Drawing A Line Under Covid: How One London Barbershop Is Getting Back To Business
They say if you make it past five years running a business, then you’ve beaten the odds. But just because you’ve made it past those first five, it doesn’t mean it suddenly becomes easy.
Anyone that’s been running a business during the pandemic will know how hard it can be, dodging curveballs that come seemingly out of nowhere - even one that’s been going for almost 50 years like the award-winning Leonard and Michael barbers in the City of London.
Open since 1976, the barbershop is still getting over the impact of covid-19. Things are improving though, something which owner Tom Whall says is in part thanks to the successful rollout of the covid-19 vaccine.
Tom explained: “The vaccine rollout just meant that the severity of covid - perception wise - seemed to go down. It just allowed us to move on. All my staff are vaccinated, it’s not something we made them do but they all chose to do. It’s been good for us. We are hoping that the vaccine enables workers to feel safe enough to come back and live their lives really.”
Tom got his first dose fairly early on, having had sepsis a few years before which left him in a coma in intensive care. This meant he was considered as ‘vulnerable’ and invited to get the vaccine early alongside his wife.
“You hear all this stuff about the side effects and being really tired for a day and stuff. I mean, to be honest since having children I’ve been tired for about four years! I was wondering whether to fake it with my wife and say I was a bit tired the morning after and get a bit of a lie in. But no, we were both ok. My arm ached a little bit but that was all.”
Just off Fleet Street, Leonard and Michael barbers is surrounded by businesses, many of them banking and professional services. It had relied heavily on workers being in the office, popping in on their lunch break or for a post-work cut.
Tom said: “We were very busy [before the pandemic]. Our business is pretty much built around volume, so when it goes that causes big problems because the two biggest costs are wages and rent.
“We’re an independent bricks and mortar business, there’s no online sales, there’s no big backers behind us. It’s our own money. So, it was very challenging. But the government was very good with bounce-back loans and we’re very, very fortunate, we’re in the City of London, so there were quite significant grants which we wouldn’t be here without.”
Looking ahead, Tom is hoping that the vaccine will allow the business to get back to pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re still very much in the trying to get it going phase in the business,” says Tom. “We’re hoping come the summer we’re back to a more sustainable level. We will continue to get vaccinated and encourage our staff to as well.
“[The vaccine] is a tool that’s allowed us to draw some sort of line under [covid] and hopefully move away from it again.”
For more information about the covid-19 vaccine please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/