Top Yorkshire hairdresser urges tax cut to save local high street hair salons from permanent closure

A leading independent hairdresser, with salons in Leeds and Barnsley, is calling on the Government to impose a temporary reduction in VAT to help prevent salons from shutting down for good after lockdown. Stephanie Smith reports.

Robert Eaton prepares for the reopening of his Leeds Russell Eaton salon after the first lockdown last year. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Robert Eaton, creative director of Russell Eaton, an independent family business with salons in Leeds and Barnsley, says thousands of salons are at risk of collapse if the tax on hair services is not reduced.

Robert, who won the coveted British Hairdresser of the Year title in November 2019, said: “Last year was extremely challenging for the entire industry and many businesses, like ours, are worried about what 2021 may bring. I am supporting this campaign to prevent yet more closures and the loss of more businesses from the local high street up and down the country.

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“With our salons closed, we can’t provide hair services and so we are calling on the Government to cut the VAT we pay on this part of our business, which will give all local salons a better opportunity for survival and keep people in jobs.”

Robert Eaton won the title of British Hairdresser of the Year in November 2019.

The national Save Our Salons campaign says hairdressing is one of the most heavily taxed industries on the high street, with around one third of every £1 coming through the tills paid in tax. It is calling for an immediate cut in VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent and encouraging hairdressers to contact their local MP and lobby the Government.

Robert said: “We know, from our loyal client base, some of whom have been coming to our Barnsley salon for more than 40 years, that hair salons play an important role in the local community and offer so much more than a haircut – they are places of connection, a hub and safe-haven within the community. This is why it is important that we don’t lose these vital businesses. Ten per cent of salons have already been forced to close post lockdown, unable to sustain rising debts, which is why we are supporting The SAVE OUR SALONS campaign – we need to ensure more of our industry survives this crisis.”

Campaign supporters point out that, before the pandemic, the hairdressing and beauty industry was a strong and growing sector, according to the Office for National Statistics, generating £9.2bn annually and employing more than 285,000 people. Now, the majority of hair and beauty professionals are struggling to recoup financial losses accrued as a result of lockdowns, implementing social distancing measures and the costs of PPE. They say a reduction in VAT to 5 per cent could be a lifesaver for all VAT-paying salons.

Hellen Ward, founder of the SAVE OUR SALONS campaign, said: “Salons are at the heart of the UK’s high streets up and down the country, offering personal wellbeing at a time when we need it the most. We feel that hairdressing, barbering and beauty services will play a vital role in helping to rebuild and reshape the high street landscape of the future, but our salons need support now.”

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SAVE OUR SALONS is part of the #ChopTheVAT campaign launched in 2020 which saw salon owners unite in positive direct action.