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Management Practices

Winter Retail Blues

Laurel Nelson | July 10, 2011 | 12:31 PM

Happy Anniversary!

At Brown and Deline Salons in Ypsilanti, Michigan, owner Cathrine Brown Issel was looking to overcome the overall sales slump she experiences during the early winter months.

Although February is slow for this northern salon, the month also marks the anniversary of one of its locations. To celebrate and spark sales, Issel created Super Saturday, which she now holds annually on a Saturday preceding Valentine’s Day.

“We offer 10-percent off any gift card and 10-percent off any add-on service such as a deep conditioning treatment or a clear gloss,” says Issel. “We also post great promotional prices for specific staff members who are trying to build up their client base,” she adds. “The first year we simply marketed it with fliers, but we’ve gotten more sophisticated by talking it up with individual clients, posting mirror talkers and including information in shopping bags.”

Winter Retail BluesOn the day of the event, Issel also offers special sales incentives to staff with an award for the highest retail sales and highest add-on services sales. She keeps it lively by awarding Starbucks or other gift cards each hour for the individual with the highest sales that hour.

 â€œThe first year we were excited when we hit our sales goal of $6,000 for that day, but by creating more hype for the event, this year our daily sales hit $52,000 for the two locations—with one of those locations hitting $34,000. Our clients now look forward to this event and ask about it in advance.”

Promotions with Purpose

To combat the typically January/February slowdown and simultaneously build the books for new protégés that are coming onto the floor, Experience: Salon Spa Esthetics in Pensacola, Florida, employs creative marketing.

“Typically in January we’ll have one or two protégés ready to start booking appointments,” says owner Phil Fennel. “That’s also a time we know we’ll see slowdown because clients are out of cycle because they got in early for the holidays,” he adds. “We’ve established solid brand recognition for our hair color work, and we also know that retention on new color clients is two to three times higher than clients who only get a haircut.”

From the middle of January through February, the salon runs promotional ads that state the salon is so convinced of its quality of color that it’s willing to offer new clients complimentary color service for the price of a hair cut, which is $40. The two caveats are that the appointments must be booked with one of the new protégés and if the requested color service exceeds $90, the client has to make up the difference. When the new client comes in, they receive a thorough consultation, including a separate color consultation and a quote for the service so there are no surprises upon checkout.

“When a service provider is less than 50 percent booked, I’d rather give services away than having people sit there and be idle,” says Fennel. “But this promotion allows us to recover the cost of the hair cut which is high for our market, and many of these clients turn out to be corrective color clients.”

Fennel either runs ads in a local regional woman’s publication or a city magazine, and he frequently runs “scatter ads” in the Sunday paper. “When we run in the Sunday paper, we’ll run our big ad in the Life Section because we know it’s well-read by the female readers. But then we also run small, 2x3-inch ads in the Home and the Health sections that simply state our name and say, “See our ad in the Life Section. Those smaller ads only cost me $75 a piece, but they really work—people will come in and say, ‘I saw you all over the paper.’”

Fennel says each time he does this promotion he spends less than $2,000 on the entire campaign.

The last time the salon ran this campaign it attracted more than 130 new clients. “And when we tracked retention after 90 days, we had still retained 67 percent of these new clients,” he says.

The campaign has proven so successful that Fennell will start running it a second time in the summer if he has more new protégés hitting the floor.

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