Ways to Maximize your Retail Opportunities and Increase Profits
by ETS, Inc.
Retailing is perhaps one of the most exciting professions today. As a salon owner or manager, not only are you part of the allure of the "look good, feel great" indoor tanning industry, you also are fortunate to have the freedom of owning or managing a business, as well as taking pride in something you can build and grow.
However, growth can't occur without profits. One way to increase your profits is to maximize retail opportunities through merchandising.
The term merchandising refers to the arrangement of your items for sale to your clients. However, most experts say merchandising goes beyond simple product arrangement to include your product's quality, how your salon's looks, your staff's attitudes, knowledge and customer service abilities.
Quality, Quality, Quality
One of the first things to consider before you begin the actual process of merchandising is to select quality products to merchandise. The '90s consumer demands high-quality products that are reasonably priced, is smarter and asks a lot of questions in order to make an informed purchase.
Set a standard for quality at your salon and make sure to only purchase those products that meet this standard. Discuss your quality concept with the staff, making sure they understand what you look for in a product.
On the subject of quality, it is important to carry product lines or brands that are familiar to the consumer and have good reputations. Brands are those labels that are easily recognized by the consumer and are manufactured according to the strictest of quality guidelines.
Consumers tend to buy and be loyal to brands they perceive as having strong reputations for quality and integrity. Something that can increase your profits is to offer brands your clients like and are unique in addition to being of high-quality. You don't want your salon to be a "me too" business where the products you carry can be found everywhere else.
Another key principle is to know your products. Educate yourself on their ingredients, benefits and effects on the client (using the products will give you first-hand knowledge). Pass this knowledge on to your staff because their product knowledge will help sell more as well as provide you with feedback in terms of which products are not meeting your quality standard based on client responses.
Also, be confident in the products you are selling. If you're not, consider changing or dropping lines. If you don't believe in and stand by what you are selling, you will never be able to increase your retail profits.
According to Paula Wardell, author of Successful Retailing, product knowledge goes hand-in-hand with customer service, which, believe it or not, should be a part of your merchandising efforts. Wardell says that subscribing to a formula of customer service and personal selling techniques will advance your business more effectively and profitably than any advertising you may do.
But what makes customer service? Wardell says that superior customer service is made up of five basic elements:
- Product knowledge
- Staff attitude
Customer service is an obscure and important merchandising tool. You want customers to feel special and wanted, and no matter how attractive your salon is or how creatively products are displayed, the only way to achieve this is through your staff and the "human touch" only they can provide. When selecting a staff, Wardell says there are certain attributes to look for, or, if one has already been selected, to develop. They include:
- Customer interest
- Communication skills (including being a good listener)
- Understanding and patience
- Knowledge of salon polices and philosophies
- Intuition (predicting what the customer wants)
Positive personal attributes among your staff are important to foster and maintain. Wardell suggests using them in conjunction with the following guidelines to develop strong selling abilities:
- Features, advantages and benefits (FAB) selling
- Anticipating objections
- Changing customer beliefs, attitudes or courses of action
- Generating goodwill
The goal of visual merchandising is a simple one. Arrange your merchandise so that it will sell. Ultimately, you want to motivate your customer to make a purchase and more importantly, you want to make it easy for the customer to do so.
Visual merchandising not only includes the way merchandise is presented, but also includes the physical layout of your salon as well as the design and decor.
When you select a design for your salon, you are communicating to your customer your salon concept whether it's more of an upscale spa environment, trendy, fun and upbeat or more of a traditional, value-priced salon. Use design elements to support your salon concept or theme. Wardell suggests evaluating the following points to see if these items support your concept:
- Style of fixtures (display units, signage, counters, etc.)
- Overall design (upscale, traditional, upbeat, tropical, etc.)
- Wall Coverings
If you remodel your salon, make sure to update marketing support pieces to reflect your new image--make sure to change direct marketing pieces, advertising, promotions and in-store presentations. For example, if you change your image from a more traditional one-on-one salon to a more trendy and contemporary one, make sure to change the fonts on all your printed pieces to reflect this updated image. The experts say remodeling is a valuable profit booster because customers prefer new, contemporary and attractive salons rather than ones that look old.
Window and Interior Designs
Tell a story about your salon through window and interior displays. Use your salon concept as a guide--you can support your salon's story or theme through window displays. Get potential customers to visit your salon by creating interesting and enticing window displays showcasing trends in products, colors, concepts or selling a promotion.
According to Wardell, sparse windows generally indicate higher-priced specialty items inside the store whereas cluttered windows usually indicate lower-priced items, budget merchandising and little or no sales service.
One important thing to keep in mind is to make your windows productive. To accomplish this, use timely merchandise--meaning merchandise that is new or in current demand. Choose the quality of items displayed that fit in with your salon's image and make sure your stock levels for all items displayed are adequate. Don't make your customers angry by displaying items that are not available for purchase. When you begin to run low on a particular item or sell out completely, it's time to change your window displays until your stock is replenished.
Use the interior of your salon to support your theme as it is presented in your windows, direct mail pieces, special promotions and other advertising. Remember, the design of your salon's interior encourages and promotes its image as well as its products.
Placement of retail products also is important. The closer products are to the point-of-purchase the better. Customers do not want to have to go far to find and purchase something that interests them. Displays of products placed near the point-of-purchase are beneficial in that they encourage impulse spending and make it easier for your staff to soft-sell or cross-sell different products. It also makes it easier for your staff to answer questions the customer may have about products.
According to retail expert Colleen Cunningham, it is important to display creatively. Ask suppliers for creative ways to display items and change your displays regularly. Move things around in your salon to give regular clients a change of scenery--part of retailing is generating and maintaining client interest.
Staff communication also is important. You want to make sure your staff can effectively communicate. All experts agree that communication is an integral part of any merchandising program. Without it, how do customers understand the benefits of your products? Their effects? Additionally, how would your staff understand your client's needs? Their likes and dislikes? After all, you are merchandising for the client.
Merchandising goes beyond the obvious. Your products, staff attributes, communication abilities and sales skills as well as the design of your salon all contribute to the fine art of merchandising. If used together, these elements may help your retail profits soar, allowing you to watch your salon grow.