December 2011

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


Converting Retail Customers into Loyal Clients

When I began my nail career I sold product to my clients only when they asked…. a bottle of polish for touch-ups or a great pair of cuticle nippers for the occasional hangnail.

To me, retailing was just simply a way of adding value to the client experience.

And I did not sell all that much. But that didn't concern me because my business was focused on service, not retail.

Also, since I was working alone in a very private location, the number of clients exposed to my retail was limited. Since I could not justify investing more money and devoting more space without the potential of reaching more clients, my selection of products was limited.

That all changed when I moved my business (Precision Nails) to a boutique shopping center about six years ago. I had been in my previous location for eight years, paying the same reasonable rent, only $595 a month with utilities included.

Moving and expanding was a risk, but a calculated one which was necessary if I were to grow my business. The new salon was only 15 minutes away from the old one which helped me retain my clients. That was a plus since the expenses were much greater.

Looking for a challenge as a salon owner, I certainly found one. As part of the commercial lease I signed, I am obligated to be open six days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Therefore that required hiring two more manicurists to cover the hours and serve more clients. Even with the costs and constraints of a commercial lease, it has been a very good experience so far.

One important aspect of this new location was what we learned about the role of retail in a salon. While the primary focus of the business remains nail services, selling retail is required even from service tenants by the shopping center.

Given my limited experience as a retailer, that was initially daunting. To me there is a distinction between clients and customers; clients receive services and sometimes purchase products, while customers only purchase products.

Unlike my former salon which had no customers, I could interact with existing clients by appointment and with potential new clients by phone or email. In the new location, which was the only nails-only salon in the shopping center, I no longer had the privacy I had enjoyed before.

Complete strangers would come into the salon each day to inquire about services, or check on the availability of their favorite products. As expected, Precision Nails reaches more potential clients, but it does not look like a typical nail salon from the outside; there is no neon, or signs on the windows, or any indication that walk-ins are welcome.

What does entice many to enter is the comprehensive selection of professional nail products visible from outside. As useful as retailing can be in satisfying the needs of existing clients, it is an even more powerful tool for attracting new clients. Investing in retail makes a statement about the stability of my business and my commitment to particular professional brands.

We interact with everyone who enters the salon, and whether this results in a service or sale, or neither, we do our best to be informative. The brochure explains our services; while the retail display makes it clear which products are our favorites. The only products we sell are the ones used for services, regardless of what's popular or trendy.

Polish is our best seller, and that is no surprise given that Precision Nails maintains the largest, most current selection around. The attractive and colorful displays, the same kind used by distributors, make a great impression. We also sell tools, disposable files, scented and unscented lotions and exfoliating scrubs, cuticle remover, callus spray, base coat, polish, topcoat, acetone, etc. The same marketing materials and displays that convince manicurists to buy these products work just as effectively in the salon. They look very professional, and are affordable, if not free, from manufacturers. Rather than just sell, we also offer advice about how to best use the products.

If Precision Nails were a beauty supply source, my approach to retail and customers would be different, maybe something along the lines of "the more, the better" stocking all the major professional brands and some cheaper generic brands and hiring full-time salespeople and advertise discounts.

The primary purpose of Precision Nails is to provide professional nail services; that is why all my employees are licensed manicurists, not salespeople. That is what makes our approach to retail more believable. Our exclusive services demand the most effective products available, and if we do not use or sell a particular product, there is a valid reason. We believe strongly in our professional products, the value goes beyond their performance and that can instill loyalty in your clients. While some retail customers may never become clients, they support my business nonetheless.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D. owns Precision Nails, an exclusive nails-only salon in Carmel, California. She can be reached at