Money Matters

The Distribution Debate: Does It Matter Where You Buy Supplies?

Does it matter where you buy nail care supplies? And what’s at stake when products designed for professional use are available to the general public?

The two camps have taken their sides. On the one side are nail technicians concerned over the future of their industry, worried that public access to professional products will be the death of their businesses. On the other side, there are those who downplay the importance of where products are bought and sold, saying there is no clearly “best way” to buy products: it’s merely a matter of personal preference. And in between is a group of professionals who want to see the integrity of their products maintained, yet who need to be able to buy products from a variety of sources and to choose a supplier based on many factors: price, convenience, education, and availability, among others.

This is the distribution debate, and today’s topic is “Does it matter where you buy your products?”

Nail technicians have so many choices about where to purchase products than technicians did just 10 years ago. Today, distributor’s salespeople call on salons in person. A technician can go to a local beauty supply store and look and try products before she buys or she can browse a full-color catalog and call in her order for mail delivery.

These expanded options attest to the increased importance nails have attained in the professional beauty industry and to the economic clout nail technicians and manufacturers have in the distribution “food chain.” The attention on nails is also due in no small part to tremendous consumer demand for nail care products. Consequently, the way manufacturers distribute their products has become increasingly complex.

For a clearer understanding of which distribution method best suits your business needs, let’s look at the most commonly used methods.

Full-Service Distributor

The traditional full-service distributor generally has a warehouse operation and services the salon with field salespeople. That means a salesperson regularly calls on a salon to take product orders, handle product questions or problems, and otherwise keep the nail technician informed about industry trends, new products, upcoming education, etc. Ordinarily you place an order, and the products are delivered to the salon.

Essentially, full-service distribution is a channel for professionals only to buy products. That means the public – your customers – cannot get the products a full service distributor carries. Obviously, this ensures that your clients cannot circumvent the salon in favor of doing their own nails with the same products you use.

Also, because full-service distributors sell only to professionals, your clients cannot get the same retail items you carry in the salon.

This is a very important issue because nail technicians need to concentrate more on their retail programs. Nail technicians and salon owners who understand that the route to greater earning power is through retailing at-home products argue that they are unable to do so because the very individuals who supply their retail products also sell them to the public. If these products are so readily available, the mystique of salon exclusivity is lost. Using a full-service distributor is designed to alleviate that pressure.

Only a fraction of what consumers are spending on their nail care needs is being spent in the salon. Although the nail salon should be the natural choice for a consumer who wants the best quality, best suited nail care item, it usually isn’t. When a woman thinks about buying a file or bottle of polish for herself, she most often thinks about buying those products at the drugstore or supermarket. Nail technicians need to work to change that mindset, but they should also realize that they need to offer a product that these potential clients can’t get elsewhere.

To sell a client a $5 bottle of nail polish or a $4 bottle of cuticle oil, you must convince her of your salon products’ value. Specifically, you back them up, guarantee your work, convince her that the products have a higher, professional-only quality, and assure her that she cannot buy them anywhere but at a salon.

If your client is convinced of the products’ value but she can purchase them herself at the same beauty supply store you do, and often for less than you’re charging, why would she purchase those items from you? She could save money and get the very same “salon-exclusive” products.

By restricting the sale of products, the full service method protects the nail technician’s ability to provide service with a unique professional product.

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