As a trainer, Bobbie Cooper-Hulbert says that the thing she hears from techs most often is that their employer won't let them retail or simply isn't interested in it.

As a trainer, Bobbie Cooper-Hulbert says that the thing she hears from techs most often is that their employer won't let them retail or simply isn't interested in it. 

If you read our April 2001 article on maintaining your retail inventory (and we certainly hope you did), your jaw may have dropped a notch or two when you learned that Bobbie Cooper-Hulbert, owner of Nails by Bobbie in Powell, Wyo., a farming community of 5,000, retails $20,000 per year — more than she makes doing nails. And it’s no fluke: Before she moved to Wyoming, she owned a salon in a Montana town of 1,800 and still retailed the same amount. So what’s her secret?

Cooper-Hulbert, who is also an OPI educator and national trainer, admits that, in small part, her “salesy” personality helps, as does her consistent application of basic selling strategies. The key, though, she maintains, is that she provides education to go along with the products she sells. “Women want to buy. The difference between them buying from me versus from a discount store is that I’ll tell them how to use the product. And if a client doesn’t like it, she can simply return it or allow me to assist her further on how to use it,” she says.

Cooper-Hulbert insists that openings for client education come about naturally. “For instance, in Montana I was constantly asked, “Why are my cuticles so dry?’ I can relate because I’m 56 and living in the same climate. I say, ‘Mine too. You know I slacked off on using my cuticle oil, but now that I’m back on track I see a big improvement,’” she explains.

“I also hear things like, ‘I bought this polish at the market and it wasn’t the same color when I got home.’ I explain that the lighting is different, the wrapper is off, and the blue label makes it look different I then help them to select the color they thought they were buying,” she says. “I also find that when I wear a particular lacquer or lipstick, that’s the one they want. I explain that while a particular shade may work with my hair and complexion, it might not work for them, so I offer a more suitable choice.”

Cooper-Hulbert also makes big use of free samples: “Each new client leaves with a plastic bag filled with trial-size goodies. This introductory bag costs me $2.80 and brings in $37 when a client returns to purchase larger sizes,” she says. She gets clients hooked on her bath salts through a simple act of kindness. “When a client has had a bad day, I say, ‘Have a bath on me’ and I present her with a one-time pack of bath crystals that retails for $3. Hopefully, when she returns, she’ll buy a full-size jar.”

She also ensures clients can touch and smell the products. “I have testers available for almost all my products. I have a sanitation area where lipsticks and other product can be applied and wiped off. I also put my OPI Avoplex replenishing lotion in the tanning rooms and at the reception desk — it pretty much sells itself.”

Cooper-Hulbert’s inventory itself is nothing out of the ordinary. She sticks mainly to nail and hand care-related items such as lacquers, top coats, cuticle oil, and nail treatments, though she also carries lipsticks and liners and aromatherapy bath salts. Her 12-foot display wall is positioned directly behind her in her clients’ line of sight.

Some final bits of advice: “Keep your shelves interesting. Unlike hair clients, nail clients see your displays every two weeks. If they don’t change frequently and entice the eye, clients will stop taking notice.”

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