Heat Up Retail Sales Year-Round With Seasonal Sensations

You’ve got to explore what particular products traditionally sell best seasonally. You can then fine-tune your actual selling strategy to suit your geographic area, your clients, and their particular needs.

When was the first time you bought a hand cream for yourself? If it was during the cold winter months, you’re much like the average consumer. But now that you’re a seller, you’ve got to think about hand creams and other winter retail favourites even before the weather cools. You want to stock and promote those items early on. Successful seasonal selling depends on good preplanning. If you do it right, there are big rewards at the end of each and every season.

According to several nail technicians, nail salons have more latitude than hair salons to add various retail items because nail salons often have three characteristics vital to retail success, open floor space, a client who sits idle for a long period of time (while her nails dry), and the opportunity to talk to the client. Hairdressers, who have to be heard over blow dryers and who rush clients back and forth from the chair to the shampoo bowl, have less time to retail. This puts the nail technician in a position to cash in on what’s called relationship marketing All that really means is having a relationship with the client that allows you to know what she wants, when she’ll want it, and how much she’ll pay for it. And it’s more than just a nice way of saying sales.

But before you can make relationships work for you, you’ve got to explore what particular products traditionally sell best seasonally. You can then fine-tune your actual selling strategy to suit your geographic area, your clients, and their particular needs.


Most nail technicians report that top coats and base coats, nail enamels, and files sell well all year. Any retailing plan should start with these basics. The products should be prominently displayed in high-traffic areas and be accessible to browsing clients who want to touch. According to Arlee Jensen, vice president of merchandising for Garden Botanica, free-standing retail stores that do not put products behind glass cases have grabbed a large percentage of clients who were dissatisfied with department store shopping. Sadly, salons stood by while free-standing stores reaped millions in sales last year.

So whatever clients want from you most must be out in the open. These items will draw clients to your other offerings.

At Color My Nails in Salt Lake City, Utah, Monica Bruin adds to the lure by placing can­dles, coffee, and cookies in an open area near her product displays. Her primary nail product dis­plays are up front, near the reception area, but since her salon has independent contractors, each technician also has her own retail display. Bruin neatly solves the problem of competing with her own renters by dissuading independents from carrying the same lines the house does. Technicians get 10% of the sale if they retail one of the house’s products.


Successful retailing relies on preplanning. Once you start, you can track each year’s successes and near misses, then make adjustments — in product mix, specific product ordering, and timing of displays.

“For 1995, have your yearly plan outlined by October, before the holidays,” recommends Ada Menzies of Smart Salon Concepts in Boulder, Colo. “Keep in mind that you should always be six weeks ahead of the season in order to be successful. You need time to order product, set up displays, and get customers’ attention. For example, once we offered a free pair of sunglasses with any manicure/pedicure service, but we did it earlier than most clients would want sunglasses. They hadn’t already bought them at the stores so it acted as an enticement.

“Also, you’ll be more successful if you tie a retail promotion to your hottest service each month. The night we took our St Patrick’s Day displays down in March, we put up our waxing displays before our waxing business really got going around Easter. This was to get clients thinking. The retail the in display included body lotions, Pedi slippers, summer nail polish colours, loofah sponges, natural body brushes, spray-on mineral water, and tanning products.”


Considering the traditional approach to seasonal selling, January is a great time for products that treat dry skin. Whether it’s body lotion or cuticle oil, now is the time clients need it most.

“Body care products are hot sell­ers in nail boutiques,” says Menzies.

“You have a client in front of you for 30 minutes to talk to about how to slough off her skin at home. At the last National Cosmetology Association (NCA) show, m a class on new products, there were all kinds of new items that nail salons could retail to secure some of the skin care market. There were body lotions that had herbs in them, light sloughing products and moisturizers, and a tortoise-shell nail file in a case that retailed for $25 and would look great m an evening bag. These are die items I’d go for in January.”

Les Charles of Les Charles Hair Concepts in Cape Coral, Fla., says that when he tied a seasonal best-seller to a “staple” product, it brought him the most success. For example, promotional pairs that worked for him included a hand lotion and a nail colour at a single price and a sunscreen and a shampoo.

“Sloughing lotions definitely sell in winter,” says former NCA Nail Technicians America director Shirley Thomas from The Hair Port in Palmyra, Ill. “Everyone has such dry skin in winter that we sell a lot of lotion. It’s a great time to get clients hooked on a paraffin service, too.”

In Speonk, N.Y., Fran Benanti says hand lotions and cuticle creams sell well year-round, not just during winter months. Which brings up a point: If an item is selling well, do change your displays and keep the item. You may have discovered a geographic year- round seller, especially if you’ve been regularly recommending it to clients, thereby creating a need.


By March, you should have your hand care and sun-protection products on display. If you’re a nails-only salon, there’s no reason you can’t offer moisturizers or retail body care items. If The Body Shop chain, which recently surpassed $115.7 million in U.S. sales (up 47% from last year), succeeds without offering skin care services, you can, too.

And if sandal weather is coming to your area, be prepared with pedicure products, foot creams, and files.

Says Alice Joiner, an NCA educator and a nail technician, “Pedicure items are often overlooked. Some technicians are afraid to retail something they think they can get service money for, but we can’t forget that we’re in the business of giving clients what they want.

Most clients get pedicures less often than manicures, so why not sell callus boards, foot creams, and the like?”

Consider also loofah sponges, body brushes, self-tanning creams, spritz-on mineral water, any product that contains sun-protection ingredients, pedi-slippers, toe separators, and of course, spring polish colours.


May and June are bridal and prom months. Lighter polish shades, French manicure colours, emergency nail kits, and even attractive compacts sell well during these months.

“Once, I got inexpensive gardening gloves for 79C each and I gave away a pair with every manicure and pedicure during May,” says Menzies.

Gardening time is also when artificial nail wearers need the most help. “From May through the summer, when women who have artificial nails have their hands in water more, nail glues and emergency repair kits are popular,” says Joiner.

Pay particular attention to creating enticing displays during these months because clients you’ve never seen before, such as prom clients, are coming in for the first time. You may have just one chance to convince them to return.


In Florida, Charles’ clients prefer a more natural look for summer and abandon their artificial nails for a while. Because of this, he finds that hand lotions, cuticle oils, and creams sell best in July, not December.

In New York, Benanti says neon-colored polishes sell well during summer because they look great against a tan.

By August, Menzies recommends thinking about back- to-school and taking care of those nails that were trashed dining summer.

“Get your back- to-school displays out in August and you’ll see sales increase by September,” she says. “Begin promoting artificial nail services and related retail. Stock up on hand conditioners. By the end of summer, hand conditioners can be sold as retail products, or you can promote hand-conditioning services.”

Adds Thomas, “I tell clients that just as they should keep chlorine out of their hair, they should keep it from drying out their nails. During summer, I sell lots of cuticle oil, but nail salons can sell shampoos that get chlorine out of hair, too, because you have the client’s undivided attention.”

Joiner agrees and says she has adapted language she’s seen hair companies use promoting summer fun and dry hair and uses it on signs near nail product displays.

“Remind clients that chlorine can dry out their skin and nails because it’s highly alkaline,” she says. “Use a sign that tells clients to remember to care for themselves while having fun and position it near travel kits.”


By mid-September, your back- to-school displays have run their course. Menzies says it’s time to think holidays, and that by October you should be pre-booking holiday appointments. You should also have your winter holiday products and displays ready to go up the moment Halloween is over.

If you’re going to introduce makeup, Menzies says this is the time. “Buy in very small quantities until you’re in the makeup business,” she adds.

Gear up early with gifts for office parties, including more unusual items such as bath oil beads, vials of aromatherapy scents, and more. Menzies created a “stress relief’ kit that was promoted prior to the holidays, which included such items as an herbal tea, a sample size of hair conditioner, and a Votive candle. All were wrapped in a little bag and an accompanying sheet told the client how to de- stress with a cup of herbal tea, a great bath, and a hair-conditioning treatment. After all, now is your time to get creative.

“If you offer gift certificates, make them more fun with retail,” says Menzies. “Package your certificates by adding a polish or a cuticle conditioner to every one. Also, pre-wrapped gift sets are ‘killer’ during this time. No one wants to bother with wrapping (always display one unwrapped set so they can see what’s in it).

“Keep in mind that you can’t buy in October and be ready for the holidays by November. Companies are taking orders for special items earlier and you’ll get the leftovers if you wait too long. Start ordering holiday items m September. If you go to merchandise marts for special items, order eight to 10 weeks in advance. Finalize your promotions and displays six weeks in advance of the event and have your products on the shelf at least one month before the event.”


Now, your pre-packaged gifts are out and your stress-relief and manicure kits are ready to fly off the shelves. If you don’t pre-package items, have boxes and gift wrap on hand. Also, be ready with what you’ll display in January Once clients expected to see holiday items marked down at least 10 days before Christmas and drastically educed after; now it’s not unusual to see markdowns as early as right after Thanksgiving, and where mass retailers go, others generally follow If you don’t, the customers will follow the bargains, away from your business.

Says Menzies, “If after your mark-down period items look picked over, get rid of them Always keep displays fresh.”

Most salons report that red polishes and nail art sell best during November and December, Joiner recommends retailing press-on nail decals that clients can use at home.

“Show them how and they’ll appreciate it; it doesn’t mean they won’t want nail jewellery from you” she says.

More than anything, original gift ideas that cannot be had everywhere in town will sell best.

Recalls Charles, “Once I sold Rembrandt tooth polish and it sold well; then it appeared in the grocery store for $1.50 less than I could buy it. You can’t sell something that’s at the grocery store; stick to specialty items that clients can’t get anywhere else.”

Major department store chains follow this advice, changing their merchandise mix by 5%-10% on a regular basis to make them stand out from the competition. You need to regularly visit your competition to make certain that your holiday offerings aren’t par-for- the-course elsewhere.


Entrepreneurial nail salon owners have tested a wide variety of impulse items, with varying degrees of success. Success depends on both commitment and in-depth knowledge of your clientele.

Bruin says T-shirts, earrings, and fashions account for 50% of her business. “In a tourist area, that’s what sells,” she says. “I make a trip to the Los Angeles Merchandising Mart six or seven times a year. I use my walls and my new retail room to display the items.”

While Menzies once had great success selling pantyhose as an impulse item, Thomas said they did not budge off her shelves. What does: boxed greeting cards.

Says Thomas, “I have the cards on five different turnstiles, along with mugs, gift wrap, and Mylar balloons, which I sell for weddings and to clients who are having special parties. The mugs do well year-round, too.

“I’m going to create a card club, like department stores have for nylons. If a member buys 12 cards, she gets the next one of equal value for free.”

Considering that women over 50 are the biggest purchasers of greeting cards, according to Ken Banks, vice president of the Eckerd drugstore chain, the cards are a natural for a salon with a mature clientele. For those with the retail blues, Thomas, who knows her clientele well, says she sells $10,000 a year in cards and mugs.

Adds Menzies, “The main thing to remember with impulse items is to change your inventory frequently.”


Whatever you choose to retail, remember these keys to success: let your strong year-round sellers support your seasonal products; build sales with items that are related to your business; and try out impulse items that specifically relate to your clientele.

Change displays frequently, plan well in advance, and don’t abandon an item prematurely if you haven’t put your full commitment behind it. That commitment involves attractive displays, a well-trained staff, accompanying signage, and, most important, customer feedback. Today, what sells is what the customer wants most, at the price she’ll pay for it. You can spend thousands on studies to determine who will buy what for what price, or you can ask your client what she’d like to see most while she’s sitting right in front of you.

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