Supply and Demand

So, it's been several weeks now and I think I can safely discuss the whole thing without yelling and screaming too much. But a friend of mine recently got a rather crappy e-mail that basically let her know that the company that she's been educating for won't be needing her anymore.

Naturally, that's a whole story in and of itself and I personally thought the whole thing was pretty darn crappy on several different levels. But, in a nutshell, the reason given was that the company in question needed demonstrators/educators who were capable of doing "high-end" nail styles, i.e., stilettos.

And let's never mind that my friend does stilettos, and let's never mind a lot of other things about the situation that just lead to me hopping up and down and calling ducks ducks until I collapse in an exasperated heap on the floor in a near catatonic state just shaking my head at the total nonsense of how it all works. Let's just never mind a lot of things.

Let's talk about the BF's perspective, which happens to be insanely good this time:

Who is the company's customer? You and me, right? We're talking about a nail product manufacturer here; they exhibit at tradeshows in order to put their product directly in front of their prospective customers. Now, maybe the stiletto thing is hot and heavy in some geographical regions. And I know that several U.S. techs love them and have great success with the style being popular with their clientele. But, from my understanding, the popularity of this style in the U.S. market is still the minority.

And yeah, we're suckers for fancy nail styles and art that amaze us and show off what is possible with a product. I'm certainly not arguing that companies shouldn't want demonstrators who can demonstrate extreme styles.

But I've walked the floors at the tradeshows. I've stood next to countless everyday, ordinary nail techs who work in the salon every day for a real living on real people who are not candidates for stilettos. Or any extreme nail style. I've heard these nail techs comment on the extreme nail styles worn by demonstrators and on the styles being demonstrated — and I've watched them walk on by to the booth where they find demonstrators who are demonstrating the styles that actually represent what those real people really wear.

These techs are sometimes intimidated by these "high-end" demonstrations. They feel that they are being shunned by manufacturers who cater to the competition crowd or the high-profile industry set. They don't feel they belong at those booths. Many of these techs simply know right from the get-go which side their bread is buttered on. They aren't going to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy products that they know they'll never use. They know their clients want pink-and-whites. Short ones, that don't get in the way of typing, changing diapers, or washing dishes.

Yes, I know. We all have a box full of fancy stuff we bought at the show that we hardly ever have a chance to use. And lots of us manage to use fancy things in ways that our clients want. It's not a hard and fast rule I'm talking about here. But the BF did bring up a good point: If you know your customer is going back to the salon to do nails that need to stand up to the horrible things that real clients really do to them, why would you insist on demonstrating techniques that your customers aren't going to use daily?

I think Ferraris are pretty too. But I drive a Nissan Sentra. And when I was shopping for it, I didn't waste any time in the Ferrari dealership oohing and aahing, I went to the Nissan dealership and bought the car I set out to get.

The Ferrari nail client represents a very small portion of the client market, and the Ferrari nail tech represents a small portion of the product market. It's all well and fine for manufacturers to want to show off what can be done with their products, but after the customer buys the product and gets back to the salon with it, you need educators who those customers can relate to, who spend their time in the salon doing nails the way the customer does.

I think my friend's former employer will find they've shot themselves in the foot over the long haul. And I'm seeing several manufacturers implementing similar thinking. The Ferrari market is small and there's already plenty of competition for it; isn't anyone left who wants to take care of the rest of us?

(Stiletto nails by Peggy Bartel, Nail Workz, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

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