Last Sunday I went to Target, because I needed vacuum bags and filters. I found the bags, but they didn’t have the filters for my particular model of vacuum. I checked one other store but I’m not the type to hunt all over town to find the exact thing I’m looking for. If I could have used an alternative brand, I would have. But these things are particular and you have to use the brand the vacuum calls for. So that night, when my son was sleeping and I had a few moments, I went online to see if could get the filters directly from the company.

I got online, searched for the part number, and found exactly what I needed. When I got to the checkout part of my online transaction, a message popped up and indicated I could get free shipping on any order over $50. So I clicked backward and put a few more filters in my cart to save shipping costs (after all, I’d need the filters eventually, right?). Three days later I had my filters and I was very pleased at the ease of the transaction.

Then it occurred to me nail techs don’t have it so easy anymore. If I was a nail technician and I needed a particular brand or a new product, I had only a couple of choices: I could see if my main full-service dealer had the product and go to the store and get it in person or wait for the sales rep to come to the salon (if the reps even came to my salon). Or I could order online with a big mail order distributor and hope that they carried the product (and hope that I lived in an area where the dealer could sell because there are territorial restrictions on a lot of products). Or finally, I could go to the manufacturer’s website and see if I could find it there and that the manufacturer sold direct online (an unlikely scenario if it was a major manufacturer).

Why is it so difficult? When the rest of the world is simplifying buying of products, smoothing out the middlemen in business transactions, why does the beauty business make it so difficult to get your hands on something? Talk to any nail technician and she’ll tell you that she regularly deals with two to four “sources” for products. She might go to the beauty supply store for her main products, use a different source for a popular polish brand, shop online for discount consumables like orangewood sticks and cotton bands, and then direct from the manufacturer for a favorite, but hard-to-find wrap or top coat.

There are more issues involved in why products are distributed the way they are than I can possibly get into here. But from the nail tech’s perspective, things have gotten harder, not easier, as the influence of nails has grown and as the consolidation of the beauty suppliers has progressed. The time has come for major changes as it affects the nail care category. And for a change, it will have to benefit nail technicians as well.     

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