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COVID-19

Nail salon industry faces COVID-19 challenges as economies reopen

Elizabeth Myong Jul 29, 2020
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Employees at Mod Nail Lounge in Dallas use face masks, gloves and table shields when working with customers. Courtesy Mod Nail Lounge
COVID-19

Nail salon industry faces COVID-19 challenges as economies reopen

Elizabeth Myong Jul 29, 2020
Heard on:
Employees at Mod Nail Lounge in Dallas use face masks, gloves and table shields when working with customers. Courtesy Mod Nail Lounge
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Among small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic: the nail salon industry. The $8 billion mom-and-pop industry is often staffed by Asian immigrant workers from places like Vietnam, Korea, China, Nepal and Tibet. As salons have reopened, owners are facing new challenges.

Mai Duong is the co-owner of Mod Nail Lounge in Dallas. In an Instagram video, she shows one of the cleaning procedures she is taking since opening her doors again. But all this has meant more work.

“It has been a huge challenge. Just trying to reopen and following all [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines has been a setback as well,” Duong said.

A worker sprays down Mod Nail Lounge with disinfectant at the end of the workday. (Courtesy Mod Nail Lounge)

Duong’s nail salon was shut down for two months. As she’s reopened, her clientele has come back slowly. She said it’s now around 40% of what it used to be. But her costs have increased by $600 a month just for cleaning supplies.

The nail salon industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, said Saba Waheed, research director for the UCLA Labor Center. The industry supports many Asian female immigrants.

“They’re mothers and daughters and immigrant women, and they depend on this livelihood, and for basically the salons to have shut down as quickly as they did, most of these workers didn’t have the recourse,” she said.

A worker at Mod Nail Lounge shows a COVID-19 training certificate the salon received. (Courtesy Mod Nail Lounge)

Waheed said the industry already had low profit margins and will need to charge customers more.

“People generally are paying very little for the kind of service they were getting,” she said.

The UCLA Labor Center found many of the employees in the nail salon business earn low wages — roughly $9 an hour. And it found that only 42% of workers receive health insurance through their employers.

Duong said she’s increased the price of certain services. “So we brought it $3 up for every pedicure because all prices went up.”

She said she hopes that will be enough to keep her doors open.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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