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To encourage salons to create true retail experiences for their clients, Evolve Salon Systems’ Craig Michaud recommends owners and managers go shopping themselves—not for products, but rather ideas. 

“The only way salons will be able to compete against online giants is by creating a retail experience for their guests—it’s something salons still have absolute control over,” he says. “It’s the same reason Best Buy crushed it last month when everyone said they could no longer compete.” 

For example, Michaud encourages owners to take an observational stroll through Bath and Body Works. “They really understand how to take advantage of a promotion—there are always multiple deals to shop in the store,” he says. “They create a retail experience with display tables that are beautifully highlighted with a mix of lighting.”

Michaud recommends taking notes on how the retailer organizes its displays, communicates messages through signage and imagery, and encourages shoppers to smell, sample and experience the product. “They even have someone at the front giving shoppers a basket or shopping bag, which encourages consumers to shop for more than what they can hold in their hands,” Michaud says. 

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When you look at traditional salon design, it is amazing how little space most salons dedicate to their retail areas, Michaud says. “When you ask owners what percentage of their business is retail, they’ll frequently say about 25%,” he shares. “But when a new salon is designed, frequently they’ll only allocate 5% or less to their retail space. If you designed your space more like a traditional retailer, your sales would increase.”

According to Michaud, the retail space should be a combination of ambient lighting and spotlights to create white spaces and shadows, with the spotlights falling on the products. “The easiest way to increase your retail sales is to hire an electrician and spend $500 on track lighting,” he advises. “Again, pay attention to the lighting the next time you’re in a retail store. That’s why your eye is drawn to the merchandise.”

Your retail products should be stocked above knee level. If you have lower shelves, use them for storage or for liters. “The retail sweet spot is between the knees and eyes,” Michaud says. 

Most people are comfortable opening beauty products and smelling them, says Michaud, and only a handful of manufacturers have seals on their products. “For those, you may need to create some testers.”

And, finally, always host lots of promotions. One merchandising display that worked well for the salons Michaud works with was a Warehouse Blowout Sale. 

“We put in a display of aerosol hairspray, ordering 10-15 cases for a salon, cutting the sides off the boxes, stacking them as if they were in a warehouse, and putting the display right next to the checkout. Pile them high and watch them fly.”

“That’s the reason grocery stores have endcaps,” Michaud says. “We all experience great retailing displays every day, but few owners study them and recreate them.”