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Management Practices

Enlightened Experience: An Owner’s Take on Retail

Stacey Soble | April 6, 2012 | 8:02 AM

As the owner of Head Games salon in Portland, Maine, Alanna York always believed salons and stylists deserved more from the brands they’ve represented. “We are on the front lines, educating the clients, enlightening them to new products and doing the actual selling, building the brand’s reputation,” she says. Following that passion, and tapping into the client’s desire for a unique, environmental experience, York created Use Me Products, which offer salons even more earning potential.

ST: For a salon, what’s the difference between selling services and selling products?

York: “The profit margin on retail sales is much higher for salons compared to service sales. It seems many salons lose retail focus and miss out on the additional and easy increased profits they could be enjoying. On average it can take $20,000 in service sales to realize the same profit from only $4,000 in retail sales. In business, it’s not about how much you sell, it’s about how much you keep. Often stylists feel uncomfortable educating their clients about the product they should be using at home. They feel pushy, like a sales person. What we all need to realize is we are sales people. We feel perfectly comfortable selling our clients on our inspiration for a new look, so why the disconnect with the professional hair care products? Too often stylists make assumptions about what their guests can afford, but it is insulting to your guest to assume they cannot afford to maintain their look at home with the use of professional products. We have systems in place at my salon to be sure every guest is treated equally, and all guests are shown and offered the products that are used on their hair that day. Retail sales jumped at my salon when I taught my stylists that client retention increases when clients buy retail from them. Guests really do appreciate having the correct tools to use at home.”

ST: How does your retail concept offer owners more profit margin?

York: “The salon owner in me demands more profit from the retail I sell and thinks the traditional markup is just not enough. As a manufacturer, I had to find a way to offer more to salons while also keeping with the eco-chic philosophy I wanted to embrace. This necessity spurred the creation of the Use Me Filling Station. By having salons purchase cleansers and moisturizers in bulk via three-gallon containers, and having clients refill their own bottles, salons can enjoy $3 in additional profit on every client refill. My own salon has seen more than $2,000 in extra profit from client refills in the three months following the installation of our filling station. The best part? My staff didn’t have to do anything extra for my business to make this money. My salon makes more money, and we all use fewer plastic bottles. Guests love having an experience with refilling their bottles as well, and feel good. Professional salons are in competition with companies like Sephora and Lush for retail. These companies are smart enough to supply the customer with an experience. This is what we are missing in the professional realm. We need to let our guests touch, feel and smell the items we are offering to them, but that is too expensive for most small businesses to offer, so I had to create a way for them to have a similar experience, at no expense to my business. The self-serve filling station fulfills the customer’s desire to touch, and people love it, probably as much as salons love the extra profit!”

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