While the nation's economists battle out whether or not we're in a recession, we're all feeling the pinch from soaring gas costs and food prices. That includes your clients, whom you may find are stretching, or even skipping, appointments and cutting back on pampering spa services. While most salon and spa owners realize their retail area can represent an important source of salon profit, this area is too often overlooked. With roots on the creative side, too many owners and service providers worry that "selling" makes them seem too pushy or overbearing, offending valued clients.
Remember though, these clients are seeking your advice, and your professional opinions can actually help them manage their budgets by preventing them from wasting money elsewhere on products that don't address their specific needs. Armed with the right products, clients can recreate and protect their salon styles beyond appointments, resulting in a higher overall client satisfaction. And, of course, a boost your bottom line never hurts-especially now.
Q. How should I introduce my new employees to retailing?
A. "It should start even earlier," says Patricia Owen, owner of the skin-focused Faces DaySpa, BeautyBoutique and SpaShoppe in Hilton Head, South Carolina. "We include questions about retailing in our interviewing process."
Kristi Valenzuela, success coach, speaker and owner of the consulting firm Crystal Focus, Inc., suggests that it can be as easy as handing the applicant a red pencil and asking her to attempt to sell you the product. "They may feel silly, but what you're looking for is their willingness to try. If they push it aside and say they can't do that, chances are they won't attempt to retail your products either."
Once you've made the hire, retail training needs to be an integral part of your orientation and training program. Valenzuela recommends developing a retailing system, writing it down, scripting the pitch, and role-playing the system during orientation. "Finally, draft an agreement that says they've been introduced to the system and agree to play by the rules, and ask new employees to sign it the first day. It makes them take retail seriously."
But make sure all your employees play by the retail rules, or your new employees will quickly backslide into bad habits. Valenzuela saw the power of an entire organization in retail action when she recently coached a salon in Round Beach, Illinois. "Their retail to service ratio was a startling 23 percent, where the national average is about 8 percent," she says. "We kept questioning the math, but found the ratio was right-so we took a hard look at the system. We found that when appointments were booked, the front desk advised clients of upcoming product specials. When clients checked in, they were again reminded of specials and told to ask their service providers what products would work best for them. Service providers talked about products during the service and at the shampoo bowl. At the end of the service, the stylists pulled recommended products and handed them to the client as they checked out. It's solid and it's brave, but because everyone in the salon did it, it didn't feel uncomfortable, and it worked."
Q. How can I get my staff to take retail seriously?
A. The most effective retail systems directly tie retail goals to an employee's ability to advance in the salon. Daired Ogle, owner of Daired's Salon and Spa Pangea in Arlington, Texas, maintains a system where staff providers advance through a series of levels with goals set in retail, retention, pre-booking and conditioning treatments sold. "When a staff member accomplishes these goals and maintains them for a period of three months, they are promoted where they can charge more money for their work and they receive a new title. Each time they receive a promotion, they are given new goals."
Employees are evaluated weekly, and management discusses strategies for improving if necessary. "Our main goal is to elevate our customer service level, and all these areas we measure tie together, doing them all well we really are creating a great experience for our guests."
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