Build Your Own Thriving Retail ProgramWhile retail revenues for our industry have been flat or growing at minimal levels, most salons have the tools and knowledge already in place to substantially increase their product sales and expand their brand with minimum effort.

But first you need to ask yourself some key questions:

Do you really understand the value retail can bring to a business?

Are you educating your customers or just acting like quintessential salespeople?

Could your sales declines be a symptom of more deeply rooted issues?

In the past four years we’ve doubled and expanded our retail environment to 4,000 square feet with plans to expand another 25 percent by next summer.

This growth also has brought new customers into the service area. On average, our styling team now sells 30 to 50 percent retail to service dollars each month while our aestheticians sell 50 to 100 percent retail to service dollars.

Sales weren’t always so spectacular. An analysis of sales patterns helped us determine why some employees were star sellers and others struggled.

Build Your Own Thriving Retail ProgramWe found service providers with high retail numbers also had strong referral, retention and request rates. Conversely, we learned that service providers who weren’t as busy also were weak in one or all of the Rs: Referral, Requests, Retail and – most importantly – Retention.

Our findings were a real wake-up call. We decided it was essential to provide clients a full-service experience. We took the following steps to integrate these expectations into our culture:

First, we recognized the value of turning repeat customers into loyal customers – those who shop across the brand, refer others and are not interested in coupons, gift certificates, discounts and promos from competing establishments.

Second, the house and service providers recognized and appreciated the value of home care. We now are fully committed to providing stocked, clean shelves that are full of products at all times.

Third, our front desk team learned to follow through on stylists’ recommendation. We also make ongoing monthly checks to ensure the entire team is on message and up to date on product knowledge.

The growth in sales also gave us increased leverage with vendors; our success is their success.

We’re having fun, customers are happy and the business keeps growing.

Our retail sales now remain an ongoing focus, constantly evolving. We collectively celebrate and reward high achievers every month and support those who need help through education, role-playing, scripting and other confidence-building tools.

We coach the team on key questions to ask, how to listen and respond to customers’ signals and their specific needs. In short, it’s vital to understand the clients’ current needs and let them know we understand and hear their concerns.

We’re all so lucky – we have a captive audience and own our customer’s attention for at least an hour. We are the specialists: We’re here to educate and inform on styles and products that will give them best results with minimum effort. We’re also a filter to separate all the chatter and fluff from ads, blogs, fashion magazines, television and department/ drug store cosmetic counters.

Customers want to know the difference between professional salon products and drug store retail counter products. They want to know what works best for them. And they’re willing to pay a premium for this advice.

Your culture sets the standard. Employees need to understand why the customer comes to your establishment and how to not only meet but exceed their expectations.

If you aren’t educating your customer about services, products, home care and your entire brand, you’re not providing them the full experience or even listening to their basic needs.

How would you feel if you were in their shoes?

Allan Labos has more than 30 years of beauty and style experience across the country and in Europe. He began his career under the tutelage of Vidal Sassoon in London and opened and managed Sassoon salons and schools in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. For the past 25 years he has owned and operated Akari, a 20,000-square-foot business in Portland, Maine. Akari offers hair, nail and spa services and also includes a boutique, fitness center and medical spa.