Dozens of beauticians have been made redundant after the Sam McCauley pharmacy group announced it would not be reopening its beauty salons.
Devastated staff were informed of the news this week after being brought into a room by management individually.
The company cited the downturn caused by Covid-19 as the reason behind the closures.
Trade union Mandate, which is representing staff, said the move has caused a “lot of upset and distress” at an already difficult time.
Lorraine Bergin, who is an employee at Sam McCauley’s flagship store in Wexford town, said staff are in complete shock.
“We’re absolutely baffled by this as our salon has always been extremely busy and popular,” she told Independent.ie.
“Customers were stopping us on the street asking when we’re coming back, our voicemail inbox in the salon is completely full, we’ve been getting Facebook messages and text messages from clients and we can’t understand this at all.
“The phones downstairs haven’t stopped ringing since the news started to filter out. Our clients can’t understand as it’s so difficult to get appointments normally. There’s so much experience, one of the girls has been working there 20 years.”
Ms Bergin is married with two teenage children and is currently trying to pay off her mortgage.
“This has all just come out of the blue… we have been working through this pandemic to keep the shop going by working in the warehouse to handle online deliveries and this has just come as a complete shock.
“We had just reopened a brand new salon in October, got given brand new uniforms and brand new equipment. It’s one of the nicest salons in the town and to be told our jobs are no longer there, well it’s just devastating.”
It is understood that staff working on the cosmetic counters and photo counters may also be affected, with their positions under review.
38 job losses have so far been confirmed, but it is feared there may be more.
Betty Dillon, divisional organiser with Mandate, says the union has sought an immediate meeting with the company.
“There is going to be a loss of potentially around 100 jobs, we’re not exactly sure yet.
“I do not understand the company’s rationale at this time. There are other things I think the company could have done. They could have tried to give the beauty salons a chance to get back up and running.
“The pharmacy industry has been less affected than others and there is a huge demand for beauty salons now… every woman is waiting to get back to their beauty salons,” she told South East Radio.
The company operates 37 stores nationally and employs more than 500 staff.
In 2019, the business recorded a pre-tax loss of more than €5 million.
Former owner Sam McCauley, whose family set up the popular chain in 1953, sold the majority of his stake in the business in 2017 to investment company Carlyle Cardinal Ireland (CCI).
The deal was reported to be worth an estimated €50 million at the time.
CCI has made several high-profile investments in other major companies such as AA Ireland and Lily O’Brien’s.
In a statement, the company said it is working to support affected colleagues at this time.
“Beauty salon gift vouchers will be honoured in all our pharmacies. Any outstanding pre-paid treatment courses will be reimbursed,” the company added.