There are two types of people in the world, those that buy hair care products from salons and those that don’t.

It’s interesting for me to speak to some people who by middle class standards are considered to be relatively wealthy and hear that they don’t buy professional hair care products. The idea of spending R250 on a bottle of shampoo or conditioner is quite outrageous (remember these are people with large amounts of disposable income who can afford to take regular overseas holidays with their entire family).

If they are willing to buy a bottle of wine for R250 which will last all of one dinner (if lucky), why would they not be prepared to buy a good bottle of shampoo for the same price? Why would they rather choose to buy the R50 bottle at their supermarket?

The answer has to be that they don’t perceive the professional bottle of shampoo to be worth the price. They don’t understand the difference between the shampoo at the salon and the one at their supermarket. If they did they would surely buy the salon product, because they can afford it.

The honest truth is that they would rather have the bottle of wine as they can literally taste the difference between the cheap bottle and the more expensive bottle.

The answer therefore lies in knowing the difference.

Is there actually a difference?

The first and most obvious question to answer is whether in fact there is a difference between a product sold at a supermarket and a product sold at a salon. If there isn’t a difference then salons really are ripping clients off (and being ripped off by suppliers) with their high prices and salons should really just stock the same products as supermarkets and differentiate themselves by giving a professional consultation to clients on what products to buy.

If there is a difference do the staff members in the salon know the difference? If they do know the difference are they educating their clients as to what that difference is?

Listing ingredients is one way to go about educating clients on the difference but it seems that there are some camps of people quite vocal about the fact that there are not any real differences in ingredients between supermarket and professional products and you should be ready to deal with this question as it is the most obvious one.

Technical specs need to be backed by tangible outcomes, ie what real difference is the more expensive product going to make to me? Returning to the wine analogy above, you can taste the difference.

Therefore, the answer for clients should be focused on them experiencing a difference. If you said to me that a cheaper product (because of its ingredients) will leave my hair feeling thinner, drier and potentially cause damage to my hair in the long run and the professional product (because of its ingredients) will leave my hair fuller, healthier etc and have longer lasting positive results then I will be more interested. I will see the better product as more of an investment in my hair and should be able to experience the difference over time.

Is it worth it for salons?

Before we answer the above questions we need to answer the question of whether it is actually worth it to go out of our way to sell retail in the salon.

One way to look at retail sales in the salon is to compare it with beverage sales in a restaurant. The meals sold in the restaurant are like to the services you do in the salon. People book a table, like they book a cut. They come in and someone performs the service of making and bringing a meal to their table.

The kitchen has a capacity based on how many tables and kitchen staff there are in much the same way the salon has a capacity to perform services based on how much space and how many staff there are. You can turn so many tables in a night, just like you can see so many clients in a day.

However, there is no limit (apart from stock on hand) to beverages and similarly to retail. Now, I’m not advocating that restaurants send their patrons home drunk in order to maximize profits, but you get the point that there isn’t a people or space limitation to the beverages and in the same way retail – except how much stock you can physically keep on hand but I don’t recall any salon every complaining that they don’t have enough space to keep up with the high demand of retail sales.

Retail is definitely worth it. You can match and even beat your service turnover with retail sales. Clients who come in to buy retail can in turn be booked for services and vice versa so one hand can wash the other.

There is a huge market place, people are not using sunlight soap to wash their hair (well maybe some are). They are not using Vaseline to style their hair. They need haircare products, you have haircare products. They have money. You need money. Seems like a win-win..?

So when is the best time to sell retail?

The answer …. always. But maybe not in the way that you think.

When clients visit the salon to have their hair cut or styled they may not actually be in the market (at that time) for a retail product and may not like you try and push products onto them. At the same time salon staff may feel that it is very difficult and uncomfortable to try and sell retail to clients who have not actually enquired about retail.

I find that I need to buy haircare products when the ones that I am using run out. When this happens I will look for the most convenient and cost effective way to replace my products. I have an actual need and limited means to meet that need.

We usually buy groceries once a week (at least) and during this time we will make a list of things we need. In addition to food this list we will include things like toothpaste, toilet paper and yes shampoo. Now the problem becomes one of convenience as well as cost. I am a firm believer (because of personal experience) that professional products are better than supermarket products but I cannot deny the temptation to give the cheaper supermarket products another chance whenever the need for replenishing arises. It’s at this point that I am both most vulnerable (to buying supermarket products) and most ready to be sold a professional product.

Therefore, just because someone is sitting in a chair at your salon does not mean that they will walk out with a retail product. However, at some point you would like to get them buy a retail product from you so you need to start the conversation, find out their current product info, plant the seed about buying products from you and be ready to supply them when they are in need.

Conversion deals

If someone is using a supermarket product because of the price then why not offer them a special deal to try a professional product. You can do this on a case for case basis, ie you don’t have to make it a public offer to all your clients but rather you can do it on an individual level with your clients.

If you encounter a client that is using a supermarket product and you engage them on their product needs but find that they are not willing to move because of the combination of price and the perception that there is no difference in the results then why not offer them their first professional product at cost? It will cost you nothing because you will at least cover the cost that you paid for the product but it may lead to them buying their next product from you at full price and every product thereafter.

If the professional salon products are worth it then the client should be able to experience the benefits.

You will need to follow up with them to see how it is going and also to replenish their stock. The goal is to convert them from the supermarket to the professional market. Once they are converted you just need to ensure that they always come back to you for their professional stock.

The goal is to get them to cross over, if in fact you believe it is worth it.