Money Matters

The Distribution Debate: Does It Matter Where You Buy Supplies?

Does it matter where you buy nail care supplies? And what’s at stake when products designed for professional use are available to the general public?

A good example of how home manicuring helped the salon occurred when gel light systems were introduced to consumers. These systems were sold at parties like Tupperware, through multilevel marketing organizations, at swap meets, and even in supermarket tabloid ads.

At first, the professional nail industry decried the existence of the home systems, fearing they would put legitimate professional systems and technicians out of business. However, those who tried the systems could not use them properly, yet they got a taste for artificial nails and flocked to their local salon for the “real thing.” Many others were forced to go to their salon for repair jobs. In both cases, the salon benefited.

To all of these arguments, some people will respond that the reason a client patronizes a salon is for the nail technician herself – her service and personality – and that the type of product a technician uses is irrelevant to the client, even if she can purchase those same products elsewhere.

This may be true in theory, and you certainly do need to provide a personal experience for clients, but others may argue that anything that hinders your ability to do business, however slightly, should be done away with.

If you want to maintain salon exclusivity in your retail program and to seize your fair share of the consumer’s beauty dollar, you need to carefully consider your options with respect to buying products. If you want to provide a professional service with a unique product, you may need to limit your patronage to full-service distributors or buying direct from the manufacturer. If convenience and great variety is high on your priority list, you may opt for buying from beauty supply stores. What you need to do is assess your own needs and balance what is offered by distributors and manufacturers to help you meet those needs. And if you’re inclined to be in this business for the long haul, it should concern you also which methods of product distribution contribute to the long-term health and prosperity of the professional nail care industry.

Distributors Address Technicians’ Concerns

We asked some leading full-service, professional-only distributors to address technicians’ concerns about product distribution.

“The prices at professional only suppliers are too high.”

What technicians must realize is that they are not merely buying products, they are buying systems. They’re buying education and advertising support, merchandising assistance and expertise, direct mail, programs that teach them retailing and client retention. You might pay a few pennies more, but you’re getting programs to build your business. – Rick Goldberg, Progressive Beauty Supply, Minneapolis, Minn.

“The salespeople aren’t very knowledgeable about nails.”

With a full-service, nails-only distributor, there are trained professionals who can speak directly with the technicians and answer their technical questions. They can help a technician choose the right product or service for a client. If we can’t answer a question, we can immediately put someone in touch with the manufacturer, who can help. A nails-only division allows us to concentrate on the nail technician’s needs. – Gladys Katsiafas, The Nail Source, Patchogue, N.Y.

“Sometimes it’s just more convenient to go to an OTC beauty supply store.” If it’s more convenient for technicians to go to an OTC, it’s also more convenient for their clients to go. When you’re choosing a distributor, you have to ask yourself who gives you the educational support, the professional product protection, guarantees, customer service, and the convenience of a store and telemarketers. Go with who gives you the most. –K.C. Cali, The Nail Network, Rochester, N.Y.

“Professional-only distributors have limited supplies and selections.” Part of that is the growing pains the industry is experiencing as distributors learn how to sell nail supplies after so many years of selling only hair products. Nails-only divisions are expanding their lines, but we do not intend to be all things to all people. By limiting what we sell we are able to maintain quality control and provide excellent educational support. –Joan Garrity, The Nail Force, Clearwater, Fla.

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