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 individually.
The company cited the downturn caused by Covid- 19 as the reason behind the closures.
Trade union Mandate 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 were in "complete shock".
"We're absolutely baffled by this as our salon has always been extremely busy and popular," she said.
"Customers were stopping us on the street and 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."
Ms Bergin is married with two teenage children and is 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," Ms Bergin said.
It is understood staff working on the cosmetic counters and photo counters have also been affected, with their positions under review.
38 job losses have so far been confirmed, but it is feared there may be more.
Mandate divisional organiser Betty Dillon said the union had sought an immediate meeting with the company.
"There's going to be a loss of potentially around 100 jobs, we're not exactly sure yet," she told South East Radio.
"I don't understand the company's rationale.
"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 company operates more than 30 stores nationally and employs more than 500 staff.
It recorded a pre-tax loss of more than €5m last year.
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 €50m at the time.
In a statement, the company said it was working to support affected colleagues.
"Beauty salon gift vouchers will be honoured in all our pharmacies," it said.
"Any outstanding pre-paid treatment courses will be reimbursed."