Last week the Mail & Guardian put the “lipstick indicator” — based on the idea that in hard times women buy more lipstick and other feel-good fripperies — to the test. A survey of hair, nail and beauty salons in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs confirmed the theory.
Although it is typically a slow month for business in many sectors, grooming-service providers say January was their best in years.
“When the world economic crisis was announced in November, all the clients disappeared for two weeks,” said hair stylist Charl Bosman from Summerlands in Parkhurst. “But then they flocked back.”
Bosman and his beauty industry colleagues aren’t complaining about the boom. “Clients are coming in droves — and not just for basic cuts. They want full-scale hair treatments that can cost around R1 000 and buy expensive hair care products and shampoos,” he said.
Some women don’t compromise on their looks — and that ultimately helps them to save money. “If you go for properly done highlights you don’t have to do it again for another three months,” said Victor Witte, a hairdresser from Rosebank’s Jeuval Hair salon.
At the nearby Bambu Day Spa, 46-year-old photographer Rebecca Hearfield was about to enjoy a monthly facial.
“I’ve cut down on eating out and socialising,” she said, “but [the facial] is more than a luxury, it’s a way of being. There’s no way I’m giving it up because of the economic crisis.”
Hearfield believes the best way to relieve economic stress is to treat yourself to a R500 full-body massage. “I’d much rather spend some money on myself than sit at home and worry about the money I don’t have to spend on other things,” she said.
Hearfield’s credit-crunch logic might seem skewed, but it’s shared by plenty of working women.
Spa owner Michelle Gyser said the word from her clients is that they’re cutting down on other luxuries that don’t matter to them so much.
“People stayed at home over the holidays, they didn’t travel overseas, they didn’t spend too much on expensive gifts. So now they’ve got money to spend on themselves,” she said.
Taking the feel-good logic even further, company director Dineo Sobantu believes good grooming, whatever it costs, is the key to making money. Sobantu (31) gets her hair done at the upscale Burgundy hair and beauty salon in Rosebank, the celebrity clientele of which includes Jacob Zuma and family and social butterflies such as Basetsana Khumalo.
“Some things you absolutely don’t compromise on and image is one of them,” said Sobantu. “I’m more than happy to cut down on shoes and clothes, but don’t ask me to give up my weave and my nails.”
Sobantu’s slick weave costs R800 a month to maintain. But, she said: “If I go to a meeting with a cheap weave I don’t think anyone will take me seriously. If I walk in with my 100% human-hair weave worth R3 000 then they know I mean business.”
Even women with a sound financial understanding are lashing out on grooming and beauty products. Chartered accountant Tonita Lombard prides herself on being “very strict with money”. Still, she said: “I’ve cut down on a lot of things, but feeling good is a priority, not a luxury.”