Marketing & Promotions

Buying On Impulse

Prominently exhibiting in-vogue items in attractive displays will have your clients buying retail items on impulse.

Prominently exhibiting in-vogue items in attractive displays will have your clients buying retail items on impulse.

Have you ever noticed how many times your clients ask you if you sell a certain home nail care item? Did you have enough foresight to already carry it in your salon? If you didn’t carry it, did you take the initiative to stock it?

You don’t have to do the hard sell to make extra profits on salon retail. Most of the time, simply letting clients know that you offer products clinches the sale. A gentle verbal reminder of what you offer (or recommend) and an easy-to-look-at display of your products are usually enough to bring in retail profits that can sometimes equal 50% of your salon’s gross revenue.

An eye-catching silver display exhibits rich-colored lipsticks. Geometric-shaped earrings sway from the branches of a gold metallic tree. Next thing you know, your client’s opening her purse, rummaging for a few extra dollars for that spectacular shade of mauve melange or those dazzling turquoise earrings the receptionist has just recommended.

Welcome to the lucrative world of impulse buying. Whether it’s a practical purchase or a frivolous one, all of us have entered a shop for one item and left with two or three.

For salon owners, this simple fact can add up to a lot of extra dollars in add-on sales. The trick to making impulse buying profitable is to understand what it is all about and how you can tap into this market while keeping your clients happy and coming back from for more.


Think about the last time you bought something on impulse. What made you do it? If you’re like the rest of us, it was probably because a salesperson suggested it, a display caught your eye, the item itself was irresistible, or a combination of all three.

It’s no accident that you grab a pack of gum or a magazine on your way out of a grocery store. Placing certain items in the reception area or near the cash register almost guarantees their retail success. What’s the difference if you write a check for $40 for a set of nails or $43 that includes a package of neon files?

Well-trained receptionists can easily introduce clients to impulse items at the front counter by demonstrating how they look or feel, handing out written information, or merely bringing them to a client’s attention. A simple introductory phrase such as, “Have you seen our key chains that convert to a nifty nail file?” can empty a full bin in no time.

Items and displays that encourage conversation between clients are even better. A brunette sees a blonde purchasing a purse-size bottle of nail glue in a colourful, air tight container.

 “What’s that?” the brunette asks. The blonde hands her a container and the brunette runs her hands over the smooth plastic top.

 “I love it,” the blonde says. “It’s so convenient. I’ve already bought one for my daughter and I’m buying two more for me.”

A third woman sees the other two holding something in their hands and discussing it, and she walks over.

 “What’s that?” And so on.

Interesting, useful items sitting at the reception desk often sell themselves by eliciting a kind of domino buying effect. All you have to do is continue to supply the product.

An effective visual display appeals to the consumer because of its artistic design, its message (usually the “header card”), and its colors, pictures, and themes. A good retail display is well-organized by size and category. There are no empty shelves, nor are there crowded ones. The display has more impact if there is some visual variety, such as mirrors, interestingly placed lighting, and other props. Anticipate client questions by including informative posters or brochures next to the products. The product you want to highlight should be highlighted, that is, made the focal point of your display. Use your common sense together with your imagination---if the display appeals to you, it probably will appeal to your clients, too.

Technicians can also foster impulse buys by wearing a pair of attractive earrings or a hand-painted T-shirt. Yvonne Miller of Erika’s Naughty Nails and Hair in Sun City, Ariz., says they often sell items that their technicians are wearing.

Modeling clothing, jewelry, scarves, and even nail polish colors can attract a client’s attention and start her thinking, “If that looks good on her, won’t it look good on me?”

These thoughts usually prompt the client to ask, “Where did you get that wonderful hairpiece (shirt, earrings, nail polish) you’re wearing?”

Once the question is asked, all a technician has to do to clinch a sale is answer, “Aren’t these great? We have some right over there.”


Impulse buys usually appeal to people on an emotional, psychological, or physical level---or on a combination of all three.

One client imagines how soft that silky scarf will feel around her neck. Another client, suffering from scaly, burning skin, considers how a cream that immediately cools and softens her chafed hands will feel.

Convenience items such as purse-size bottles of polish for easy touch-ups appeal to clients who like to be prepared. Fun and trendy items such as a colourful beaded ankle bracelet or a glittery neon polish and matching lipstick appeal to the emotional needs of fashion-conscious buyers.


The most successful impulse items are the ones that create a sense of urgency---the client must have this product now, for it may not be here tomorrow.

Many of the nail, hair, and skin care products sold in salons naturally elicit that impulse because they can’t be found in drug or discount stores. These types of products also create a sense of urgency because everyone wants to discover something that will help her look and feel better immediately.

Visual aids can also help create that “buy now” feeling. A page torn from a well-known magazine that shows a model sporting a new fashion trend sends a silent message that this item is in vogue and should be purchased as soon as possible.

Because patrons of nail salons tend to be fashion-conscious women and men, impulse buys can cover a wide range of merchandise. But because each salon attracts a different type of clientele, it’s impossible to say what merchandise will and won’t sell in your shop.

Some salon owners find their clients like to buy everything from nail and hair products to makeup, perfumes, and gift items such as wallets and watches. Other clients are only willing to open their pocketbooks for gift certificates or specialty items such as hard-to-find lipstick and polish colors. Still other clients prefer buying practical items such as nail maintenance kits, scissors that fold in half and slip into a portable case, or quality files and buffers.

Clothing, stockings scarves, socks, jewelry, and gadgets such as nail drying machines and novelty nail clippers are also good choices for salons that have the counter space or an extra room to create a mini retail center.

To discover what will sell in your shop, experts advise writing down everything you think your clients would want if you provided it or suggested it to them. Use your instincts, and be willing to experiment, because you never know where you’ll find the next “hot” item. Introduce one or two products at a time, and keep careful track of the results.


One of the easiest ways to foster impulse sales is to create dazzling displays. Lining up row after row of nail polish doesn’t catch the eye. But stack a few dozen bottles in a pyramid pattern on a shiny shelf, and you’ll be surprised at the number of clients suddenly interested in looking at, and buying, your polish.

Hanging ceiling displays also garner a lot of attention, as do free-standing platforms that encourage clients to pick items up, touch them, feel them, and try them. Clients will begin wondering how that rich, apple lip gloss will feel on their lips, how flattering those glittery nail stickers will look on their nails, and how appealing that scent of perfume will smell on their skin.

Still another successful impulse selling technique is to plant ideas within the display. Wrap a few nail products in a foil bag with a handful of tinsel spilling out the top under a sign that reads “Stocking Stuffers,” and you’ll probably sell a basketful during the holidays when everyone is rushing around trying to figure out what to buy for people on their list. Show clients an enticing way to wear a pin, or techniques for transforming a scarf into a stunning accessory, and these simple items become fashion must-haves.

Displaying only one or two of a particular color, shape, or pattern also fosters impulse buyers to think, “I’d better buy this now because there are only two left and the one I want may not be here tomorrow.”

So the next time you walk into a store and find yourself in line at the checkout, your hand clutched around an item you had no intention of buying, ask yourself, “What made me grab this? How can I translate this same feeling to clients in my shop?”

Provide fresh, interesting merchandise displayed in creative ways and, like you, clients will snatch those irresistible items on their way out the door.

And the beauty is, you and your technicians may not need to utter a word.

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