Do It Yourself Merchandising

By Jenny Hogan

You can dramatically increase your salon or spa’s profits with the right attitude towards retailing and merchandising.

A business plan for retailing does not have to be elaborate. You can use common sense, low budget ideas with a do it yourself merchandising plan, as long as you are willing to make a radical shift in your mindset about retailing.

Salon/spa cash flow expert Gary Ahlquist works with Inspiring Champions, a business training and coaching company specializing in the beauty industry. Ahlquist regularly advises business owners how to instantly boost their profits with retail.

The first thing to do for your new retailing plan -- get rid of the chairs in your reception area. You are going to be turning the entire reception area into a retail store. “Letting clients sit and read magazines while waiting for their appointments is not an effective retailing strategy,” instructs Ahlquist. “The five or ten minutes they are waiting are the perfect amount of time for them to browse through your retail store. Relying on your staff to sell products is the old way of thinking about retail. The new way is to engage your clientele and create a real shopping experience for them.”

You do not need elaborate shelving, furniture or displays for your store. In fact, the more basic, the better. Ahlquist recommends using simple retail shelving, since shelves won’t even be seen once they are filled with products. Line your walls with shelves and create a wall between your store and your treatment areas so that you have made an enclosed environment.

Make sure shelves are no deeper than eight inches so that you can completely fill them with products; studies have shown consumers prefer an abundance of merchandise be displayed. Your retail “store” area should be approximately 20 percent of your salon’s total square footage.

Move your reception desk as far as possible from the front door, so that clients must walk through your retail area to reach it, having a shopping experience on the way. Fill the center space of your store with islands or tables that are approximately waist high. Look for island displays that have space built in for slide-in panels to display promotional signage.

You could also use simple tables covered with attractive fabric, creating multiple levels to hold products and signage. Placing a promotional table filled with your product specials within ten feet of the front door is a great way to slow down clients after entering, and help them start browsing.

Ahlquist says that a great way to create low budget displays for your store is to think creatively. “Go to the dollar store and use your imagination; you can find wonderful and unique things to build displays with. One owner bought a case of bobble head dolls and replaced the heads with small product promotion signs. He placed them around his store and every time the front door opened, the bobble head signs would start vibrating. This was a great way to attract attention to his promotions around the store.”

Discount stores can also be good places to buy items in bulk such as banners, cards or materials to make displays or signage. You can also buy pre-designed paper invitations, brochures and paper frames from online sources. This way, even if your product manufacturers do not offer promotional materials, you can create your own very inexpensively. You can also create beautiful back lit signage for your walls all by yourself.

Go to your local building supply store and buy fluorescent lighting to make your own light box displays. Mount the lights horizontally over your shelves. Then, have some beautiful photographs printed onto plexiglass, taking out the glass from the lights and sliding the plexiglass in for a luminous, eye popping effect.

Engage your clients by making your displays as interactive as possible, with testers, samples and products shown out of their packaging. You can come up with your own creative ideas for great promotions.

There are many inexpensive ways to create an interactive shopping experience for your clients. You could offer entry into a contest when they purchase a minimum amount of products. The prize could be a free service, gift bag of products or a coupon for a local restaurant if you cross-market with neighboring businesses. You could offer scratch off coupons that offer discounts on products or services, and have the look and feel of a lottery ticket. One long time favorite is the big bowl of jellybeans, with a salon or spa prize for guessing the correct number. Any promotion where clients have to do something in relation to buying products will successfully engage them.

Beauty shows are great opportunities to buy products in bulk at good prices, with generally a 15 to 25 percent discount. The end of the day on the last day of the show is when manufacturers are feeling especially generous with deals, wanting to move merchandise that they will otherwise have to take back with them.

You can leverage towards multiple product sales with promotions like the ‘loss leader,’ where you initially lose money but gain it back with a higher retail ticket. One client bought a gross of flat irons at a show on the last day for $59.95 each, a $10 discount on each iron. They then offered the irons for $49.95 in their salon when clients bought $150 worth of products. So, they lost $10 on each iron, yet more than made up for the discount in their retail sales.

Your manufacturers/distributors will also have monthly deals offering a 15 to 20 percent discount on their specials. You can pass those savings along to your clients for a limited time and then earn additional profits by returning the prices to full when the promotion ends. The more retail you carry in your store, the deeper the discounts your manufacturers will offer, along with freebies and other extras.

You can offer a “gift with purchase,” providing a free item like sunglasses, tote bags or water bottles after a minimum product purchase. You can offer a discount such as getting the fourth product for 50 percent off after buying three items. Always require at least three products be purchased before giving a deep discount. Run advertisements in your local paper with your sales and promotions to attract clients, just like the real stores do.

Do not forget common sense merchandising basics that have no price tag. Offer a money-back guarantee and ensure displays are clean, neat, well lit and that products are clearly priced and labeled with your contact information. Use eye-catching signage, attractive displays and fill your front windows with direct, concise promotions to entice new clients in. Offering your clients a shopping experience on their way to their appointments will build client loyalty, referrals and retention while earning you more income and giving your business real consumer appeal.

With planning, creativity and a little ingenuity, you can design your own retail store and dramatically increase your business profits. Do it yourself by using low budget ideas and opening your mind to a new concept of retailing and merchandising for guaranteed business success.

Inspiring Champions is a business and coaching company. For more information call 800-496-9305 or visit Jenny Hogan is the Media Director at Marketing Solutions, Inc. For more information, contact 703-359-6000, visit or send an email to

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