Are todayâs cost-conscious consumers giving high-end brands the cold shoulder? When it comes to the salon environment, top retailers say, âNo!â and they offer up these 12 proven strategies to power sales in any economy.
Ah, the prestige brandâit denotes a certain top-of-the-line, even exclusive, status on everything from fashion to cars to hair care. But where the brand alone used to spark an impulse buy, todayâs prestige products are met with a consumerâs hesitation and an intense rationalization process.
âFrom where we were a year ago to where we are now is the difference between night and day, but itâs still not a robust market,â says Jeff Holland, president of Latitude 360 (latitude360.us), a company that connects dynamic brands with exclusive retail partners. âBut thereâs always a market for the prestige brand, and for the beauty brand that market is driven by newness. Consumers interested in prestige products want the exciting and the innovative, and they want it first.â
And, according to Holland, a trusted salon or spa is the exact environment where todayâs consumer will go for a prestige beauty or wellness brand. âWhile there are still consumers willing to buy the Ã¼ber high-end brands, they donât feel good about conspicuous consumptionâthey still want to shop, but are turning away from the high-end department store and seeking purchases in places that are more local and where they have relationships.â
âThey also are seeking an additional perceived value from a beauty brand,â Holland continues. âPortability is important, organic and natural brands are doing well, as are brands that deliver a health benefit. Consumers are more educated than ever, and are really picking up packages and studying the ingredients.â
Holland stresses that with the information available through television, magazines and the internet, these consumers are more savvy than ever, too. What they are seeking at the salon is the expertise that can shed some opinion and first-hand, day-to-day experience with prestige brands.
Tapping the prestige market starts with building the right environment, picking the right product partner, developing your staffâs knowledge and cultivating your expertise. Beyond that, itâs all strategy, say these successful beauty retailers, whoâve agreed to share their 12 top-selling tips:
1. Shift the Responsibility
Andrew and Kim Todd, owners of the San Francisco-based diPietro Todd Salons, found retail success in shifting the responsibility to the salonâs assistants, which has the added effect of boosting their professionalism.
At the multiple locations of San Francisco-based diPietro Todd Salons (dipietrotodd.com), itâs the assistants who are charged with the main retail responsibility. âRetailing is big business for us, and we have a good system in place,â says Kim Todd, who co-owns the enterprise with husband Andrew. âWe have 35 assistants, and they all sell retail. They are trained on it, their progress is evaluated weekly, and itâs part of their job description. Their relationship to the stylist is much like a nurse to a doctor. And, we all know as patients, you often get more information out of your nurse.â
Shifting the retail responsibility to the assistants helps them develop professional conversations with clients, stresses Todd. âClients perceive them in a new light, instead of as a shampoo lackey.â
The diPietro Todd enterprise always has been careful to partner with lines that suit the needs of their high-end clienteleâthe salon currently retails Rene Furterer, Kerastase and Shu Uemura. While the stylists are counted on to make specific client recommendations and the front desk personnel are encouraged to help support sales, itâs the assistants who are charged with closing the sale, and itâs the assistants who make the commission.
How the product conversation evolves depends on the strength of the individual assistant. Todd encourages the more meek assistants to use a product prescription, where the bolder rely on engaging conversation.
2. Sample with Discretion
The economy may be forcing salons to cut back on marketing efforts, but when it comes to prestige brands, sampling is still key, says Laura Chisholm, founder of Retail Avenue Consulting Group (retailavenue.com). âBut samples can get expensiveâit kills me when I shop and the sales clerk throws 20 samples in my bag, because I know she just gave away $40 worth of goods,â she says.
While Chisholm recommends broad sampling whenever a salon is introducing a new line, she suggests implementing qualified sampling for other instances. âDuring the consultation, ask the client what hair care products sheâs currently using. If she loves what sheâs using now, hold back on the sample. But if she wavers, be able to offer a sample of something you think sheâll like,â Chisholm says.
Sampling also can attract new clients, says Anthony Segretto, owner of Zazu Salon and Day Spa (zazu.net) with four locations in greater Chicago. âWe do a lot of fashion shows in Chicago where we partner with a local boutique,â he says. âWe add samples to any client bag that goes out, and now weâre using those prestige brands to encourage new prospects into the salon.â
3. Guide the Focus
When Scott and Helen Miller opened their flagship Scott Miller Salon and Spa (scottmillerstyle.com) in Rochester, New York, Scott Miller says he modeled his apothecary-like retail area after Collette in Paris and Fred Segal in Los Angeles.
âWomen are conditioned to buy their prestige beauty products from department stores, and department stores always lead consumers straight through the maze of cosmetics and fragrance areas,â says Scott Miller. âThatâs valuable real estate in a department store, so we decided to do the sameâboth our locations have 1,000 square-foot retail areas that spotlight lines like Bumble & bumble, Oribe, Kerastase, Acqua di Parma, Bobbi Brown and Nars.â
Scott and Helen Miller borrowed ideas from Collette in Paris and Fred Segal in Los Angeles to create their prestige-packed retail space.
At any one time, Miller says his retail areas are staffed by as many as two retail specialists and five make-up artists.
After learning from focus groups that some clients believed the salon only used the make-up to finish client services but didnât actually retail it, Miller adopted the motto, âTurn Left.â In both his salons, the checkout area is to the right of the service area and the retail area is to the left.
âWhen clients come in the salon, they naturally walk to the front desk and ignore the area they walk through, and when they are done, theyâll naturally make a beeline to the desk to pay and leave,â says Miller.
To direct clients where he wanted them to go, Miller set up a hostess stand for checking in. The hostess greets the client, checks them in and encourages them to relax with a cup of coffee and wander through the store. When clients leave, their service providers now escort them left, through the retail areas, saying, âLet me show you what products I used on you today.â
In a smaller retail space, you can direct the focus by setting up and maintaining a specific area to highlight whatever you are promoting at the time, suggests Segretto. âThat can be a table in the retail area or a specific spot on the retail wall, but donât leave it up to your staff or front desk to forget to mention the promotionâyou can condition clients to always check that area for promotions.â
4. Give Full Service
At the diPietro Todd Salon, every client gets a consultation at each and every visit, not just the first one. The client is always asked about her hairâwhatâs working, whatâs notâoffered some new suggestions, told about the latest and greatest products and shown how to do the new style at home.
âWe talk to our staff about full servicing the clientâthis is the piece that too many salons donât pay attention to,â says Todd. âClients want to know about new products and they want to know how to use them to duplicate the style you createdâif you donât offer that, they feel cheated.â
5. Ditch the Pitch
Stylists and clients alike are turned off by hardcore product pitches, but steer product information into a productive conversation and now youâve got a professional offering expertise to a satisfied client.
âI personally donât have a great memory when it comes to all the ingredients and price points of every single product we carry, and price doesnât matter that much anywayâif a client wants it they will justify the cost,â says Miller. âI instead suggest that my service providers pick two or three of their favorite products and talk to their clients about why they love them and canât live without them. People put a lot of trust and faith in their hairdressers, and most donât know the power that they have.â
Segretto also appreciates the conversational approach. âWhen service providers are using a styling aid, whether a blow drying lotion or styling cream, we encourage them to place the product in the clientâs hands as they are explaining why they are using it and what it does,â he says. âThen the client is interacting with the product and reading the label. Just by doing this weâve seen sales increase.â
6. Measure and Coach
At Adam Broderick Salon & Spa (adambroderick.com) in Ridgefield, Connecticut, retail educators and specialists coach and train the entire organization to achieve success in retail. For hair care lines, the salon currently focuses on Kiehlâs, Kerastase, Bumble & bumble and Oribe. Blu Bailey, one of those retail educators, says service providers are given specific retail goals each week.
âEveryone from interns to our editorial stylists receive ongoing retail education,â she says. âWe make sure stylists know when itâs time to introduce the product conversation, what to say during the consultation, not to judge what they think a client is willing to spend and how to handle rejection. If their sales are soft weâll talk them through different strategies and role-play different situations.â
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