With the ever-changing retail landscape, some salons may find it challenging to keep up. But with the rise of Amazon and the rumoured 2021 arrival of Ulta Beauty in Canada, retail has never been more top of mind. “Hairstylists don’t want to seem pushy. Nobody should be feeling like they’re selling,” advises Michael Levine, owner of Space and Caramel Salons in British Columbia. “But there’s a psychological shift that needs to happen when you realize why retail is so crucial to your relationship with your clients, and hopefully it begins to resonate.”
Making the Switch
Rather than an afterthought, more hairstylists need to make retail a focus throughout the client’s appointment. What does that mean, exactly? Levine says it’s all about building the relationship with the client and having the discipline and confidence to discuss products at specific times throughout the service.
“It’s about planting seeds,” he says. “For example, rather than the hairstylist walking over to the backbar, they can bring the product to the client and keep it in front of them while explaining what’s great about it. If you leave a couple of products in front of the client, they might reach out and read the labels, or they will be staring at them. That’s when you’re really doing your job; it’s not about selling but communicating.”
In other words? If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind! Levine, who also owns the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy, says he relates to some of the struggles that young hairstylists face with retail since he experienced those same challenges.
“It’s possible to be a successful hairdresser and not sell products; I was for a long time. But it’s very difficult to be a stylist who sells a ton of products, who is also not getting a lot of service dollars. High retail always equates to high service.”
Don’t Discount the Benefits
From loyalty cards to points systems to promotional offers, retail strategies can be a huge help when marketing take-home product to clients. However, Derrick Rutherford, creative director of Valentini’s Hair Design & Esthetics in Guelph, Ont., advises against the idea of over-discounting your product.
“That’s your bread and butter,” he says. “We don’t give anything away. We may do a gift with purchase or offer 10 per cent off if clients buy three or more products.”
Though discount strategies may work for some salons, Rutherford, who is also a business coach and works with salons across Canada, says that the results are often short-lived. A more long-term and successful strategy? Listening to your client’s needs.
“Retail is a barometer of how you’re servicing your client,” adds Levine. “The client who buys from you is a client who trusts you.”
An Eventful Experience
Find out how some salons have stepped up their retail game by hosting in-salon events:
“Before Christmas, we invited 120 clients into the salon. My team and I put together a collection with nine models and styled the hair [to showcase] products to clients, explained how to use the products and gave them an opportunity to sample products. We host events at least twice a year—bridal events or new product events—and invite our clients to be part of them, because it’s about building a relationship with your clients so you’re identifying what their needs are—not just their wants—and customizing their experience.”
— William Tissert, William Tissert Salon & Spa, Pickering, Ont.
“We had Jami Symons come in from Oribe and hosted a signature cut class. Whenever we host a class, it’s important to me that the education [experience] actually fits the brand. I wanted the staff to feel pampered; to feel like a client and experience the feeling of using the products. We’re in the salon environment every day, so we need to make it different and shake it up and keep everybody interested.”
— Lara Leckie, Studio So Lara, Guelph, Ont.
“We sell tickets and invite people to come into the salon and teach them how to blow-dry or curl their hair. A percentage of the ticket price goes back into their retail [purchase] so we can secure a sale at the end of the event.”
— Amber Fairlie, The Manor Salon, Toronto
Cheat Sheet: Retail Edition
“Find out what ingredients make hair bigger and which ones make hair smaller. Read your bottles and have the knowledge. It’s something every hairstylist should know.” — Michael Levine
“I personally like to ask my questions systematically. Everyone is asked the same questions for consistency. Products are so prescriptive now, and it’s important to find out the problems so you can offer the solutions. What do they want their hair to do for them, and what do they want the product to do for them?” — Derrick Rutherford
“At the end of the service, hairstylists will often hear clients say, ‘I’ll never be able to make it look like this.’ Teach clients how to use a curling iron. For example, show them how to curl and hand them the iron so they can try one. If you go into it with the sole intention of helping clients be able to style their hair better, then all of the sales are kind of organic. It all just happens naturally.” — Michael Levine
Setting Up Shop
“You have to look like you’re in the business of selling product. We set up our salons like retail environments. Clients who are sitting in the waiting area are surrounded by products. We run some product videos on a loop in our processing area. You have to set your products up like a store, where people are encouraged to pick things up, look at them and read about them without asking anybody.” — Michael Levine