Ah yes…gold. That glittering, glistening, gleaming, glorious precious metal intrigues, beguiles confounds, perplexes, confuses dismays, bewilders and fascinates it is schemed after, plotter for, protected, guarded, sheltered, pursued and how it is adorned. Bracelets bangles, necklaces, lockets, earrings, anklets, chains, brooches, watches, rings hairpins, belts, glasses...and quite dramatically, nails.

Adorned as charms, gold fingernails and toenails, this sought after metal is combined with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and other precious and semi-precious stones in a daring effort to add that certain flash, style and drama, to further satisfy the human desire for embellishment, for status, for fashion and for beauty.

For the nail industry, this consuming passion for gold and all that it stands for has long since passed beyond what at one time was described as merely a passing fad, growing as it has into an industry within an industry, with a product as diverse as the companies that produce and offer them. It is growing business, especially at the salon level, where consumer interest in gold adornments continues to increase.

One company whose goal is to satisfy this demand, with a sophisticated combination of product, marketing and merchandising support, is the Ligonier, Pennsylvania-based Anything Goes Inc., owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Richard and Pamela Gross.

As a company, Anything Goes was the brainchild of Pam, a petite, energetic and attractive young woman enthusiastic about her company and product. Quick witted with an intensity displayed by her rapid style of speech, she is the perfect complement to her husband Richard, with his methodical and precise personality. As a company, they are an upstart, young firm, one that saw an interest and quickly pursued the market. They are fast-growth oriented and are vertically based to maintain the control they need for all stages of the company; designing, manufacturing, selling and marketing, and shipping. As a team, Pamela and Richard have put a great deal of research into product and market, aiming their intentions at pursuing sales in just one market: the nail industry.

With all the research and market investigations, however, the one element that impressed the firm, that capped their decision, was the early interest in their product.

“We pursued the market and saw the initial interest,” said Pamela, “an interest in our product that came from outside, that came from people that we recalling us, that had heard about the product from another salon or friend. In a short period of time, the word of mouth reputation of the product and what we were trying to do with it snowballed into a demand that practically forced us to grow on a national basis.”

The initial response to the firm's line of gold nails was, according to Richard, a blend of respect and promotion.

"We found that our clients enjoyed the product so much that they took them to their local fashion editor or they wore them to their local society party and they showed them off and spurred the type of interest that showed us the long term demand for our product and approach. And the best part about it was that they always mentioned us as a company and individuals when they promoted a product."

"We quickly recognized the need in the nail industry for a fashion piece of jewelry that could be sold within the beauty salon," explained Richard. "We never considered  it a fad item, always looking at it as a high fashion piece of jewelry that just happened to attach to ladies nails and is retailed out of beauty and full service salons."

As an initial introduction, Anything Goes debuted two different styles of gold nails: the natural length and a longer sculpted length. But within a year, the line was expanded to include 14 different diamond styles, and three exquisite finishes. Currently, Antying Goes offers three length styles, thumb and toenails; three colors (yellow, white and rose); available in three finishes, bright (high polish), brushed, and engraved (overall antique look), as well as a variety of adornments; those items place into the gold nails in all existing sizes and colors.

In the adornments, for example, the firm offers a two-heart design or a script intital as a way of personalizing the plain gold nails. Diamond styles are also available, ranging from the diamond solitaire to multi-diamond adornments of up to 10 diamonds. Of their diamond/gold combinations, there are two that Richard and Pam are especially proud of: the Chevron, a style with 36 diamonds paved into the nail surface; and the Utlimate, whereby the entires surface of the nail is paved with 64 to 225 diamonds.

"The pave, a procedure where the diamonds are inset very close together, is all hand done, an element that we are very proud of," explained Richard. "And with our quality approaches and style of work, we can literally offer the customer just about anything they may desire." According to Richard, the Anything Goes line ranges in retial price from $39.50 to $3000.

The success of the team, as Richard and Pam are quick to point out, not only relies on their product line, with its quality and styling, but what they see as their own personal style of customer service.

"I think that one of major keys to our success has clearly been our service," enthused Pam. "It is keeping my customer in the shop happy, something that is very important to me." "We care," agreed Richard. "We have a friendly, professional relationship with our clients. Because of this approach we are able to guide them in our marketing concept and talk to them not just as a hard, cold sale but to help guide these businesses in what we have found in our experiences that have proven successful. The bottom line is that if we can help them become more profitable and help them understand our products, then we will be profit­able as well. We know that by helping them any way we can, it will also ultimately help us."

"Just as an example," he added, "as a manufacturer we are greatly concerned with the business aspect of distribution and of having proper supply in the various geographical areas. But we also recognize areas and recommend to our clients the proper size and style of nails that are going to sell well in that area."

As a case in point, Richard stated that "Southern California is the Mecca of the sculptured nail indus­try and all of the immaculately manicured hands at a proper pro­fessional business length required a nail that complemented a business­woman but that was also an adorn­ment. We have solved that situation with a perfect size and style.

"However, the girl in Minnesota, where temperatures go to 20 below, where they are facing a more con­servative market, requires another style of nail. So as much as we are concerned with distribution, we are also interested in and will answer any questions the client may have . . . and that is over a WATTS-free line that is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time."

As a further example of the Any­thing Goes style of service, Pam offered the following scenario:

"I just recently had a customer who was working in her garden and dropped a brick on her toenail. She immediately called me and said, 'I just smashed my toe nail with a brick, and even though it probably saved my toe, what do I do?'

"So we told her to send it back, which she did, and we sent her a new one because it was so badly damaged. But we replaced it at a minimal charge. That customer, obviously, is a very good client, but that will give you an idea of the extent that we have gone in our service approaches.

"What we have tried to do, with our total line, is to bring it through the vehicle of the nail industry through the manicurist and full service salons to the consumer in a situation where the customer can have the confi­dence that this product is being sold to them by a professional who understands nails. We happen to be very committed to the selling of the product through the professionalism of the manicurists and salon," out­lined Richard. With this style of marketing and business attitude, said Pam, service plays an impor­tant and crucial role.

"Style, fit and quality are our key points; it is what makes us unique, but we know that without our cus­tomer service the trust that our clients have in us and our product would soon be lost."

As much a part of this com­mitment to customer ser­vice as it is to improved efficiency, Pam and Rich­ard have just finished installing a computerized inventory and order­ing system that "addresses and solves the myriad of problems fac­ing a company with a complex line of products.

"This new system will be very exciting," explained Richard. "For example, when a customer calls in with an order, we will know immedi­ately if the item is in stock. Also, we have the capability to secure the account to only the authorized buyer and to answer questions regarding any past purchases. With this sys­tem we will also have total tracking of the order from the time of shipping to arrival of merchandise. In fact it has already improved and reduced our ordering and shipping time tremendously.

"In short, this system will be able to give us tremendous flexibility and answers to a variety of situations and questions instantaneously."

This new capability adds impor­tantly to the existing service and marketing/merchandising pro­grams currently under operation at Anything Goes. It is a step that is in keeping not only with the company's future' plans, but also Richard and Pam's commitment to providing the kinds of information and help that they proudly point to as service but more importantly, as an extension of how they want to do business and what they want to be known for.

"We want to be recognized as a professional, national company that offers immediate shipping and that can provide the quality of product and support materials to help ensure the manicurist and salon owner success with our product," empha­sized Richard.

The support material, Pam quickly added, includes display posters of product in use, point-of-purchase materials, starter kits, all-in-one sizer kits, ad slicks for local adver­tising, an Anything Goes window sticker and dealer program, and a display box "for suitable display and purchase encouragement."

In addition, their firm provides tips and guidelines for selling the product more profitably.

"With this type of product, of selling jewelry in a service industry, the direct marketing/selling is a must . . . that being the showing of this beautiful piece of jewelry. This is a one-on-one sale. But," he added, "there are ways of improving your chances for the sale."

His suggestions:

— The manicurist must wear the nail so that she can be a walking, talking model of the product.

— The salon owner or manicurist must try to create an air of excite­ment in offering the product in the salon through local endeavors. For example, contacting a fashion editor of a local newspaper to highlight the fact that the salon is introducing this unique item.

— Introduce the gold nail as an incentive at a charity or non-charity function such as beauty contests.

"The object is to stir up local interest, to generate curiosity in the product," revealed Pamela. "This product can be sold in a matter of seconds and generate roughly the same amount of money as that made on a full set of nails with a labor of about an hour-and-a-half."

Richard agreed, adding, "As a resale item, adding a 14kt gold nail to a customer is like selling a client two sets at one time... it can greatly increase your earnings."

To begin offering 14kt gold nails, Pamela suggested a starter pack­age that includes six nails in assorted sizes, styles and colors. In this manner, the manicurist has a variety to show to further entice her client.

"And as an incentive to the salon owner or manicurist to make such a commitment," said Pamela, "we are offering the starter package attrac­tively priced less than if purchased separately."

As a company and a team, Any­thing Goes and Richard and Pam are inseparable . . . much of their time is devoted to trade shows where new products are test mar­keted and further marketing inroads are attempted.

"This gives us the opportunity to see firsthand reaction to our work, and to associate names with faces," explained Pamela. "We like to meet our clients personally and to give them a chance to meet us as well. We must attend in excess of 20 shows but it is a commitment that reinforces our overall customer service approach."

Pam and Richard believe that they are offering what the nail industry needs to fully profit from the appeal of gold and that age old desire for adornments. They are a hard work­ing team with sensibilities steeped in their past experiences in a variety of businesses ... it is those past lessons that have undoubtedly shaped Anything Goes, and should provide the insight and understand­ing necessary for their continued long term success. As Richard explains it… "We are very unique as a team in that we are both busi­ness people.

"We fully understand our busi­ness, the industry, the product and the needs of our clients. And," he added with a slight smile, "We know how to help our clients make money."

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