of these menu options; SOHO offers phone chargers which are built into each station in the store.

Their chargers are carefully sterilized before and after each guest. SOHO reminds the consumer that ‘we’re still in business’ but also to reassure them that ‘it’s safe’ to come out again, and that the necessary precautions have been adhered to. Not to wax lyrical, change is key to the current climate of business practice, regardless of reputation and good service, which needs to continue in the same vein. To regain the confidence of the public when anxiety is high on the agenda, SOHO promises that you’re in great hands….and feet.

Reassurance is what the company was built on and Getty Gizaw needs to prove that the ‘leader of the ship’ is taking the necessary precautions to move forward, with confidence.


SOHO is a small business which employs a mixture of staff from various cultures within South Africa as well as African countries. Predominantly a company that employs females, the business thrives on manufacturing proprietary homegrown products and mentoring and training of staff, encouraging the use of indigenous products & ingredients, local ‘hands-on’ and ultimately bringing new business and employment within South Africa. Having always been a practice that exceeded the sanitized standards, the salon has taken it a step further.

The products, created and designed by Getty and her team are mostly local products. For staff mentorship/skills development, the brand policy has always been to look within and nurture and develop skills of the business. Take for example Precious Sibanda who started off as a SOHO Assistant, cleaning the salon, and then went into the training programme and is now one of the top beauty therapists. Getty herself started working out as a public relations officer, and knows the value and needs of promoting business.

Having brought and produced the performances of the likes of John Legend and Rihanna to this country and even having worked with Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton, she knows the importance of marketing through influence. Now, on the brink of change, PR needs to maintain the reputation of this award winning brand, to utilize all the USPs to catch and keep the eye, hands & feet of the dubious public who will be thinking twice before stepping out.