Las Vegas is famous for several key industries, and I’d argue that retail is definitely one of them. While I’m not at all the person you’d want giving you advice on the other industries that Vegas is known for, I do have a background in reporting on retail design, so I’d love to share some of the insights I took away while visiting several beauty retailers in Sin City, including Walgreens’ LOOK Boutique, Ulta, Skins 6|2, and The Spa & Salon at Aria.

My visit to these retailers was part of a Cosmoprof North America sold-out bus tour called, appropriately, Best Beauty Retailers in Las Vegas Tour. My thanks to our knowledgeable host Marc Birenbaum of Beauty Store Business magazine and to the retailers who let us admire their stores on a busy Saturday. This is the second year this bus tour has been offered to Cosmoprof attendees and, if it’s offered again next year, I’d encourage you to attend. There were several salon and spa owners on the bus, and I think they took away some great insights on how to revamp their retail areas. For more information, visit


1. Sell what you use. Inside the retail area of The Spa & Salon at Aria, the Moroccanoil brand is a top seller, and it’s no coincidence that it’s the brand used in the spa’s hair services. The Art of Shaving is used in the barber services and sold as retail, and Essie is the nail care brand used both in services and sold at retail. If the brand is good enough to be used in your services, then it’s good enough to retail and vice versa. If your salon’s brand of choice has a professional line and a retail line, then that may provide the ideal balance of brand recognition and price point.

2. Pick products with obvious talking points. When customers at Walgreens’ LOOK Boutique pass by the Demeter Fragrance Library, it’s extremely hard for them to resist trying a whiff of a scent called “Play-Doh” or, better yet, the scent dubbed “Dirt.” It’s human nature to be curious about whether these scents actually smell like their namesakes and to discuss the scents’ attributes with their friends. These simple one-note fragrances have proved to make fun and inexpensive purchases for Walgreens’ boutique customers.


3. Choose appropriate signage. Walgreens is a unique case study in that select stores now house both mass market beauty brands and boutique beauty brands, which are housed exclusively in the store’s LOOK Boutique. There are many design distinctions between the mass and the boutique sections, but one you can incorporate into your salon is the pricing signage strategy. In its mass section, standard white individual signs that emphasize price are located underneath individual products. In its boutique section, sleek black connected signs that emphasize product attributes (such as “long lasting” or “intense color impact”) dominate, with the prices tucked away in small print. If you pride yourself on having the lowest prices in town, then lead with that on your signs. If you pride yourself in quality products, then focus on the craftsmanship on the products; it’s OK in this case to make clients search a bit for the price.

Next page: Lessons 4-6


4. Opt for mobile fixtures. Many nail salons find themselves working with small retail spaces, so if that describes your salon, then take a page out of the book of luxury boutique Skins 6|2: Set up the whole area with fixtures on wheels, so you can easily move displays around to expand or contract the space. Las Vegas store manager Ittamar Westenstein thinks of Skins 6|2 as “a live store” that is rearranged for events and about once a month just to freshen it up. Westenstein says switching the layout doesn’t necessarily increase sales each time but it does increase walk-in traffic.

5. Get the longest shelf life. How many times have you opened up an almost-full bottle of polish only to find it to be stringy, thick, and unworkable? If you store your polishes by a window or other direct light source, you could be damaging them. In Walgreens’ LOOK Boutique, polishes are displayed on fixtures lit by LEDs, which allows them to stay cool to the touch while still being well lit so customers can see subtle color differences.

6. Set the scene with flooring and other touches. One design detail that wowed me inside Walgreens is that even the flooring is different between the mass and the boutique sections. In the mass section (the majority of the store), small dull tiles are underfoot, but in the LOOK Boutique, large shiny tiles placed at a diagonal adorn the floor. I love how even the floor sets the mood. In your salon, maybe it’s worth selecting a different floor type between the louder hair areas and the more relaxing pedicure areas, for example. Or if flooring is too much of an investment, consider other distinctions such as lighting or music.

Next page: Lessons 7-8


7. Consultations sell. Speaking about the consultation station in the Walgreens’ LOOK Boutique, which houses a skin hydration test, a magnifying mirror, and a flatscreen that displays beauty information, Marcia Gaynor, general merchandise manager of Beauty & LOOK Boutique, told us, “Once the person is in the chair, we almost always get the sale.” A Walgreens’ employee walks the customer through an analysis of her skin type, then recommends solutions (products) to the customers’ beauty woes. Even if you can’t afford all of this fancy equipment, consider setting up a consultation station at your salon to simply talk your client through what she dislikes about her nails, then recommend the appropriate services and retail products to improve her look.

8. Let customers touch and try the products. The display of hairdryers, straightening irons, and other hair appliances that we saw at a Las Vegas Ulta store and salon was brilliant. It reminded me of a shoe store display, in the sense that I could hold the display item in my hand to check for weight, get a 360° view, etc., then if I choose to purchase it, I’d simply pull an unopened box from the shelves below. With beauty products, it’s so important to be able to touch the products before purchase to guarantee satisfaction.

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