Tattoo parlour in Walkden.

The owner of a Walkden tattoo studio says the sector has struggled during lockdown and believes businesses may close as a result.

The government has announced that tattoo parlours will be allowed to reopen again on December 3, regardless of the tier.

But Joel Mitchell, 37, owner and artist at Old Empire Tattoo, says smaller businesses have been particularly hit by Covid restrictions and some may not recover.

“I have done better than some people, but I’ve really struggled,” said Joel.

“We have all suffered dramatically and I don’t think people understand what the repercussions of this will be.

“I think that the tattoo industry has really suffered and I think you will have 10/15 per cent of the shops around the country close.”

Joel says the nature of the tattoo business has left them potentially vulnerable.

“A lot of the people in my industry may not have particularly paid any tax so, they’ve had no support from the government.

“Whereas I pay tax so I got small support from the government which just helped me enough to make the rent on the business I’ve sacrificed so much for.

“In a nutshell we are an unregulated industry. We have no union, no federations that are going to support and stand up for us.

“We don’t adjust into normal society; we have always been the outsiders.”

To help with costs during lockdown, tattoo shops have introduced gift vouchers, which customers can use towards their tattoos after lockdown.

Joel said: “I came up with the idea after the second lockdown. I’ve had quite a good response because people feel like they are getting a good deal.

“Whatever you spend you get half that amount on top. So, a £50 voucher gives you £75 worth of tattoos.

“It’s helped me get through this month.”

Joel thinks that it’s unfair for non-essential big businesses to operate freely, whilst small businesses across the country have been forced to close their doors during lockdown.

“People will come to us now and try to haggle the price when multimillion dollar companies like Amazon are booming.

“If you work for a big company and you’re on a salary, it’s great for you to be furloughed, you get 14 days off paid.

“But if I fall ill or I want a day off I lose my wages and I’m not talking myself; I’m talking across the whole board.

“So, a message for all is just to try and support each other, love each other and to try and shop local”.

The impact on people’s wellbeing during lockdown has been substantial, with 63 per cent feeling worried about the future and 56 per cent feeling stressed or anxious according to the Health Foundation.

With tattooing being a social job, it can act as an open ear for many who feel like they can’t talk about their issues with family or friends.

Joel said: “It’s a social job, people come here basically for art and therapy.

“We are here for births, deaths, funerals, marriages and people’s losses. Some people get tattoos to help them cope with their everyday life.

“I have personally tattooed three clients whose family members have passed away during lockdown.”

Joel has emphasised the difficulty of the current situation on people’s wellbeing and has said that if anyone ever needs someone to talk to please get in touch with the studio.

With lockdown coming to an end, Old Empire Tattoo will be taking bookings for when they reopen, you can visit in-store or contact them through their Facebook or on 07804 908802.

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