COVID-19

Nail salon industry faces COVID-19 challenges as economies reopen

Elizabeth Myong Jul 29, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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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
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

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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