You Don’t Have To Do Hair To Sell Hair Care Products

Retailing hair care can net big profit, but is it right for you? While the path to retail payoffs is clear for full-service salons, specialty operations may find their road a little rockier.

Hair care retail center can be a powerful tool for increasing salon income, bringing down labor cost, and building business for the future. If you’re part of a full-service salon, then you’ve probably already seen how retailing can boost your business. But for specialty salons, the road to hair care profit can be tricky.

More than $1 billion in sales nationwide is reason enough to add a hair care center to your salon’s retailing effort, but there is catch. The easiest route to success if you don’t have hairdresser on staff is to carry a nationally recognized product line that will well itself. However, most of those lines aren’t available. To nail salons, because many professional hair care manufacturers will permit only salons with working hairstylists to carry their lines. The fact that many nail salons has cosmetology licenses does not overcome this obstacle. However, if you’re involved in any aspect of the professional beauty industry, it makes sense to consider extended retail offerings. And if you can’t carry the hottest line, there are other options, such as over-the-counter and private label lines.


According to Lynn Parentini, who began her career as a nail specialist and is now vice president of Esthetic Research and retailing educator, specialty salons that wish to extend their retail offerings may find skin care the best way to start.

“Specialty salons, such as nail salons, are most likely to succeed in extending retailing if they approach it from the aspect of convenience and one-stop shopping,” says Parentini. “It’s easiest for them to move from carrying hand creams into skin or body care and then into hair care basics. When someone’s hands are yours, you have a natural lead-in to discussing dry skin. It’s harder sell if you’re not in a full-service atmosphere, but with some training in product education, nail technicians can boost their incomes by retailing beyond nail products. They have a captive in their chair who is already interested in beauty.” For instance, if the client is getting her nails done for an evening out, one possible approach is to suggest a purse-size hairspray or gel for touch-ups, or, introduce your hair care line by asking the client, “Did you notice we carry hair care products now?”

Private label lines are a good option to well-known lines because they allow the salon a larger profit margin. In either case, commitment to selling is key to profits.


When adding hair care, one of your first considerations must be how many lines to carry. A single line lacks impact, but 15 can be costly and confusing. Carrying three to five lines allows you to offer clients both choice and convenience.

“Smaller salons need an inventory they can manage,” explains Larry Oskin, president of Marketing Solutions (Fairfax, Va.). “While you can’t afford multitudes of product, you need enough to make a statement.

“When selecting lines, consider cost, what your clients want, your salon’s image, the amount of space you have to dedicate to retail, the salon’s fixtures, and your incentive plan to technicians selling the product.”

Pick hot sellers from among popular lines. “Quality-name products and nationally advertised add to the salon’s credibility. Also, smaller salons can’t afford full-color sales materials, and companies that advertise directly to consumers often four-color point-of-purchase materials that help make a small salon look like a big one,” says Oskin.

Between top, nationally recognized brands and private label products is a world of choices. You must consider quality, price point, and dollar value. For your lines to stand out as distinct from one another, you’ll want a range of prices that you know your clients can live with.

Consider whether the image of the product reflects your salon. Today, most every salon finds that ecologically sound products sell. Are your clients concerned about natural ingredients? Do they want to make their own choice about aerosols and non-aerosols? Will they spend extra for recyclable packaging? When considering which lines to add, informal client surveys will lead you in the most profitable direction.

As you contemplate clients’ needs and want, don’t overlook staff input. At Pilo Arts in Brooklyn, N.Y., operations manager Marylou Connors began her retail program with five lines and is now expanding it.

“Initially, we selected five lines, keeping more than one purpose in mind,” explains Connors. The first consideration was to select a line that was nationally advertised and would sell itself. Another was chosen because the stylists liked it and the company provided excellent educational support, back bar products, and displays.

“Now, we’re doubling the lines and adding body care. We want clients to think of us whenever they need products. The quality of our products and salon exclusivity is more important than ever with this approach.”


Once you’ve selected your lines, incorporating them into the salon involves both physical and psychological sales tactics. On the physical side, the primary considerations are space and location. According to retailing experts, the displays must be accessible and visible. The best way to achieve both is to position display prominently with n the first 200 feet of the salon and make certain they’re visible from the reception area.

Says Connors, “Clients have to be able to touch, feel, smell, and browse at their leisure. If your retail is tucked away behind the reception desk, clients will be reluctant to ask to see the products. If the receptionist is on the phone, they’ll just walk away.

“Your merchandising should make a statement,” Connors continues. “Exciting visual presentations move retail, and whatever type of display unit you use, if there are only three items on a shelf, they won’t sell. Forty items attract attention.”

Many manufacturers offer attractive, free-standing units that come with supporting sales literature. Position them up front, in a well-lightened, high-traffic area. Give the impression of abundance with fully stocked shelves, and then add decorative touches of your own.

While seasonal displays and themes are the most obvious attention-grabbers, your creative staffers will enjoy developing original themes that are in keeping with your salon’s image, too. To make selling fun, rotate visual merchandising duties among employees or give one person the title of visual merchandiser.

Incorporating hair care displays into specialty salons can be a challenge. In this case, window displays are imperative to attract walk-ins and immediately announce that you offer more than nails. Other good location spots are hear hand dryers, in the reception area, or adjacent to nail polish displays.

Signage also draws attention to retail and can be used to emphasize special offerings. When you’re starting out, a purchase-with-purchase offer that ties new items to those products clients are already accustomed to purchasing will help draw attention to your retail additions. Sensible couplings include nail grooming kits and hair grooming kits or travel-size nail repair and hair finishing kits. Create your own signs or ask manufacturers about theirs.

If your available retail space is small, choose display units that take advantage of height. Mirrors also create the illusion of more and encourage clients to look at their hair while they check out products. Setting out samples of hairsprays, gels, and shiners near a mirror is too tempting for most clients to resist.


If you want to sell hair care products, promote them. And the first law of promotion is use what you sell. In a full-service salon, this begins at the back bar. If you’re a specialty salon, every technician should use the products herself. If necessary, give staffers free or discounted products to encourage this.

Creating your own promotions can be fun, and tying in with manufacturers’ promotions is dollar-wise. Says Oskin, “When you approach product companies, negotiate for everything. Promotional support materials are a definite bonus for the small salon.”

Samples, posters, desktop tent cards, ad slicks, and client postcards all promote your products. Don’t install a display and expect it to sell itself, no matter how popular a product line you carry. Send out announcements to clients alerting them that you now carry hair care products, and offer samples or a limited-time discount. Throw a party for special clients to introduce them to your new line. Specialty salons can hire a hairdresser for the night to talk about product use; full-service salons can hold a styling lesson night.

The more creative your promotion and the more in tune with your clients’ needs it is, the more successful it will be. But always remember that promotion is a day-to-day effort, not just a special event. Continuously endorse your products and have your staff do the same. While this is easier for full-service stylists, nail technicians can introduce hair care by complimenting clients on their hair and asking what they use. Once they have a feel for the client’s hair care preferences, they can suggest the salon’s new line, emphasizing that they use it, or hand out samples. With a class or two in product knowledge and retailing education, nail technicians will enjoy the challenge – and profits of retailing.


The decision to add hair care must rest on how determined you are to make it successful. Says Parentini, “When nail technicians reach the point where they are booked solid and can’t make any more money from nails, expanded retail services can provide the perfect avenue for growth.”

And for the salon owner, a foray into hair care could be just the high road to expanded profits.


With the emphasis on hair care profitability, most every manufacturer offers incentives well beyond the products themselves. The minimum you should expect is promotional support materials, timely delivery, back bar deals, and staff training. Co-op advertising, in store signs and posters, window decals, product samples, and retail display units are other items to ask about. Often manufacturers either supply display units or distributors will offer them at substantial discounts. As a retailer, you want all the support you can get, while manufacturers and distributors want guaranteed business. Between these two positions there is ample room for negotiation.

Here are just a few examples of what manufacturers offer serious retailers, along with great retailing options for specialty salons. Contact your beauty supplier for more sources.

Image Laboratories

The Customized Product Recommendation (CPR) program includes complete hair history forms, which allows the client to initiate the product selection process, and client frequent buyer cards. Program members get immediate co-op advertising credit, direct-mail support pieces, educational support, retail displays, a product knowledge book, sales literature, and posters. Promotional offers vary by salon investment. Requirements: At least two operational stylist chairs and a minimum order.

John Paul Mitchell Systems

The Paul Mitchell Signature Salon Program includes free in-salon classes, educational video rentals, inclusion in a consumer referral service, salon inventory control service, profit center display units, promotional materials, and decals. Members also receive generous discounts on advanced education, as well as specific product deals. Co-op advertising available. Requirements: At least one fully operated stylist chair and a minimum order.

Matrix Essentials

Full product and support packages backed by ample education. One unique way nail salons can expand their offerings is with the Lip and Nail Color Center. Also available. Introductory manicure kits to test product quality at a small investment and special seasonal displays of Lip and Nail two times a year. Requirements: Specialization in the area retail products are used nails for nail products, hair care for hair products.

Sebastian International

Offering vary widely by distributor, so be sure to ask a lot of questions. A sensible retail expansion for specialty salons is to add Sebastian’s Trucco makeup line, which is available to nail salons with a minimum order requirement only. Requirements: One bowl (an indicator that full-service hair care is performed) and a minimum order.

OTC and Private Label

Excellent options for the specialty salon, there are many quality hair care lines that are sold through beauty supply stores and private label companies. Just two hair care lines that offer promotional materials are Zachi (a division of American International Industries), which is available through your dealer, and Keragenics, a high-quality line sold through Sally Beauty Supply.

By Victoria Wurdinger

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