Retail and take-home sales have always been an integral part of the salon industry. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered several lengthy shutdowns, it’s been an eye- opener for many on just how important these sales can be for your business.
While some salons focused primarily on curbside pickup, others decided to invest in their own e-commerce sites to be able to sell and deliver products directly to their clients. While both are feasible options and have been effective in meeting clients’ needs, some salon owners simply don’t have the time (or the means) to build or upgrade their website to accommodate e-commerce capabilities, or carry a large inventory and ship out orders.
With these issues in mind, professional beauty distributors Alternative Beauty Services and Maritime Beauty Supply have stepped up to help by implementing online consumer stores. A business-to-consumer program that rewards salon professionals with sales commissions, it allows them to serve their clients while taking care of product fulfillment on the salon’s behalf.
“Our online store program provides salon owners with an invaluable way of connecting with their guests in between visits,” says Sean Coyle, who co-owns Alternative Beauty Services with business partner, Tony Marinaccio. “This has been particularly critical for the thousands of salons struggling to survive during the lockdown. Our objective has been to make the online store program simply an extension of our retail business with our salon customers.”
Rather than having clients purchase products from traditional retailers or large online websites, salon owners and hairstylists can encourage their clients to buy local and visit their salon’s website to show their support. The purchasing process is similar to in-salon retailing and/or an e-commerce site but with less work required for the salons.
“THIS IS OUR EFFORT TO PRESERVE OUR INDUSTRY’S PROFESSIONAL RETAIL PRODUCT REVENUE. WITHOUT THIS SERVICE, RETAIL PRODUCT SALES WILL BE GOBBLED UP BY ALL THE BIG ONLINE CORPORATIONS THAT ARE SELLING DI-RECTLY TO CONSUMERS.” – PETER ALEXANDER, GENERAL MANAGER, MARITIME BEAUTY SUPPLIES AND COASTALBEAUTY.CA
More salon owners have started partnering with their local distributors to ship orders more efficiently, which has not only saved them time and energy, it’s also benefitted clients while helping salons generate more revenue.
Sherri Wilfong, owner of Hair by Fusion, a salon in Peterborough, Ont., was approached by Alternative Beauty Services, which is based in Mississauga, Ont., to start using their business-to- consumer program after the province’s first salon shutdown. While the concept was still new at the time, it didn’t take long for Wilfong to realize the benefits.
“We said yes and it’s a good thing we did because they’ve helped us make so many sales,” she says. “Half of those sales are from people who have never been in our salon, so we’re able to reach a much wider audience than if we were selling through our own website.”
According to Peter Alexander, general manager of Maritime Beauty Supply and CoastalBeauty.ca, an e-commerce platform that helps salons and spas earn a commission when products are sold to their clients, while some salons did not opt to focus on retail during the pandemic, many salons saw the value and opportunity to generate some extra (and much-needed) revenue to help cover operating costs. Because of this, he figured it was the perfect time to help salons renew their commitment to the benefits of retail products.
“At first, I wasn’t sure it would work for us, but now I can officially say it’s been an added bonus,” says Karine Lajoie, owner of Five Zero Six Salon in Moncton, N.B. “They’ve helped relieve the cost of inventory, as they have everything our clients need, which isn’t always possible with in-salon retail. Their service has also made our retail accessible 24/7, so our clients are able to order products at any time.”
The Moncton-based hair salon is now one of approximately 500 salons that utilize Coastal Beau-ty’s platform, which Alexander says has become an instant hit since it enables beauty professionals to offer their clients “a branded online shopping experience.” Not only does the site offer an abundance of information about the professional products it features, purchasing items is easy and de-livery is generally very prompt. And with a one-time sign-up fee, which depends on the amount of support and marketing materials they want (or need), salon owners can begin selling their products and making a 15 to 20 per cent commission on every product sold.
How It Works
Both Wilfong and Lajoie say their distribution partners have created a seamless process of offering e-commerce while allowing salon owners to run their business without having to worry about inventory and order fulfilment. Each of these factors have been particularly helpful when returning to the salon after numerous lockdowns and trying to catch up on their appointments and scheduling.
Before joining the program, Wilfong attempted to create her own e-commerce site, which she candidly admits was a lot of work and extremely time-consuming, especially when it came to packing and delivering orders herself and updating her website. When Alternative Beauty approached her with the opportunity, she figured the energy and time she would save would be worth it, without realizing she would be making more money from it, as well.
“I have a link that clients can click and see my specific page and logo,” she says. “I’m getting compensated the same way I would be when selling products in the salon, but I don’t have the over-head of carrying all the products and being worried that only some will sell, and others won’t. Although I’m paying a monthly fee [for the service], I’m making back what I’m spending tenfold.”
Other than a monthly hosting fee, which includes promotional materials and enables salon owners to receive a full profit margin on everything they sell, Coyle says there are no additional costs for the salon owner, and the online experience for their clients is completely transparent. “The guest can access the online store via the salon website with no hoops to jump though and no need for any special codes,” he says. “From the guest’s perspective, the online store is seamlessly integrated with the salon website. The revenue is received directly through the salon website with the salon owner receiving their regular profit margin. This ultimately will create more income and business value for the salon owner as our goal is to continue to drive business to the salon’s digital platform and improve engagement.”
According to Wilfong, having a successful retail business is incredibly beneficial to hairstylists and to their clients. “We’re offering professional services to our clients and they have to be willing to maintain that with professional products,” says Wilfong. “Retailing and education is so important because otherwise some clients would spend five dollars on shampoo after paying 200 dollars on a colour service, which is literally washing your new colour down the drain.”
“Salon retail is important to the vitality of our industry,” adds Alexander. “These are the products that solve clients’ hair needs and challenges.”
While both Alexander and Wilfong believe in the power of retail and the benefits it presents for hairstylists and clients, Coyle believes partnering with a distributor can help simplify the process and make it more advantageous for all parties involved. “The main priority for salon owners and stylists is providing their guests with an amazing experience and a look they want to show the world,” says Coyle. “It’s far easier for them to meet that objective in a salon that is well managed, staffed with talented and highly motivated stylists, and offering the best products in the industry.”
“We believe distributors have an obligation to promote our industry and provide salon owners and stylists with the education and tools they need to provide great service and build a prosperous business,” he adds. “Our platform will give independent salons the ability to compete profitably in the fast-growing online world of retail while also leveraging it to increase guest count and client loyalty.”
Not only is offering retail to clients via a distributor’s online consumer store an easier way for salon owners to earn money during lockdown(s), it also encourages clients to support local while saving the salon so much time. “Since we handle the shipment of all orders directly to the guest for the salon, the salon owner does not have to worry about carrying additional inventory or managing the logistics of shipping products,” says Coyle. “That is our expertise, and it enables salon owners and stylists to keep their focus solely on their guests and their art.”