Problem + Solution = Retail Success

To salon owner Jan Oates, they’re just as important as the salon service.

How important are retail sales? To Jan Oates, they’re just as important as the salon service — not only to the client’s ongoing happiness, but to the success of Nails or Not Last year, retail sales accounted for an impressive 44% of her home-based salon’s revenues. In 2000, 91% of her customers made at least one retail purchase, with an average ticket of $17.35.

Oates says she first got into retailing as an educator for Amana and Sharp when microwave ovens were first introduced. “We taught people how to use microwaves to make everything from pudding to roasts,” she says. “As we did this we would show them all of the wonderful accessories for their ovens.”

The goal, she says, was to teach consumers how to use their microwaves so that they would tell their friends what they could do, and that they would purchase accessories to enhance their cooking experiences.

“People would come back to me and tell me how much they loved what they had learned and the accessories they bought,” she says. “I learned that you can make people feel good about themselves when you show them things that enhance the process.”

Oates carried this lesson to the salon, where she advocates educating clients about the products used during the service and the products available to prolong and enhance the results.

Her retailing philosophy is simple: Know your clients, know the products, and put the two together to make a success story. “If you recommend things that really work to solve clients’ problems, it creates a trust,” she relates. “That’s the difference between a personalized service and just making sales.”

Oates takes her cues from her clients. If someone complains about dry skin, Oates asks how she’s addressing the problem: Is she applying hand cream during the day? How often? Is she using an overnight cream? She also asks about her lifestyle. For example, are her hands in water a lot?

“I talk about exfoliating the hands and what she can use to add moisture,” she says. Oates also makes her own suggestions based on her personal observations. “I may tell a client that her cuticles are very dry and I’ll ask her what she’s using.” Oates will then outline the client’s product options and make a recommendation based on what the client says she can commit to. Her goal is to spend 15 minutes of each hour-long service on product education.

Oates is also a great proponent of sampling. “I like to give clients a few sample packets of a product and then follow up at the next appointment,” she says. When samples aren’t available, Oates recommends clients purchase the smallest bottle available to see if they like a product. “I tell them if there’s something they don’t like, they can bring it back for a refund,” she says.

By the same token, Oates doesn’t deny that retailing is a vital part of per income. “If you take just one product a month and tell every client how it could help them, your salary will go up,” she says.

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