Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi

Beauty, grooming, home repair and maintenance services have recovered sharply after a prolonged lockdown, analysts and companies told ET, as consumers take comfort in heightened safety and hygiene measures in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The uptick is significant as these services are high-touch categories.

After being shut for much of the lockdown period, Urban Company’s revenue in July recovered to 77% of its pre-Covid-19 peak in February and has since inched up to 80-90% as of August 10.

The online services platform also expects a full recovery in the next one-two months.

Urban Company as well as offline salon chains were classified as non-essential services and were hit hard by the outbreak as customers stayed away.

The Gurugram-based company has seen faster recovery in home services like air conditioner servicing, appliance repair, painting and pest control and home cleaning – which touched 90% of pre-Covid-19 levels in July.

“Beauty services started recovering since June, with deliveries trending greater than 70-75% of pre-Covid-19 levels, in part led by demand for newly launched male grooming services which continues to outpace supply,” said Abhiraj Bhal, CEO of Urban Company.

Graphic: Rahul Awasthi
Graphic: Rahul Awasthi

Recovery fluctuates in each locality

Offline chains that have capital reserves to tide over the crisis also said business has picked up despite several limitations across cities.

“We believe the recovery has been decent, but each instance of going back to restrictions or lockdowns, like Bengaluru or Surat, takes us back and each unlocking like Maharashtra makes us more hopeful,” said Vikram Bhatt, founder of salon chain Enrich.

Overall revenue recovery compared to February stands at 52% for the company, Bhatt said.

In the near term, businesses and analysts have forecast that recovery would fluctuate based on hyper-local sentiment and Covid-19 case count.

Bhal of Urban Company expects the next inflection point to be the festive season starting October. “People are learning to live with Covid-19 as the new normal,” he said.

In its three international markets — UAE, Australia and Singapore – Urban Company is already ahead of pre-Covid-19 levels, which Bhal attributed to faster recoveries from Covid-19 cases in these countries.

Getting partners back will be the next big challenge

These businesses also suffered from a significant supply squeeze, as service professionals chose to migrate to their hometowns amid the pandemic. “We reactivated 16,000 partners and brought 4,000 new partners onboard post lockdown,” Bhal said.

The case with standalone outlets is far from rosy though, since these businesses hold little leverage with landlords and have fewer reserves unlike large chains.

“Our industry has a significant number of stylists/therapists-owned standalone outlets…if they can take sharp measures quickly, they might still be able to come through this crisis,” Bhatt of Enrich said.

“In the smaller outlets, a large number of staff are migrants. These outlets haven’t been able to restrict rentals and convince staff to return. The situation of these businesses is dire,” he said.

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