What we know about how nail professionals purchase products is that most of them buy from traditional sources like beauty supply stores, mail order catalogs, and through full-service dealers’ sales consultants. Depending on the products you’re buying and the availability, you buy from some far-reaching and alternative sources.

We know you spend about $200 a month on supplies, and that most of you, whether you’re an employee, booth renter, or salon owner, buy at least some of your own stuff. We’ve heard about the cost of shipping, the nuisance of minimum orders, and the thrill of earning bonus miles and other frequent-buyer programs.

We also know that product buying is often a frustrating experience, especially as distributors have consolidated, reduced services, or eliminated favored lines. There are still plenty of dealers who focus on the needs of nail technicians and still service the industry well, and many nail technicians say they are finding that there is no shortage of dealers to do business with.

This month, instead of taking a statistical approach to the whys and wherefores of nail technicians’ buying habits, we asked a group of nail techs what they buy, where they buy it, how much they spend, and why they choose the sources they do.

Name: Alicia Richardson

Salon: The Manicurean, Macungie, Pa

The Good: Richardson is a 10-year nail veteran and in that time she has gotten easier thanks to the proliferation of discount nail supply store. “You do need to be careful with the quality of certain items, but discount nail supply stores are the perfect place to purchase jars for acetone, monomer, and polymer. And they’re great for disposable items like toe separators and pedicure slippers,” she says.

Richardson has about three different distributors (two different full-service DSCs and a discount nail supply store) she purchase products from and says he goes to each because they’re conveniently located.

Who she buys for: Herself, “I buy some of my nail art supplies, implements, brushes, and sometime new products I want to try,” she says. The owner of the salon provides her with everything else.

Expenditure: About $50 a month. She’ll place an order every two weeks when a sales rep comes to the salon.

Name: Angela Saul

Salon: Design & day Spa, Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Goods: Saul, a 10-year nail veteran, purchases products from at least four different sources, including a dental supply (she says gauze pads are great for removing polish).

“We buy most of our stuff from Maly’s [a full-service distributor], “she says. “We’ve always done a lot of business with them. They helped get this salon going 20 years ago. We’re one of their biggest and most loyal clients.

“Purchasing products has definitely gotten easier because there are more distributors around,” she says. “I do think some shipping prices can be too high. Sometimes I’d rather run to a beauty supply rather than wait for an item to be shipped. We usually get free shipping on big orders, but it’s a different story on smaller order. I order a bottle of lotion for a client once and the shipping was almost more than the product.”

Saul says she’s definitely gotten purchasing down to a science, making it easier to find the best deals.

Who she buys for: Saul orders products for the spa’s nail department, which includes five nail techs.

Expenditure: Saul spends about $2,500 on nail products. A big order is usually placed every Monday. Smaller order are placed during the week and she orders Backscratchers products directly from the manufacturer once a month. 

Name: Erin Barnes

Salon: Visuals II Salon and Day Spa, Litchfield Park, Ariz.

The goods: Barnes has been in the industry three years. When it comes to buying products, she says she gets pretty much everything she need from one local distributor. “The only time I really stray is at trade shows. Most of what I purchase at trade shows are impulse buys,” she admits.

“I purchase products from my local distributor because I know I can rely on them to have what I need in stock 99% of the time. If they don’t have it in stock they order it for me ASAP.”

The ordering process has been easy for Barnes for the most part, but she hopes it’s getting harder for others. “I do hope it’s getting more difficult for unlicensed people to purchase professional products,” she says.

Who she buys for: Herself. “I purchased a retail rack at the beginning of the year, so I do buy products to restock that, but otherwise I only purchase products for myself.”

Expenditure: Barnes usually spends about $100-$300 a month or sometimes nothing at all, depending on what she needs. She orders product about once or twice a month.

Name: Mary Seitzinger

Salon: Nail Sensation, Columbus, Ohio

The Goods: Seitzinger, a nine-year nail veteran, purchases products from several sources, depending on what she needs. Money also has a lot to do with it. Through trial and error, she’s narrowed it down to four main sources, from which she buys different items. She orders her acrylic line directly from the manufacturer, goes to three full-service stores, and one OTC store for acetone and sundries.

She’s noticed that ordering has gotten easier over the years. “More distributors are carrying a wider range of products. Some products are still hard to get and you have to order from the manufacturer, but those are pretty minimal,” she says.

Who she buys for: Herself.

Expenditure: About $25 a month. Seitzinger is an EZ Flow educator, so she gets their products at a discount rate.

Name: GraceAnn Horstman

Salon: GraceAnn’s Nail Shoppe, Brodheadsville, Pa.

The goods: Horstman, who’s been in the nail industry for about eight years, purchases products from at least three different sources. Horstman recently celebrated her first year as salon owner by hiring another nail tech. “I’ll be buying all of the supplies, but I do feel she should provide her own implements and acrylic brushes,” she says. “Those are items of personal preference.”

Of the three suppliers, she frequently heads to two of them. “A rep for one of the distributors came directly to me and helps me keep up with all that is new,” says Horstman. “I also like ordering products through the mail because of the sales and big, fat catalogs.”

From time to time Horstman will place small orders with other distributors if she finds something on the Internet or picks up a catalog and finds something she likes.

“I don’t really have any complaints about the ordering process, except I do wish there were more companies that sent reps to see me,” she says.

Who she buys for: Herself, her new nail tech, and retail items to sell to clients.

Expenditure: Horstman usually place an order every two weeks. She says she spends about $125 a month.

Name: Jan Studesville

Salon: Just nails, Fitchburg, Wis.

The goods: Studesville has been a nail tech for 21 years and owned her salon for 20 years. She purchases products from at least a dozen vendors, including retail items such as nail jewelry. “There is no one vendor who has all the products I like to use and sell,” she says. “I deal with vendors who are helpful answering questions, give me personalized service, and have fair return policies. Two of my vendors give me 10% discounts on my purchases because of the volume I buy.” Among the many distributors and manufacturers she buys from are Karen’s Nail Designs, The Industry Source, Victory Beauty Systems, Marshall Salon Services, and Sally Beauty Supply for bulk products like acetone and alcohol. “I either visit local vendor and pick up supplies in person or call in orders to my vendors who are not local.”

Who she buys for: Herself and her employees.

Expenditure: About $125 per nail tech per month (there are nine nail techs in the salon). Studesville picks up supplies from local vendors about twice a month and places orders to be shipped about once a month.

Studesville supplies just about everything for her employees, except for cuticle and acrylic nippers and acrylic nail art brushes.

When it comes to buying products, she prefers to buy from distributors rather than manufacturers because “the price is usually the same and keeps them in business.”

Name: Renee Borowy

Salon: The Salon at VIP, Riverview, Mich.

The goods: When it comes to buying products, one source doesn’t cut it for Borowy, a 20-year industry veteran. “I purchase products from well over 20 different sources, “she says. “The reason I choose the sources I do is product availability, cost, and quantity discount if possible.”

Since she deals with many distributors is because she prefers to place orders over the phone instead of having a rep visit her salon.

She says she’s noticed a definite improvement in purchasing over the years. “Some of the companies I deal with can have my products to me by the next day with no shipping charges if I order more than $100 worth of products,” she says. “That really helps us since we sometimes can’t predict product usage. The Internet has helped many, but I usually stick to the old-fashioned way and dial 800 number.”

Who she buys for: Everyone in the salon, including hairstylist, nail techs, facialist, and massage therapists twice a week depending on the department.

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