The Salon Retail Package

Understandging products, price and style are the elements

Selling home care products and accessories to your clients can be easy... and does make sense. To better service your client, and to keep her from running her nails, you offer something extra to enable her to maintain her nails long enough to return to the salon for the next appointment.

But when actively considering a retail program for the salon, understand that a successful program demands more than just saleable items... it needs a combination of products, price and style. By effectively coordinating these three into one package, the salon owner or technician can service and sell the client.

Since professional salon products are viewed as having a certain high quality (indicated in buying pattern surveys in this and other industries), and since nail care is such a touching, personalized service, the one-on-one trust necessary for retail sales already exists... and is sufficient to build additional sales that could mean needed profits for the salon.

For nail technicians and nail specialty salons, retail products are as obvious as polish, non-acetone remover, files, top coat, nail strengtheners and conditioners, cuticle oils, lotions, and creams... or any combination packaged as home nail care maintenance kits.

Accessories can be retailed to salon customers as well, including nail charms, jewelry (costume and otherwise), and possible nail care products for men.

Nail manufacturers have emphasized this area as well by introducing new products in recent months that attempt to capitalize on this market segment... all of which indicate the potential for salon owners and nail technicians.


In theory, retailing products through the salon can be effective. The client respects the salon and has developed a rapport with the technician; the products are of salon quality, recommended to suit the individual’s specific needs.

In practice, the same holds true. But retailing is not a cure-all or savior for a failing financial picture. Even the best salon, operating under the most effective procedures and with the cooperation of the entire staff, may recognize only 10 to 20 percent of annual sales from this effort.

Selling products or accessories to your clients can be simple, and profitable, if such a program is established as an extension of the service rather than strictly as a profit motive.


Before dealing with the primary ingredients in your retail package, consider first whether you truly want to become involved with such a program. Beyond the initial effort necessary to establish what products you want—their price, presentation in the salon, back-up supplies and inventory systems—is a most important aspect: your commitment.

Recognize that time and effort will have to be invested in maintaining a retail program, and that this effort must be consistent. You cannot expect products to sell themselves, or employees to maintain an enthusiasm and interest if you lose such interest shortly after initiating your program: Clients and employees can interpret much from dusty shelves or time-worn, marked-down merchandise.


Before you can evaluate a product’s salability in the salon, at what price and in what fashion, take a look at your customers: What kinds of items have they shown an interest in? What are their needs? What are their lifestyles and income levels? Are they receptive to nail accessory items such as jewelry and charms; to specific home care products; to polish shades and top coats; to small gift items?

Once you have a strong feel for your clients’ interests in terms of products and price, then you can better evaluate an in-salon retail program.


Retail products must be evaluated not only for their potential profits from clients but as to the salon’s cost as well. Additionally, their role in the service and the manner in which they will be displayed are important.

Selling a specific product, whether polish or foot lotion, must also be measured against existing competition to that sale. Quite likely, the products you wish to sell may be found in drug stores or in beauty supply houses that sell over the counter. Consequently, you must know what comparable products are selling for and where (and at what price). Look to your distributor or manufacturer for help in this area. They should provide selling strategies and pricing that fit into your individual marketplace.

The advantage a salon owner or technician has in developing retail products is that consumers think of professional salon products as having a higher quality than those otherwise available. Your objective is to emphasize the quality image of the products—while being aware of consumer concerns that salon products may be to highly priced.

Remember: You are the professional, and are expected to know what is best for the client. Maintain that style, and always look to products that can help the client properly maintain her nails between appointments. Obviously the concept is not to teach the client how to do her own nails. . . rather to educate her and provide her with the tools to make your service easier and more effective.

One important note: As a salon owner or technician, you cannot always compete with products that are available to the consumer on a retail level. Select your products carefully to ensure that they do as much as the service to build your image in the community.


Understanding that your clients may have preconceived notions about prices of salon products, regardless of superior quality, it is essential that you give careful consideration to your pricing strategy.

The price charged for retail products in the salon can be simply figured by working with any number of financial formulas, depending on any specific financial advice and the circumstances of the salon. Such formulas and price policies can be instrumental for the salon owner, but it is ultimately your marketplace that is the final test for any pricing decisions.

As an aid in setting retail prices, consider two pieces of information: the cost of goods and the desired markup, often expressed as a percentage of the retail price. (Retail markup means the amount that is added to the salon cost to arrive at the selling price. This amount is usually expressed in dollars or as a percentage of the retail selling price.)

For example, to discover what price will give you an initial markup of 36 percent (of retail) on an item that costs you 96 cents, follow this formula:

Retail price = COST divided by (100 minus desired markup %)

Many recommend a “keystone” approach that simply entails a 100 percent markup of costs, representing a 50 percent gross profit margin. (Also, a minimum of 40 percent gross profit margin is suggested for salons in order to adequately cover all costs of doing business.)    


  • Clearly price your products.
  • Attempt to price products “right” neither too high nor too low. Unless you plan on a significant inventory, maintain a minimum markup of 66.6 percent or 40 percent gross profit margin or higher.
  • Avoid clearance sales if possible. Specials can attract attention, but these products should be bought as a deal from the manufacturer so that you can still profit from the sale.
  • Color code all sales slips: e.g., green for professional products and blue for retail.
  • Always allocate a fair portion of general overhead to both retail and service prices, based on a percentage of sales or on floor area used.


This last aspect deals with style, the manner in which products are presented and how the transaction is conducted in the salon. Because every item and action reflects the image of the salon and the technician, this aspect cannot be overlooked.

When determining where displays and products are placed, consider the location of the service areas, where the client’s attention is generally focused. The reception area, cashier and individual nail stations all represent excellent locations for developing a retail program.

Strive to make any salon display as attractive, inviting and convenient as possible to the client. Although most nail salons or stations have small spaces to work with, there are ways of finding additional space for retail so that clients will begin to notice the products on sale.  

When displaying products, consider the following suggestions:

  • Equip the retail area with attractive displays.
  • The average client doesn’t want to be the first person to buy a new stock of products, so leave a few spaces open in the display. But also be aware that rarely will that same client buy the last of a product, so always stock displays accordingly.
  • Don’t let bottles sit on a shelf and gather dust. And don’t leave it on display until it sells, or continue to mark it down. Incorporate slow moving items into sales promotions in which a free product is given away with a Service of the Month, or offer it as a two-for-one.
  • Salon retail displays should allow the customer to feel and relate to the products. . . and should be well lit and located in a highly visible area without being in the way.


A tremendous amount of material on salon retailing still needs to be covered, including more detailed information on pricing, on product display, on inventory controls and employee training. But the main emphasis should continue to be on products and style.

In the beauty industry, where often the consumer can purchase similar products at drug stores or over-the-counter outlets, salons need to protect their image and their ability to conduct business. Consequently, when considering products for your retail program, determine first where such products are currently being sold, and for what price. With retailing, the objective is to earn additional profits while protecting your work. . . not to provide the tools by which you lose a customer.

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