Gift certificates, according to one industry trend forecaster, are the bane of salons’ existence and—country to popular belief—will not help grow your business. As salons approach their busiest season of the year—traditionally the high season for gift certificate sales as well—it’s not a bad idea to think about how to make the most out of gift certificate sales and hot to turn those potentially one-time clients into long-term clients. Industry trend forecaster Peggy Wynne calls clients who use gift certificates “tourists”—clients who are just visiting the salon for a special occasion and are not likely to return on a regular basis. These tourists have likely received the gift of a “pampering service” from someone who believes the recipient would never buy such a thing for herself (or “himself”—men often have their first salon experience when a female friend treats them to it). When the notion of a salon service becomes only a “pampering” experience, it suggests that it is an indulgence, a guilty pleasure, instead of something necessary.

Days of Beauty are also a neat service idea that allow clients to sample an array of services—and hopefully enjoy them so much that it leads them to determine they need to do it regularly. But really, offering a Day of Beauty is probably not a practical solution to creating genuine client loyalty. If clients don’t get real tangible value from their salon services and don’t see visible results from their services (which they can only achieve with consistent visits), they aren’t likely to become a regular salon visitor.

The key to turning gift certificate sales into a business-building exercise is to give clients a sensational experience, but leave them wanting. That is leave them wanting more and make them aware what kind of results and overall good feeling could be achieved if they visited more frequently. Make the visit to your salon part of a woman’s necessary health and beauty maintenance routine, not merely a wicked indulgence or guilty pleasure.

Besides gift certificate users winding up “one visit wonders,” there’s also the chance that the gift certificate will never be used at all. Is the money spent on the gift certificate just money in the bank for you? Or is it unclaimed property? It’s a more complex issue than you probably imagined. Read our story on page 52 about handling unredeemed gift certificates.

Good luck this holiday season. Sell lots—and most importantly—keep them coming back for more.

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