A fish pedicure shop has been forced to close because reporting of the industry in a national newspaper allegedly ‘killed’ the business, just when things were taking off.
A former owner of Wendover’s Spa Balikli said the ‘adverse effect’ of media reporting was to blame for driving customers away and leaving him looking for a new job.
Mark Corcoran was frustrated with coverage of a Health Protection Agency report last October, when newspapers picked up on potential risks associated with the treatment.
The Agency said there was a risk of infections being transferred during the treatment, but this was very low if hygiene standards were kept to.
The health body released the story under the headline ‘Fish pedicures unlikely to cause infection’.
But The Sun declared it a ‘Fish foot spa virus bombshell’, warning, as did other outlets including the Daily Mail, of the risk of the pedicures spreading infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Mr Corcoran said after those headlines appeared Spa Balikli lost 90 per cent of its customers and though he and his partner Margaret Vogel held out for as long as they could, the business has had to close.
He said: “The Sun’s reporting killed our business.
“We were just getting the word around and business was starting to pick up.
“People were very grateful we had brought something different to Wendover.
“We were getting about 60 or 70 customers a week, but suddenly when the headlines came out we were only getting a handful in.
“It was horrible for us and very disappointing.
“People thought we had been telling lies.”
A message on Spa Balikli’s website and the salon door said: “Due to the adverse effect the media reporting has had on the fish pedicure industry we regret to inform the closure of Spa Balikli.”
Mr Corcoran, who had worked as a production planner for sportswear giant Umbro but moved from Manchester to set up the business with Ms Vogel, said they had stuck to hygiene standards but everyone barring regular customers was scared off.
He said: “We were losing money week in, week out. We could not go on any longer.
“It was a real shame because the children loved it and we used to have kids parties.
“We even had girls come in and take over the place for a couple of hours before a night out with a buffet and wine.”
After investing £10,000 in the business with his partner, Mr Corcoran is looking for a new job while Ms Vogel works as a PA. He said: “I’m having to look at jobs that don’t pay very well.”