How to source your salon brands
With the explosion of wholesale hair and beauty cash and carry type stores, it seems as though hair and beauty salons have more choice than ever to source the brands that best fit their hair and beauty salon businesses, with the added convenience of evening and Sunday opening times and a true one stop shop to cover all aspects of salon services and salon retail needs. But with no way of mitigating the possibility of your nearest salon competitors stocking up on the same products and the dreaded anticipation of clients disclosing they can also buy the same products on third party ecommerce sites, possibly even below the recommended retail price (RRP), we look at some other ways to be a savvy salon owner and source the brands you, your team and your clients will thank you for discovering.
So you’ve dreamt of opening your own salon, maybe you have been working freelance or spending years working for someone else. You’ve taken the plunge, you’ve worked on your business plan, finance is ready and now the premises are yours. You may well have already identified the products lines you want to use, maybe you have already placed your order, but if you haven’t settled this side of the business before you start, you are missing a huge promotional opportunity to launch your lines along with launching your services.
Why are your brands that important?
The brands you work with reflect your business concept. The products you use must fit your clientele’s preferences and aspirations, as well as providing the performance you and your team demand from the products you use in your services.
A high end salon with middle range products may be sending mixed messages, and no matter how much you may personally like a particular product line, if your salon services and pricing don’t fit easily with the brand values or price point, your business plan will break down.
When you get the right fit between your salon, your clients and the product ranges you use and promote, your clients will do a lot of promoting and recommending for you and your retail sales will start to take off.
When you go to launch, the right brands in salon can be a huge marketing advantage, and your new brand partners will be pleased to offer some extra support and marketing to make the launch a success!
There is a great deal to be said about brand loyalty. If you work with great products that you like and your customers like, and they sell well, why change? There is no good reason for changing unless you’ve stuck with a product range for the wrong reasons. Those reasons may be because when you started with it, the brand was new, innovative, exciting and difficult for customers to buy elsewhere. Or it maybe that it fitted your salon concept and clientele before and you haven’t spent the time thinking about how your business and clientele have changed over the years. You may have overlooked the need to draw in new clientele and retail customers and happy to risk the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to change. That may all be understandable, but it is still a good idea to keep an eye out on trends, what’s hot in the hairdressing and beauty industry and what innovations you could make in your salon to build new business without sacrificing the great business you already have.
So of course, keeping an eye out on the changes in the industry and the development of new products is part of your professionalism. If you don’t know about some new product that everyone is talking about, it’s only a matter of time before one of your client tells you about it!
Throughout the year there are some really fantastic hair and beauty trade shows and exhibitions, and it is worth a visit to one or two every year to keep up with industry developments. At the shows you will come across brands you know, and lots of brands you don’t know, so spend your time really looking closely at what each brand has to offer to businesses like yours, as well as handling the products, the packaging and checking ingredients. Pick up the literature, and look the brands up online to see whether what you saw at the show fits with how the brand represents itself on its website, social media and in the industry press.
So you’ve seen something you like and you want to change, or add to, your existing products.
It’s now time to drill down on how the brands actually arrange their distribution model. If the brands supply the big trade wholesalers you know its only a matter of time before it seems as though the products are all gracing the shelves and windows of your competitors, and some of those competitors may be a completely different kind of salon to yours – are they sending out mixed messages by stocking this brand? Does that reflect well or badly on your salon if you too were stocking the brand?
If the brands work by independent distributors and have a “rep” covering your area, you may well find this a useful service, as you will have a designated person to communicate with and take your orders. Check out the other brands that “rep” works with to reassure yourself that the “rep” really understands and value the brands they are working with.
Independent distributors can be of all sizes. A big product portfolio is not always best; a portfolio of complementary rather than competitor brands is a really good sign, as those distributors are working to provide a selection of products to offer similar kinds of salons, and will most likely reflect a common theme running through their business and the brands they represent.
What kind of support does your salon need – marketing materials, training, good old fashioned personal service from people who really understand your business?
Now the crunch time, and it is the question every salon owner prepares to ask by anticipating an answer they will not want to hear : “What is your minimum order?” This is an extremely important question and the answer may well end all your hopes and dreams in a heartbeat. Feeling pressured into agreeing to huge minimum orders, including products that you don’t want, is bad for your business. The stock will sit on your shelves and the resentment will build that you got “caught” into agreeing to something you really didn’t want to. The flipside is that you may get the answer there is no minimum order. This should set off some alarm bells as it probably means the distributor is open to all and sundry stocking their products. Or does it mean something completely different that can genuinely help you and your business? Find out why there is no minimum order, and delve a little deeper on the advantages you may get if you are able to purchase at a significant level. These kinds of distributors tend to bespoke their salon services, seeking to build their salon networks associated with the brands in a tailored way. It really depends on the brands; a brand with 100 SKUS (individual products) has a good reason to restrict supply of the brand to salons who can accommodate the complete range rather than salons only wanting a small number of the SKUS, as it dilutes the brand’s positioning in the industry market place to have a partial range on display. But if the distributor can work with you to fit the products to your salon, your services and your clients, they will not want to sell you products you don’t want. Be prepared to talk frankly with distributors like these, as they could be a valuable source of expertise that you can make use of in introducing and developing the new line in your salon.
The essence of clever sourcing is to do your research and ask a lot of questions, because if your competitors aren’t doing that, you already have a head start! Good luck and happy sourcing!
All images by Scott Chalmers Photography