March 2010

Retail Matters

Retail Matters | by Steve Sleeper


What They Didn’t Tell You in School Can Go a Long Way

So you’ve finished your studies and are heading out into the real world.

Eager to put all those newly mastered cutting and coloring techniques to use in launching your career, you may soon find that there are a few fundamentals to the salon industry that they didn’t prepare you for in school.

While it’s true that your technical savvy and profound understanding of helping your clients discover their inner style is essential to landing that coveted spot behind the chair of a great salon, you will soon find that your job doesn’t end at the finishing touches to your client’s new look.

Understanding the role that retail plays in you and your salon’s success is an essential part of being prosperous in the beauty industry – whether your goals are to make a name for yourself as an industry master, become a platform artist, and especially if you aspire to one day own a salon of your own.

It may be surprising to most new stylists to learn that retail actually makes up an astonishing one third of the professional salon industry, bringing in nearly $2.5 billion annually to salons.

A common problem many new professionals face is fear of rejection; they’re afraid they won’t land the job they want; they’re afraid clients won’t be happy with their new look, and, when it comes to retail, they often lack the confidence to recommend products because the client will say no or ask a question that they won’t have the answer. This fear of rejection can become a serious problem for new stylists if it isn’t faced in the beginning.

When you start your new dream job, you’re going to have more down time between appointments than your more established peers. Use that time to be proactive and take ownership in your career. Here are a few tried-and-true tips from some of the nation’s most successful salon owners:

Learn every detail of every product your salon carries – Just because you’ve never used that deep conditioning serum for extra curly hair doesn’t mean you’ll never use it in the future or need to recommend it. Always be prepared for any client’s product need and be prepared to answer any question they might have about it.

Don’t sell to your clients, educate them – No one likes a pushy salesperson but everyone needs to be educated by those who know better than they do. Data from PBA’s Business of Beauty retail study released last year shows that salon clients look to their stylist as the expert. Contrary to popular myth, clients are not put off by their stylist recommending products but actually expect to be educated as part of the service on what products to use to extend that fresh salon look at home.

Recommend at least one product every time – Everyone needs shampoo, everyone needs conditioner, and everyone needs product to create his or her desired look. Make it a rule to tell your client about each and every product you use on their hair, and why you chose that product, while you’re using it. Then remind them of what you used when the appointment is coming to a close. Even if they don’t buy it that day, it will stick in their mind and they may purchase the product during their next visit. The worse you’ll ever get is a “no thank you.”

Pinpoint your selection – Your salon may carry 10 products or 50. It may be easy for you to distinguish one from the other, but for your client, the sea of products before them may be a bit daunting. Help them through the process by pinpointing which products are right for them. Take those products off the shelf to separate them from the rest while you talk about them. This will make the process much easier for you and your client.

Set your own goals – Setting personal and professional goals will help you motivate yourself to be the best you can be in life and your career. This should be a process that grows with you as your career grows. Once you reach a goal – for example, sell at least three products per week – set your goals higher. And, don’t forget to reward yourself for reaching them.

Try role playing with your friends and colleagues – Everyone needs a little constructive criticism. When you have down-time at the salon, pair up with a colleague and take turns acting out the selling process. It will help you build confidence in your delivery while giving you some great ideas. Plus, saying it out loud is a great way to teach yourself about the products you might not know as well as others.

The most important thing to remember as you set off on your career is that no matter what type of product your salon sells or how high-end your salon, every salon in the industry depends on retail to grow and succeed. You are not just a hairdresser, as part of your salon’s family, you and your retail efforts play an important role in that success.

Steve Sleeper is the Executive Director of the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), which is made up of salons and spas, distributors and manufacturers dedicated to improving their individual businesses and the industry as a whole. For information, visit or call 1-800-468-2274.