Last month, we gave nail techs the chance to vent their frustrations about distributors. This time, we’ve turned the tables and are giving distributors a chance to defend themselves—and address common nail tech complaints. Read on to see what they have to say about price limits, back orders, and other common concerns.

On price limits:

“If a distributor has a policy that states a minimum order, it allows the distributor to not just break even, but to make the markup he needs to simply stay in business and even make a profit. Our average minimum order is $25, and in some cases, the distributor will accept $15. When a customer places an order with any company, whether it is a nail distributor or clothing catalog, many hands get involved with that order being fulfiled. First the client calls a phone salesperson or a telemarketer. The average call takes about 10 to 15 minutes. This is approximately one quarter of the telemarketer’s hourly, salary. The order then goes to the order puller, who takes about five to 10 minutes to pull an order. The cost of salary for the order is $1.20. After that, an order checker gets involved in the process. It takes about two minutes to check the order at a cost of 30 cents. Next, the invoicing person gets involved at a cost of 53 cents, and finally, the order shipper gets involved at a cost of $1.33. The total salary cost involved with pulling an average order is $5.24. This figure does not include any of the distributor’s overhead. If the average markup for the distributor is 40%, this means that on an order totalling $7.50, the distributor broke even. No profit, no loss. Why be in business just to break even?”


Alex Berman

Hair Care Nail Supplies

Hollywood, Fla.

On salespeople who call on salons:

“There may be some nail techs who don’t like it when salespeople call on their salon, but our accounts want a sales representative. A good salesperson sets up appointments, can tell nail techs about deals or closeouts, and even give tips on hot new products.”

Bruce Scotland

Arctic Beauty Supply

Anchorage, Alaska

On product availability:

“Perhaps the biggest obstacle nail techs still face is product availability. There are still a few companies that only sell to full-service distributors. These companies view their customer as the distributor instead of the nail technician. That is why we continue to strongly recommend nail technicians to buy and use those products that they can buy when and where they want. The has resulted in great success for our lines in thebeautybook since so many nail techs have given up on those lines that don’t support their needs. We see this trend continuing at a faster pace due to the distributor consolidation taking place.”

Larry Gaylor

The Nailco Group

Farmington Hills, Mich.

On a sales representative’s inattention:

“We most often hear that when a nail tech’s sales rep comes in, the nail tech is ignored and more attention is paid to the hairstylists. This should be an immediate clue that a nail tech is dealing with the wrong distributor. If a nail tech needs nail products, she should deal with a distributor who specializes in nails only. A distributor who only carries nail products is able to carry more items and more lines, thus eliminating or minimizing the problem of back orders. Nail techs need to find a distributor they feel comfortable with. They need to stop ordering a small mount of items from a large group of distributors so they can become familiar with one company and the sales rep of that company can become familiar with them and understand their needs.”

Frank Cervasio

Ace Nail Supply



On territorial limits:

“Manufacturers set the territorial limits, not distributors. The consequences for stepping into someone else’s territory can mean losing a manufacturer’s line. Most distributors are ethical enough and honor these territories. However, I believe that purchasing from a distributor in your area gives you access to the distributor’s expertise and educational classes. My only compliant with territorial limits is there are salons that cannot be serviced the way they would like to in their territory, and they usually end up standard. We try and give our customers the same service we would expect as clients. I have the saying ‘Do into others as you would have done into you drummed in my head.”

Marlene Bridge



On the perception that distributors are out to make an extra dollar at the nail tech’s expense:

“Distributors are not trying to rip off the salon. They sell the products at recommended salon prices. Without distributors, nail techs would not have access to the thousands of products in the professional marketplace. Many of the distributors that have discounted over the years have gone out of business. They need a fair profit to survive and as business partners, nail techs should not ask for a discount However, there are things such as samples, that distributors sometimes have access to, that nail techs can ask for.”

Response taken from


On nail techs who have a lack of respect for distributors:

“Someone has gotten the idea that the distributor is the every. Without the salon we are out of business. We love professional salons, but many salons are not run professionally. They ask for things they would never give to their own clients. When I am in a meeting every distributor says the same thing they are afraid to tell a nail tech anything because they don’t want to lose her business. That’s too bad because we have so much to offer and the salons that do get it and use us as a tool are flourishing but the ones who don’t operate marginally and live hand to mouth. Business methods should really be taught in schools.

Something else that gives nail techs a bad name is that they buy products they do not know how to use. They rarely read directions because they think they know how to do everything. Then when the product is not working right—because they are not using it correctly—they want to return it. I cannot resell it or get our money back on it if I take it back because there is nothing wrong with it. The nail tech becomes rude and starts threatening my staff. We tell her there is a class scheduled on the product, but she just wants her money back. This occurs regularly. Nail techs should buy sample sizes of anything new or attend a class first before buying the professional kit that they try to return a week later. They are professionals, so why do they treat it like a hobby and like it is our responsibility to stuff and force feed them information?”

Name withhold by request

On back orders:

“Back orders are frustrating at every level of the industry. If a manufacturer is back ordered from a vendor on an item, it starts a domino effect. The manufacturer back orders the distributor, the distributor then back orders the salon, and the salon either loses a sale to a customer or is forced to substitute products. Sometimes, back order situations occur when a new product is introduced. Without any sales history to look at, the distributor makes an educated guess of what quantity to order. The manufacturer also has to make a decision of how much of the item to produce. It the product becomes hot, we can reorder immediately, but it may take two weeks to get our order from the manufacturer, assuming they haven’t run out. Even when a sales history is available, those numbers can’t forecast a sudden growth spurt. It’s comparable to getting 10 calls in one day from clients wanting new sets. You do the best you can and keep trying to perfect the system.”

Didi Merriman

Peel’s Salon Services

Omaha, Neb.

A Variety of Distributor Options

Let’s face it, distributors know nail techs are busy people, and now more than ever techs have several avenues for purchasing their products. From ordering that favourite bottle of cuticle oil online to visiting a beauty supply store and picking up nail tips, a nail tech has more choices today. With that in mind, here are a variety of options for purchasing salon products:

Let the Product Come to You

Full-service distributors visit salons and promote the new and the best in hopes of getting nail techs to make a purchase. They are also helpful with retail ideas and promotions. Make appointments with them every few weeks and take the time to listen to what they have to say. Sales reps visit hundreds of salons and have insight that you may be lacking.

Do It Over the Phone

Purchasing products through a telemarketer makes sense for nail techs who would rather no have a sales rep call on them in person, are only in the salon on certain days, or do not have enough business to qualify for a visit Telemarketers are usually just as well-trained as sales reps in the products nail techs use, and they can also help with retailing and business ideas.

Visit a Beauty Supply Store

Undoubtedly there are some nail techs who would rather check out a product on their own. They like the freedom of knowing the product will always be waiting for them on the shelf. That’s why visiting a beauty supplier makes sense. There, nail techs can actually see touch, and smell the product before making a purchase.

Use a Catalog

Some distributors have catalogs of their items so nail techs can purchase a product over the phone. Catalogs are convenient because you can combine them with any other purchasing method. If you look through a catalog, you can ask your telemarketer or sales rep questions when they call you.

Buy it on the Net

Although there are only a few distributors selling products on the Internet, it can be convenient for those who are computer savvy and love to purchase items online. With a click of a button you can have your items delivered to your door—without having to deal with a sales rep or telemarketer.

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