The Life of a Bottle of Polish, from Manufacturer to Your Salon

Over the years NAILS has examined the chemistry of polish and its ingredients, how colors are chosen, and even how polish is bottled. Here we cover it all—the life of a bottle of polish beginning to end.

Next, the entire color batch is poured through a nylon mesh screen cloth to filter out any foreign matter, then placed in 3- to 55-gallon metal drums. (A 55-gallon drum of polish makes 14,080 half-ounce bottles of polish.)


These sealed containers are shipped in these large drums via trucks (flammable material, such as nail polish, is prohibited form air shipping) to the bottler, which in the professional industry is almost always the brand marketer.


From 55 Gallons to Half an Ounce

To continue our trail with Orly, the company receives several hundred gallons of polish per week that are then stored in fireproof rooms. “We have four bottle-filling lines,” Clifford says. “We normally fill about 80 bottles per minute and we run the filling machines 8-16 hours a day, five days a week. When filling large orders, we have run as many as three shifts a day for 30 days.”


Before bottling, a sample from the drum is again tested for quality control and then labeled and stored. (If a customer has a problem with a bottle, the manufacturer can trace the original sample through a batch code that’s stamped on the bottom of each bottle during the filling process.)


Next, a drum of color is sent to the filling room along with the glass bottles, caps, brushes, mixing balls, and labels. The components are loaded into the different parts of the filling line that feeds the bottling machine. The bottles themselves are often sourced from overseas; in Orly’s case, they come from Italy. “We buy from an Italian supplier because we’ve found it’s the finest in terms of consistency,” Clifford explains. “With aoutmated filling equipment, you want as little variation as possible in the container size. This glass is strong, with a few flaws, which is important considering how much they’re handled during their lifespan.”


Clifford raises an important point, which is that quality is not dictated by the polish alone: Factors such as the quality of bottle, the number of bristles in the brush, the shape of the cap (some have been designed for optimal ergonomics) all impact the salon’s cost for polish.


Depending on the product, the bottle may be labeled during filling or frosted or etched after. The filled, labeled, and coded bottles are packed and stored until they’re shipped as part of an order. Typically for Orly, Clifford says, distributors order anywhere from a few hundred bottles to an entire pallet.


One of These, Two of Those

Product distributors play an important step in getting product to market. While many technicians think they can and should get a better price by ordering direct form the manufacturer, most manufacturers are not geared toward selling small quantities of product. For example, the packaging and shipping of onesie, twosie orders would dramatically increase a manufacturer’s costs, which would be passed along to the salon.


The distributor, on the other hand, receives large shipments of a variety of products and can much more cost-effectively service the individual customer by fulfilling a variety of needs.


So we can follow a single example of a distributor, we asked The Nailco Group to tell us about the life of a polish bottle form its point of view. At The Nailco Group, manufacturer shipments are delivered daily via UPS and freight lines. Upon receipt, warehouse personnel check the merchandise and verify the correct items were received undamaged. The outer boxes the polishes are packed in are barcoded and date-stamped by The Nailco Group to ensure a continuous fresh stock. The receiving process updates instock qualities in the computer system. From there, the polishes are stocked on warehouse shelves and immediately made available to fill customer orders. According to CEO Larry Gaynor, The Nailco Group’s polish inventory turns about six times per year, which means the average bottle of polish remains in the warehouse 45-60 days (much less, of course, for the best-selling colors).


The professional beauty industry has a number of distribution methods to get product to the salon professional, including salon sales reps, store locations, and mail order.


At The Industry Source, a division of The Nailco Group, customers can visit a professional-only store or order through the company’s catalog. While the front-end view to the customer appears very different, the back-room actions are similar. Every time you purchase a bottle of polish, the computer system adjusts the store inventory level accordingly. Once a week the inventory control supervisor runs a report and places a warehouse transfer order, which transfers the replacement product from the warehouse to the store. Once in-store, a salesperson restocks the shelves. On average, product in The Industry Source stores turn 10 times per year (every 4-6 weeks).


If you order by phones, on the other hand, the salesperspn allocates warehouse inventory to your order in the computer, suggesting substitute items if the polish color you want is out-of-stock or placing a back-order if preferred. Phone orders are filled directly from one of The Nailco Group’s three regional warehouses. Once an order is entered into the computer, the system prints a “pick ticket” in the closet warehouse. A warehouse employee uses the pick ticket to pull product from the shelves and place it in a bin, where it is then sent by conveyor belt to the inspection and packing department. There the order is re-checked for accuracy and packed securely. This package then proceeds to an invoicing station where a bill is generated and shipping information is updated.


The Point of Sale

Gina Marsilli, owner of Perfect Ten in Wilmington, Del., offers clients a choice between Orly and OPI polishes, saying the salon normally carries anywhere from 125-150 colors. At the front counter she merchandises the latest seasonal collections from each, while her “main collection” is displayed in the nearby retail area for clients to browse.


“We order each collection and usually can tell what’s going to sell,” Marsilli notes. “Then we order a dozen of each of those colors.” Marsilli’s objective is to keep six of each color in stock, which translates to anywhere from 750-900 bottles. In the main polish retail area that means four each on the shelf and two more in inventory. The seasonal collections are re-stocked as they sell.


Marsilli orders products once a week, utilizing both Nailco and Schoeneman, her local, full-service distributor. Like many salon owners, Marsilli claims that she and her 10 staff members are kept so busy that they don’t have time to take a formal inventory, instead they just eyeball the retail displays and stockroom. “We know we keep enough to last at least a week, so it doesn’t have to be exact,” she says. “Sometimes we do run out of a color, but not very often.”



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