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In The Shadows - How South Cork’s salons are rising above the shadow economy.

The past couple of years have been something of a rollercoaster for the hair and beauty industry - and it appears that the wild ride isn’t over just yet. In addition to the threat of further restrictions, South Cork’s salon owners have been forced to deal with an altogether murkier threat - the shadow economy.

In the dark

During the three national lockdowns, consumers found themselves unable to enjoy their usual hair cuts, colours and styles as salons were forced to close their doors to the public. While most customers summoned the blitz spirit and did the best they could with home-cuts and online tutorials, others chose more devious means of looking their best. The shadow economy in the hair and beauty industry refers to those professionals who chose to defy lockdown laws by serving customers illicitly in their own homes. This practice was not only dangerous in terms of the potential for spreading COVID-19 but was also - and continues to be - harmful to Ireland’s hair and beauty industry as a whole.

Although South Cork’s salons are now once again able to serve their customers, many have reported a decrease in custom due to the fact that some customers are still choosing to use cash-in-hand shadow economy stylists. Needless to say, this can have a devastating impact on already beleaguered salons as well as wider implications for the country as these shadowy operators are not, of course, paying tax on their earnings. In order to combat this very real threat, a lot of salon owners, including The Asylum Barbers in Cork City, are turning to Booksy to help them to woo their customers back and highlight the dangers of the shadow economy.

An open book

Founded in Poland in 2014, Booksy began life as a simple appointment booking app for the hair and beauty industry but has quickly grown into a full management system for salon owners. This innovative platform offers a number of great features for salon owners and for customers, including:

Appointment management - Booksy allows customers to book their own appointments with a salon through a mobile phone app. For customers, this means no more wasted time on phone calls and, for salon owners, it means cost savings on staff.

The Booksy Directory - The Booksy website allows customers to browse salons in their area and offers a choice of legitimate and professional businesses as opposed to shadow economy operators. This offers peace of mind for customers and increased custom for local salons.

Payment - In 2021, we all have one eye on slowing the spread of COVID-19 through reduced hand to hand contact - and Booksy does just that by giving salon owners the means to request payment and prepayment for services online. As well as reducing contact, the prepayment option also helps to cut down on no-shows which can be really harmful to hair and beauty businesses.

Selling points - Another dodgy part of the shadow economy is the sales of ‘fake’ hair and beauty products - something which damages legitimate businesses as well as leaves customers out of pocket. Through Booksy, salon owners can sell high-quality products to customers through the app as well as upselling services to provide a welcome extra revenue stream during what has been a difficult time for many.

Management - In the age of COVID-19, running a salon is something of a juggling act as owners attempt to maximise profits while ensuring that their customers and staff are safely distanced. Booksy uses artificial intelligence to better manage salons by analysing average appointment times along with previous visits. This allows salon owners to make more intelligent decisions on staffing and inventory in order to streamline their businesses.

Marketing - Booksy offers a number of marketing features for salon owners, including email outreach. This important feature helps owners to reach out to clients as well as potential clients and also to educate against the dangers of hiring hair and beauty operators through the shadow economy.

Customer support - Booksy’s customer service department is among the best in the world, as suggested by traffic data from Number For Live Person.

People’s opinion - A sentiment analysis of over 5,000 mentions of Booksy shows that the opinion is overwhelmingly positive.


The shadow economy is a very real threat to business owners, customers and the economy and this unfortunate part of the pandemic is more common than we may think. Booksy’s intelligent management system can help salon owners to promote trust in clients - and send illegal operators back into the shadows where they belong.

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