Star Nail's Tony & Steve Cuccio: The Magic Of Bulk Packaging

Star Nail Products has approached distributing their product in a unique and successful way that has shaken up the nail industry.

NAILS: These individuals were to service nail salons only?

TONY: Yes ... what we did was to set up 30 people, and instead of having them push our name brand company, we gave them their own company, with their own name products to service the area in which they lived.

STEVE: The idea was for them to take a 150-200 mile radius and go to all the nail salons in the area and service them. Additionally we gave them the availability of buying the best products at the best possible price with no minimums.  And distributors get our new products before they hit the market.

NAILS: Selling price must have had its disadvantages … quality image problems perhaps?”

STEVE: Yes, and that was the biggest problem we had the first two years.  Nobody believed that we had the best product in the country just because of the price.  But as we started developing new products, such as the nail color corrector, the Pro-Pack, people became aware that there was more to the company besides price.

NAILS: And now?

TONY: Now we are having an impact ... and the reason is that the manicurist is shopping around and looking for a quality product at a reasonable price. And they are trying us. And because of the central difference in the way the nail industry operates ... for example, the big difference we see between the nail business and the hair business is that in the nail business, people are interested in making money. In the hair business, even though they are interested in money, they are very egotistical and artistic. Even though the professional manicurist is artistic and professional, they are also business-minded and willing to listen to how to make money ... and they react.

STEVE: Other companies can’t understand how we are so successful. The key to it is the loyalty of the customers, because we have made them money by giving them a quality product at a reasonable price.

NAILS: So where does this position your company now?

TONY: The important thing right now is to give the manicurists the opportunity to buy our products locally, and the only way to do that is to give the line to the professional beauty supplies because their network is already set up.

NAILS: But isn’t that the opposite of what made you successful? How are you going to retain control of your product?

TONY: Our first and only love is for the professional manicurist.  And as such, we are demanding from the professional beauty suppliers that if they want to sell to the professional manicurist, they must keep our prices because we will always sell direct. In the last year we have had many offers to be bought out but the main stipulation has been that we only sell to full service dealers and not direct to the salon. We will never do that.  Because when we sell a bottle of polish for 40 cents to a beauty supplier, and they mark it up to $2.50 and then give the professional manicurist 20 percent off, all they are doing is giving the manicurists nothing and all they are doing to me is having my polish sit on the shelf.”

So what we are doing now is that we want the professional beauty supplier to make money, with the recognition that we’ve built the market up for them, and they will make what they deserve to make, but they still have to stick to our prices because if they don’t, the manicurist can call up any day, anywhere in the country and I will sell any of them in front of my biggest dealer. On the other hand, we will give our accounts to the beauty supply if they follow our programs and service the professionals like a professional.

NAILS: What impact do you feel your approach has had and will have on the industry?

TONY: I think it has a tremendous impact on the nail industry because people are starting to think and realize that nails are a separate business and requires special handling.

NAILS: But your approach is quite alien to most of what is happening in the marketplace.

TONY: Entirely alien, entirely different and that is why we are so successful and that is why the nail industry is so successful as an industry. We are going to do the best thing for the professional manicurist and for us… not for the hair people and not necessarily for the beauty supplier.”

NAILS: That’s quite a broad statement.

TONY: Well, the beauty supply dealers are going to have to change in order to properly service the nail industry. They are going to have to look at the nail industry as a separate industry and they are going to have to look at manicurists as professionals and business-oriented people.

STEVE: If the beauty supplier is to sell to the professional manicurist, they must realize that they can’t force a big name on them, because they don’t want it. If it’s not the best, it doesn’t matter whose name is on it, they won’t use it and won’t buy it, and won’t sell it.

NAILS: But what you’ve told us earlier is that this approach works direct with the salons, in combination with a bulk program. How does this now fit in with beauty suppliers?

TONY: It all comes down to the tube, and our bulk marketing of products in them. What Steve and I understood, even in the early days, was that you can’t produce everything the best. There are many professionals in this industry that have taken years to build a quality product, and our feeling is why change it just to make it different to carry our own name? We will go direct to market their product.

NAILS: And this is where the tubes come in?

TONY: Yes, because the tubes are the best and most inexpensive way of getting quality products in bulk packaging. The key is that the manicurist is too smart to buy names or one or two of an item. They cannot retail it and they cannot use it. The tube idea is the best idea in the nail industry for the simple reason that it is for the manicurist so that they can get their bottom line down so that they can go ahead and carry on their own business. Five years ago, when competition was far less severe, manicurist never really bothered with prices. But as the industry has grown, and compe­tition has heated up, they are be­coming very aware of their bottom line, and the numbers they need to survive and profit.

NAILS: You first effort with the tube was your Pro-Pack?

TONY: The first item was the Pro-Pack in the tube, a product that gave the manicurist eight times the polish with a speed tilt bottle that offered twice the application time at a very reasonable price. But the tube idea as such is one that revolutionized the package industry for nails, because there is no way that anyone can compete against the tube.

NAILS: Give me a specific example.

TONY: The professional nail tip business was starting to grow to a tremendous level a year ago and we saw that the professional manicurist would buy master packs and maybe use all the middle numbers and none of the 1s and 10s. And when we went to the manufacturers, the manufacturers had the same problem. As we looked into the marketing of tips we found that no one sold them in bags bigger than 50 a size ....which was totally ridiculous.

STEVE: A salon with 10 girls in the shop isn’t going to buy 10 bags of 50, she wants a tube of 500 for half the price.

TONY: So what we did was go out and find the best tips in the United States, the Star Gazer, and put them in bulk packaging so that the manicurist could buy from Star at the same price that the beauty supply pays for the identical tip under a different brand name.

STEVE: Then what we did was say to the beauty supply, “Here’s two rows of tips. The front you can sell individually to every person who wants them, and then we left the back row sealed so that you can sell in bulk to the professional.” That display, with the two rows, really forced them into wholesaling nail tips because the back tube was sold to the professional at a significant discount. So in effect, we were giving them both options.

TONY: The key thing that that taught them is that beauty supplies do not sell to the professional manicurist unless there is a dire emergency or unless they are just filling in waiting for their orders to come in. We sell to more professionals than any other nail company, because we sell to the real professionals. We have salons that order more than twice what some of our beauty suppliers do, and that is for their own in-house use.

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