In the middle of May, Ashley Barton sipped a mimosa in her best friend’s apartment in Queens while she enjoyed her first professional manicure and pedicure since New York City ordered residents to stay home to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The in-house experience was a game-changer. Before the pandemic, Barton, a 33-year-old publicist, would drive from her Queens apartment to a salon near her parents’ house on Long Island to get a mani-pedi. But not anymore.
“There is something about the comfort of doing this in your own home, to have someone holding your foot like it is the most amazing thing,” Barton said.
Although New York City hair and nail salons reopened July 6, Barton doubts she will return to them anytime soon. She has become a regular client of Green Spa on the Go, a manicurist that offers in-home manicures and pedicures that range from $140 to $300, depending on the location. Barton now gets them done with her parents at their home every two weeks.
As the country undergoes a Sisyphean-seeming reopening, with infection rates rising in many regions, many Americans are still wary of venturing out. To accommodate skittish clients who have neglected their basic grooming for months, a cadre of service providers — personal trainers, hairstylists, tattoo artists, pet groomers and spiritual advisers — have been making house calls or plan to start doing so soon. They have been fielding calls from clients eager to receive services in their living rooms and yards or even on their balconies.
For providers who always had an in-home component to their business, this period of seclusion has proved to be a boon, giving them an edge in an anxious time. They have attracted new clients who never considered house calls before but have since discovered that they like private pampering.
“We believe this is a long-term shift in consumer behavior,” said Amy Shecter, chief executive of Glamsquad, an in-home beauty company with headquarters in New York City.
Glamsquad has resumed its usual services and introduced haircuts in New York, Florida, Boston and Washington. In Los Angeles, the company moved services outdoors after California rolled back its reopening plans. (Its San Francisco office remains closed.) Workers undergo safety training to reduce the chance of coronavirus transmission and wear personal protective equipment during visits.
“This is our moment,” Schecter said.
At-home services have always been a niche offering, and there is no data to track whether the industry has grown during state-mandated stay-at-home orders, as such services that occurred during that time would most likely have been clandestine.
But interest does not appear to be limited to the beauty industry. At Groomit, which provides in-house pet-grooming services in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, business is up 30% since the company started offering services again, according to a founder, Sohel Kapadia. “Even though half of New York City is empty,” Kapadia said, referring to the residents who fled the city as it shut down, “the new customers are making up for the losses of the old customers.”
After months spent huddling at home, many Americans feel safer on their sofas than they do almost anywhere else. But a living room is not necessarily a safer location for a blowout than a salon is. With good ventilation, adequate physical distancing and enough personal protective equipment, a salon may actually be less risky than a small, cramped apartment, even if more people pass through the salon. Grooming services may not be safe in any setting in areas where cases are rising, like South Florida.
“We still don’t know that much about transmission, even though we’re bombarded with information about what we do know,” said Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.