Any way you slice it, there’s no doubt the consumer nail product pie is growing. Dollar sales of mass market nail care products grew by 26% in one year, according to consumer goods research company Packaged Facts (www.packagedfacts.com). In its report The Nail Care Market in the U.S., Packaged Facts goes on to predict growth in the professional salon services industry too. One in four (25%) “salonistas” (defined by this study as women receiving two or more professional manicures in the past six months) used DIY nail care products five times or more in a 30-day period, compared to only 15% of other women. Thus, the expected post-recession growth in professional manicure and pedicure services is likely to contribute to continuing growth in the mass nail care market, the report finds.
Professional nail techs, especially those with a celebrity clientele and who have connections at multiple product manufacturers and media outlets, are now carving out their slice. Led by the popular categories of nail art supplies, polish, and gel-polish, nail techs are bringing a lot to the table.
Who better to create these products than those who do nails for a living? “I was involved with every aspect including the packaging, bottle, brush and color choices, written instructions, FAQs, photo shoots and videos, website development, and all social media,” says veteran nail tech and salon owner Vicki Peters of her consulting work with consumer products supplier Pacific World Cosmetics. Peters’ professional experience was invaluable as she tested products, went on sales calls, and worked press events. She even designed an oval-shaped press-on nail for Pacific World based on her December 2010 cover for NAILS Magazine.
Celebrity nail tech and salon owner Pattie Yankee sees opportunity in the press-on nails market as well — and has invested in launching a line branded with her name. Her niche is using her knowledge of what nail styles are the most versatile (like almond shaped) to offer perfectly shaped unpolished nails as a blank canvas for consumers to decorate. “I already offer these press-on nails at my salon, Pattie’s Place,” Yankee says. “I’ll pre-decorate them, and clients will buy them to wear for one-night only on top of a gel-polish for an event like a concert or a wedding.”
The surge in consumer nail products is propelled by multiple factors. Bloggers have added excitement to the fields of nail color and nail art, celebrities have sported non-traditional colors and bold art at major events and Tweeted their nail designs onto the Internet, and technology has improved, allowing for higher-quality products like press-on nails that don’t pop off, decals that stick, and polish that changes when a magnet hovers over it.
“It’s crazy how nails have become so popular in just the last year and a half,” says celebrity nail tech Kimmie Kyees at a launch event for her Kimmie Kyees by Elegant Touch line that is available at Ulta. “I couldn’t believe it when I appeared on Good Morning America after the Grammy Awards to talk about nails.” Kyees’ line is branded with the focus being on Kyees herself. The packaging shouts, “Celebrity nail technician to the stars” and boasts “Inspired by the nails Kimmie creates for her long list of celeb clients; you can get a taste of the celebrity glamour by wearing her incredible designs.”
On the decision to focus branding the line on the manicurist who designed it, Hannah Ellis-Young, brand marketing manager at U.K.-based Elegant Touch, says, “American consumers are extremely celebrity focused and the link from nails to the celebrities through Kimmie is key. Kimmie has an impressive clientele list, and we felt that this would be a big pull to consumers who are fans of these celebrities. We felt that Kimmie’s professional credentials would give the range more gravitas than simply being associated with celebrity.” The line is doing “very well,” based on sales in the first few months, Ellis-Young says.
For some nail techs, consulting for consumer companies also proves lucrative. It allows techs to branch out of the salon into the larger pool of consumer beauty opportunities.
Media Feeding Frenzy
Successful celebrity manicurists have built connections with crucial editors in the beauty media, and those connections are a boon to consumer products brands with which their names are associated. It’s an appetizing cross-promotional opportunity to build two brands with one product. Recent nail school graduate and blogger Madeline Poole is building her brand by partnering with The New Black, a line of packaged polish kits sold at stores including Sephora that strives to bring runway nail colors to consumers.
Celebrity manicurist Jin Soon Choi, who owns the Jin Soon Natural Hand & Foot Spa chain in New York City, recently launched JINsoon nail polish, base, and top coat in SpaceNK and Sephora. “I imagine the type of woman who would buy JINsoon nail lacquer to be someone who understands what high fashion is really all about — not fleeting trends, but classic, glamorous, elegant, chic style, as well as consumers who know my work and who’ve seen my line in media outlets.”
With her existing industry contacts, Choi will be hosting events and using the nail colors in photo shoots and fashion shows. “And of course, I am using them on my clients at my salons — the best word of mouth method I know of,” Choi says.
In many cases, for celebrity manicurists the race to the top of the editors’ e-mail inbox or to make a desk-side manicure appointment with a top beauty editor is much shorter than for those not so well connected.
Don’t Get Burned
Anytime licensed nail techs wade into consumer waters, other nail techs who prefer the focus to be exclusively on professional products voice disapproval and imply disloyalty.
“I’m very passionate about that subject,” Yankee says. “I don’t feel I’m taking away from the professional side. Clients come to us for more than just the end result. I’d rather the people at home use good products, if they’re going to go that route, rather than use poor products and damage their nails.”
One common sentiment shared by techs launching consumer product lines is that clients come to the salon for the experience — not because the polish job is superior to what they could do at home. “My clients like being pampered. It’s all about the way you treat the client, not the actual service. It’s a way to get away from the house,” Yankee says.
Peters agrees. “The bottom line is I do not use retail products in my salon and I focus on the fact I provide a service to my clients they cannot get on the shelves of Walmart and that’s what they come to the salon for. The DIYers have always been there and they have gotten stronger because of the recent nail art trend. Many will never be able to do what we do and they come to us for that. But the ones who will never go to a salon need to purchase products somewhere, and someone is going to sell it.
“My consulting for Pacific World has given them credibility and that I am very proud of.”
Peters also notes that only in the United States is there such a strong division between retail and professional because we are the only country that licenses nail techs.
Whether consumers are getting their nails from licensed techs or from mass market chains — or, most likely, from both — the growing nailcare market is a trend we can all relish, hopefully for many years to come.
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