Here are five good reasons to start paying more attention to selling gift certificates. “In the past year we’ve sold in excess of $125,000 in gift certificates. My goal for November and December 1993 combined was $100,000.” — Frank Burge, owner, Day Spa Beautique Salon, Houston, Texas.

“Gift certificate sales account for approximately 25% of our salon’s gross income during regular months, 30%-35% in November, and 50% in December.” — Adam Broderick, owner, Adam Broderick Image Group, Ridge-field, Conn.

“We sell $500-$700 a month in gift certificates. During the Christmas season we sell more than $1,000 a week. A lot of the people who redeem them are first-time customers who come back as regulars.” — Gayle Klunder, front desk manager, Erik of Norway, Mequon, Wis.

“We usually sell $3,000 in gift certificates per week. In December we average $80,000-$90,000 for the month.” — Helga Surratt, co-owner and president, About Faces Day Spa, Towson, Md.

“During slow months we sell certificates. During Christmas and New Year’s it’s been up to $80,000.1 would say 50%-60% of gift certificate recipients come back to the salon.” — Mitchell Wherley, co-owner, Spalon Montage, Edina, Minn.

What salon doesn’t want to increase its sales $500-$15,000 per month? According to these salon owners and managers, strong gift certificate sales can be achieved by concentrating on sterling customer service, which means giving customers what they want and what they need.

A successful gift certificate sales program starts with developing appealing service options, attractive packaging, and constant promotion.

Cluster Services And Add Extras

These salon owners and managers recommend selling gift certificates for a package of services, rather than for a specific dollar amount. Specifying the services makes it easier for someone to redeem the gift (you want the gift recipient to try your salon, not just get a service in the price range of her certificate). This allows the giver to keep what she paid a secret from the recipient.

“We have groups of services that we think go well together: manicure/pedicure combinations; facial/manicure/pedicure combinations; a men’s package called ‘His Turn,’ which includes a sports massage, cleansing facial, manicure, haircut and style, and a snack. We also put a dollar amount on certificates and allow the recip­ient to use it for whatever he or she wants,” says Broderick. “Our series cards — pay for 10 services and get the 11th free — are also popular as gifts.”

Packages of services account for most gift certificate sales at Spalon Montage as well. “Our most popular package includes a facial, massage, manicure, pedicure, and purifying body treatment and hair-styling, makeup, and lunch; that package runs $200,” says Wherley.

At About Faces, gift certificates for manicures rank number one, followed by European facials and body massages. “The most pampering services are the most popular,” says Surratt. “Our beauty packages are very popular.” About Faces has six beauty packages, ranging from a manicure/makeup/hairstyle combination for $49 to a day of beauty that also includes breakfast and lunch for $185.

Always Wrap The Gift

After carefully creating service packages, design an enticing certificate According to Burge, presentation of the gift certificate is crucial at Day Spa Beautique.

“Whatever you do, dress it up to show the person you’re doing it right. Give it some piz­zazz to make it special to both the buyer and the receiver,” he says.

“You have to demonstrate to people that you have the capability to deliver,” says Burge. “We package our certificates with shredded colored tissue in a clear plastic envelope. We put a salon brochure in with it and attach a bow with the salon’s label on the outside. They see the gift certificate, but the overall package is pretty. For our big packages, like our $350 spa day, we put them in a gold box with a ribbon on it.”

At About Faces, gift certificates are boxed, regardless of the face value, says Surratt. At Adam Broderick Image Group, certificates come nestled in black tissue paper inside an elegant salon gift bag.

A Manicure for the Teacher, a Pedicure for the Nanny

How do these salons sell so many gift certificates? Admittedly, they’re able to achieve such high volume because they are large full-service salons; but how they promote themselves plays an even larger part. And even though many of these salons are day spas, several say that manicures and other nail services account for a significant portion of their gift certificate sales.

“Where else can you get a gift for $12 and really have something nice for someone?’ asks Surratt.

“In our radio ads we promote pedicures for the nanny and manicures for the children’s teachers. These are under $20 and come in colourful bags that look special,” says Broderick. “When you put the idea in a person’s head, you’re creating a market for it.”

During the holidays, these salons advertise in newspapers and regional magazines and on the radio, promoting specific services and beauty packages. “About 10 days before Christmas I advertise on the radio. For the past three or four years we’ve centered the ads around the day of beauty to entice people to think about gift certificates,” says Surratt.

Wherley advertises Spalon Montage’s services on two radio stations, in a metropolitan newspaper, and in an upscale regional magazine. “Throughout the year we work on reinforcing the image that we are a day spa rather than a salon. During the key seasons we go in for the sell on gift certificates. We advertise the perfect gift and list the services clients can get here. The response is huge,” he says.

In-salon promotions are also valuable. Who knows better how good the salon experience can be than your current clients? “We place small gift cards throughout the salon and at workstations. In December we give all our clients 12-month appointment books embossed with our logo and phone number. In the appointment book we slip a long card with a list of our popular spa packages. They take these cards home and leave them lying around for their husbands to see,” says Broderick.

The potential market for your salon’s gift certificates extends well beyond your current clientele. Multiply the number of clients you have by the number of gift-giving occasions by a couple of friends per client and you’ll see the enormous potential of gift certificates. Wherley says people who have never visited his salon but who have seen or heard one of his ads order gift certificates over the phone.

Many of the people who purchase gift certificates for your salon, however, will be regular customers or relatives of regular customers. “We have the same men come in year after year because it’s their annual gift for their wives. We have other men who come in all the time for gifts for their daughters,” says Broderick.

While most salons focus their advertising and promotion efforts around holidays, such as Christmas and Mother’s Day, Broderick has encouraged year-round marketing. “I have a full-time marketing person who visits other businesses with a sales kit and a brochure listing the service options they can try.

“I think there are so many opportunities in the beauty industry. We have a local bank that gives out gift certificates to the employee of the month,” Broderick says.

By Mail, By Fax, By Phone — Shop Without Leaving Home

Today’s consumer is busy and has little time to spend combing department stores and specialty shops for the perfect gift. For today’s busy shopper, catalogs and home shopping TV shows are a godsend. Salons can exploit the trend toward convenience shopping by offering gift certificate ordering by phone or fax.

“I just got off the phone with a man who needs a gift tomorrow for his wife’s birthday,” says Burge, as he explains the need to make shopping easy for customers. The man needed a gift that was both unique and thoughtful — and he needed it the next morning. “So I faxed him the brochure that describes our different packages. You can bet he’ll get right back to me.

“You have to make it convenient for customers by allowing them to charge their purchases and by mailing the gift certificate directly to the recipient and the receipt to the giver,” says Burge, who adds that he gets at least one call a day from someone out of state who orders a gift certificate.

Be ready to help shoppers choose the perfect gift. According to Klunder, giving clients the confidence they need to make the right choice comes simply from giving them a little time and attention. “We have a lot of husbands who come in unsure of what they want. We sit down and spend some time with them, make some suggestions, and explain the services. We make them feel important. That’s such a lost art.”

At About Faces, Surratt sets up a separate table for gift certificate sales during the Christmas holidays so that customers can get faster service and individual attention. She cleverly places the table in the salon’s retail area so that waiting clients can browse.

Broderick also sets up a separate gift certificate sales area during busy seasons. “We have four coordinators who sit down with customers, explain packages, and up-sell them. For example, our day of beauty may include a haircut, but then the man mentions his wife gets hair coloring, so we’ll try to incorporate that. We’ll tell them a package includes a half-hour massage and ask if they want to make it a full hour,” he says.

Make Them Come Back For More

Though none of these salons had exact numbers, a few estimated that as many as 25%-30% of the gift certificates they sell are not redeemed. “Don’t view this 25%-30% as found money; it’s lost revenue. Nine out of 10 customers who come in return, so I want to get them in here,” says Broderick.

Although you can’t expect to retain everyone who redeems a gift certificate as a regular client, these people are important customers for several reasons.

Explains Broderick, “Gift certificates sold in December keep our salon busy in February and March, traditionally our slow months. We may not be getting the same revenue, but it keeps the salon busy and gives the staff the opportunity to sell retail products and other services.”

A strong gift certificate program impacts your salon’s retail sales as well, says Burge. “Clients find something to buy or they decide to get another service while they’re here. For example, they start out with a manicure and pedicure and then decide to get their hair done or book a facial,” he says.

Broderick agrees: “Someone may redeem a gift certificate for a facial and a makeup application and leave with $200 in products.”

And, Klunder points out, many gift certificate recipients do return as regular customers. To ensure they do, Klunder conducts a short consultation with them on the phone when she books their appointment. After their first visit, she sends a thank-you letter and a questionnaire on their salon experience; when they return the completed questionnaire they receive a coupon for 25% off their next visit.

If, as so many salons claim, most of your new clients come because your salon was recommended by a regular, you will quickly see the profit from offering regular clients the opportunity to give a gift of beauty.

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