Every day, clients walk into your salon, asking questions, taking your advice and getting styles that make them feel like a million bucks. So why is he or she leaving without the products to maintain the look, then popping into a drug store half a block away to buy shampoo? There are many possible answers and excuses. But most recently, it’s that drug stores themselves have become better marketers, turning boring shelves into welcoming areas to peruse beauty products, professional and not.
So what can you do? We talked to industry experts to find out what you should do.
1. Know Your Competitor.
And it’s not the salon down the street. According to Joseph Gossen, director of sales and education for Kevin.Murphy at Quebec distributor Star Bedard, it’s the drug stores and grocery stores retailing products. Reuben Carranza, managing director for Professional Beauty at P&G, agrees. “An interesting development in mass market retailing is the creation of a beauty ‘store-within- a-store.’ The irony is that these mass merchandisers are trying to duplicate the intimacy and the beauty environment of the salon.”
2. Know Your Client.
What are clients looking for? Lots of choices. That’s why they like grocery stores, drug stores and specialty stores. Ross Hahn, owner of SwizzleSticks SalonSpa in Calgary, knows this first-hand. “You cannot have a single line anymore,” says Hahn. “Having more than one line has already been decided by the consumer. They won’t buy unless you’re giving them choices.”
3. Know Your Staff.
There are also two consumers in your salon, explains Hahn—one is a client, the other is staff. Look at the needs of both consumers and take into consideration the lines and products your staff wants to carry and use. If they love it, they’ll sell it. But they need choices, too.
4. Know Yourself.
Why does retail matter? Making sure your work is maintained can help grow your clientele. But when a client is using something you have no control over and he or she finds options elsewhere, says Hahn, you’ve lost the ability to serve the client professionally and you’re half the stylist you should be. Michael Victor, owner of Toronto’s Delineation Skin & Hair, agrees. “From a stylist’s point of view, if you have any respect or passion for your work, you want to help your client maintain it,” he says.
5. Recommend, Recommend, Recommend.
“The single most important thing a salon can do a to keep a client as a customer is to offer home-care recommendations consistently,” says Carranza. “The challenge is to increase the frequency of salon contact—whether the contact is an additional visit, through a frequent buyer loyalty program or via social media.”
6. Don’t Confine Retail to One Spot.
Spread out your retail area—in the waiting area, the bathrooms, the sinks, the styling stations, every spot where the client is spending time. “When clients are sitting in the colour area, for instance, it’s a prime time to get them to open up to products, so do a display in the colour area,” says Gossen. “Place your products where they are related to the services. Make clients active in retail.” The upshot is that you won’t have to “sell.”
7. Put Together Packages.
Many of your clients are coming in for two and three hours, for cut and colour. Why not ask them if they’d like to book an “elite” or “premium” colour package? This idea comes from Gossen, who recommends that, within packages, you include the necessary shampoo, conditioner or other retail products. Price it right into the package and when the clients check out, give them the retail products to retain their colour. “Then all the stylists have to do is explain why they gave it to them,” says Gossen.
8. Switch Up Your Consultation Style.
Gossen recommends that you put product in the hair before you even start the service. “During the consultation, before shampooing, try at least two different styling products in the hair to see how they work,” he says. “Tell the client why you’re doing it. Then wash, cut and blow-dry and come back to the product again. Repetition works well. The more you repeat something, the more likely they jump on board.”
9. Discount. And Don’t Be Afraid of Doing It.
For Edward Lem, founder and owner of Concepts Salon & Spa in Toronto, having weekly sales has been a boon to the retail business. At least one of his lines is put on sale each week for 15 per cent off. Although you cut into your profit margin, if you double your sales during the time period, as Lem often does, it’ll be worth it, making up for the discount with volume. Also consider offering a preferred client card to promote loyalty—and 10 per cent off whenever they make a purchase.
10. Create a Facebook Page or Twitter Account.
Post messages about your promotions to bring clients into the salon. “Social media offers a great opportunity for the salon professional to discuss beauty trends, hair problems and solutions, and even product reviews and recommendations in a warm, supportive atmosphere, not unlike that of the salon,” says Carranza.
11. Do Retail Reconnaissance.
Have a free morning? Go to the mall and analyze different businesses—not salons. Observe how you are enticed into the store, how you interact with the brand and what it’s like when you purchase something. Then, bring elements back to your business, suggests Gossen.
12. Offer Choices to Your Clients.
If you sell only one shampoo for fine hair and your client doesn’t like something about it—price, smell or packaging, etc.—you’ve lost a sale. So give him or her options. Pull out three or four shampoos and explain why they would work and let him or her decide. Gossen says that three lines is a sweet spot for most owners. But don’t be afraid to go bigger, either. Lem started expanding his retail offerings in the ‘90s and now carries 30 lines at one location and 15 at the other.