Updated: Nov 12, 2021
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed up in overalls and looks like work" -Thomas A. Edison
I can't believe there was a time in my career that I was opposed to retail. I was genuinely anti-retail because I thought it made me a "car salesman". I was an artist, how dare anyone suggest that I sell products! I am positive that many of you can relate to that very feeling. As I'm sure you've read the title, and as you read this post, I hope you can tell my opinion on the matter has drastically changed. It took a bit of work from a dedicated manager to start to shift my perception of retail. Once that took place though, I found myself to be very passionate about what retail has to offer to not only us as the Creative Service Provider, but for our clients as well.
I am pleased to announce that I was able to interview FOUR INDUSTRY EXPERTS over the last three weeks. I will be including excerpts from those interviews in this post as well as citing their expertise on each area we will be going over today. They all bring a unique approach to the topic of retail and it was a pleasure picking their brains. Their detailed information will follow at the end of this post. Here are their names and the industry they belong to:
Importance of retail
The very first question I asked each of the experts was "How do you feel about the importance of retail as it pertains to your area of the Creative Service Industry?" Each of them weighed in on why they felt that retail was important to them and to their specific area of our industry. Not a single expert said that retail was unimportant. Arlie and Tommie both felt that for cosmetology and barbering offering the services that they do, retail is a must. It supports the services that they provide and is vital for at home maintenance. Tommie specified, "Now that barbers are offering many more service that they hadn't in the past such as color & texture services, retail goes hand in hand with them". Arlie also stated that "due to the investment that her color clients are making, products that support the health and longevity of the services they received are extremely important".
When asked about the importance of retail, Kathleen and Jesseca stated that products for their fields are much more "health" oriented. Jesseca stated that specific to esthetic services, take home products were also for support as it is for the hair industries, but it was meant to support the hard work that she puts in on her clients skin. She also mentioned that solely relying on what the clients are using at home on their skin was risky, and could undo her hard work to correct the health of their skin. Kathleen stated that "there are very few options for manicurists and nail technicians to offer for retail and so many don't even try". She also mentioned that it is worth offering a small selection of products to maintain nail health, and you would be doing yourself and your clients a disservice if you choose not to offer any retail at all.
As I listened to each expert discuss why they thought that retail was important, I was reminded of an article I read many years ago that compared us in the Creative Service Industry to doctors. What they explained was it is our job to recommend retail products to our clients to fix whatever ailment they suffer from. Whether it be a lack of volume in their hair, an issue with dry skin, or poorly maintained cuticles, it is our duty to recommend to them what they need. Everyone has something that they need either fixed or maintained, keep this in mind when evaluating your personal decision to make retail a part of your professional arsenal.
We have discussed in length why it is important to the customer for you to recommend retail, what about you? What's in it for you? Well, aside from the obvious monetary benefit and increasing profitability, you will see an increase in trust from your clients when you recommend the appropriate products to them. You have provided them a reason and physical evidence that you know what you are doing and that you have their best interest in mind.
When asked "Would you say that retail is a missed opportunity in your field?" all the experts said yes. They all had different answers as to why they believed it was something that their industry lacked in, but the general consensus was, it looks a little like too much hard work. The question they were asked as a follow up to that was "Do you feel that many in your field lack retail skills, or do they feel its less important than the services they provide?" Arlie stated that she believed that cosmetologists lack retail skills in general and that its due to poor training in schools. I agree very strongly with her assessment since I was an educator of cosmetologists for many years. I got to see first hand that the school curriculums were lacking when it came to retail. Kathleen believes that manicurists have the skills and even stated that she believes its natural to them but that they view retail as unimportant. Tommie stated that barbers are historically not known for their retail but that they are all starting to come around to its importance. Jesseca said that many estheticians are afraid and not sure what to do when it comes to retail, and at times if you are responsible to purchase your own products, finding a starting point can be overwhelming.
I personally feel that retail is missed in our industry because most truly don't understand its value. The blame can be placed in many areas but it all starts with the schools and the initiative of the Creatives themselves. You can look at it in two different ways, either you take personal responsibility for your own education and seek out what you need to improve yourself and your business, or you blame the school that you went to for not giving you everything you need. I believe that the true answer lies between the two. Schools can take some of the blame for not presenting what an asset retail can be, and individuals should always seek out ways to improve their income and their knowledge, retail sales can solve both of those issues.
Now that we know the problem, how do we improve?
"What advice would you give to someone in your field looking to improve their retail skills and success?" Tommie said it best, "Stop selling and start talking!" When it comes to improving your retail skills it is important to reevaluate what you are doing, if it isn't working it's time to try something new. Tommie likes to take the approach of "planting the seed" and allowing his clients to come to him when they are ready. He educates them on the products he is using and takes great care in using the products on them so they can "try before they buy" I agree 100% with his approach to using the products on them so they can really get a sense for what they can do before they take them home. Kathleen suggests that you "stick with it" and "keep trying" because practice makes perfect. She also suggests that you keep your retail area looking fresh and change it out often so that your clients don't get too used to seeing the "same old dusty shelf with the same boring products on them".
The approach that Jesseca suggests is very much in line with the prior mentioned "doctors" approach. She suggests writing down the recommendations you have for your clients and giving it to the receptionist to finalize the sale. That is a fantastic approach that works for the spa industry very well. She stated that it is the reason for her success with retail. This method allows the Creatives to provide a wonderful relaxing service, make a professional recommendation, and then turn it over to a sales professional at the front desk. This method may not be for everyone but if you have the ability to try this out I highly recommend it. For the salons, spas, and shops that don't have the luxury to pass off their sales, using the "prescription card" method is a great one. You can totally sell the "doctor" aspect of it as well by explaining each recommendation, showing them each product, and then handing them their "prescription". It would still be very important to finalize the sale by saying something like, "Based on my professional recommendations for you and your needs, which of these would you like to take home with you today?" If they say that they would like to think about it or pass on that today, follow that up with "Great, please take this prescription card with you so you know what recommendations I've made and we can follow up on your next visit"
Once I heard Arlie's method on selling products to skeptical clients I knew I had to share it with the world. She told me that if she hears from a client that they use "department store" or poor quality products instead of salon quality products she tells them "I personally use salon quality products and I always recommend that my clients use them as well". She then tells them her personal experience with learning the difference between the two qualities instead of trash talking what they are currently using. This is her story she tells her clients, "I was skeptical of spending money on salon quality products as well so I decided to experiment for myself. I used my daughter as the guinea pig and used drug store/department store products on her hair for 4-6 weeks and documented the results. Next I followed up with using salon quality products on her hair for the same 4-6 weeks. I was able to see a clear difference between the two. The salon quality products made my daughters hair feel and look healthier, and delivered on the results that the bottle said they would. Compared to the drug store brands that made my daughters hair dry and unhealthy in appearance, it was an easy decision for me to make the switch to salon quality products." Arlie at that point allows her clients to make the best decision and challenges them to try it for themselves.
So, how about extras?
The last question I asked each of the industry experts was, "What are your thoughts on selling additional, non-typical products such as; clothing, jewelry, stickers, hats, etc.?" This question triggered a lot of great responses. Kathleen feels that for nail salons, they could and should diversify their retail with anything that is in line with beauty and relaxation. She said that clothing, jewelry, and boutique type products are not a good fit. Tommie agreed with Kathleen and said that items that don't have to do with what you are offering don't belong in the shop. He said, "Selling someone's old radio, or products that don't fit, don't make sense." He also felt that shop branded shirts may be acceptable if it fits your shops vibe. Jesseca felt that in the spa setting a few things could work, definitely items that pertain to your industry and contribute to relaxation would be great additions to diversify your selections. Another suggestion she made for spas that have the room was offering local artisans items. She felt that it could be a great way to network with others and promote other creative peoples work. This could work in only the right environments, but if it works for you this could be a great way to build relationships with others and encourage them to promote you as well as you them. Networking in my opinion is always needed and important, if you can find a way to check the retail box and the networking box, that is definitely a win win situation if you ask me. Lastly, Arlie felt that in the salon setting, with already many retail options, offering non-typical products could cheapen the experience. However, she does believe and agree with Tommie that promoting yourself and your brand is something that can be acceptable in the salon.
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeeded."-Michael Jordan
Not a single one of the industry experts I interviewed said that retail was easy. Not a single one said that increasing your sales would be easy. What they all agreed on was that persistence and dedication is the key to everything in our business. If you want to succeed at anything you must keep trying and never give up. The quote above by Michael Jordan is at first glance depressing, but when you get to the end it hits you like a ton of bricks. He realized that all of his failures were what paved the road to his success. Retail sales are no different, if you truly want to improve, keep at it, you will see success!!!
If you have made it all the way through this post, then you are dedicated to your field and I extend to you a challenge. If you are not currently offering retail products at you establishment, START NOW! If you or the establishment you work for already offers retail then start tracking your numbers. You cannot know what needs to be improved if you don't track your numbers. Once you get in the habit of tracking your progress, monitor your improvement and always aim to increase after each milestone. In no time you will be a retail expert.
ITS TIME TO UP YOUR RETAIL GAME, ITS WORTH IT!
Business: Hair by Arliece @Rootz Salon
Social Media: Facebook- Arliece Dauplaise
Business: Jesseca M Smith Esthetics Education
App: Esthetician Resource Guide-Play Store
Esthetician Resource Guide-Apple Store
Social Media: Instagram- @jessecamsmithesthetics
Business: Milan Institute Instructor
Business: Torres Barbering @ Matador Men's Grooming
Social Media: Instagram- @torresbarbering
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