Most stylists I know have an almost pathological aversion to retailing, because it involves — OMG! — selling. And you don’t want to come across as a pushy sales type. After all, people come to you to chill out and be cared for. It would be a betrayal to get in their face and start pounding on them to “Buy, buy, buy! Now, now, now!”

And you’re right. That’s a very good way to lose a customer forever.

People are very aware that they have a choice about where they go for their hair services. In fact, in my East Hollywood neighborhood, there are two other salons within a block of mine.

But still, people do need shampoo and conditioner and other hair products. They have to buy them somewhere. Why shouldn’t it be from you?

And they actually do love to buy. They just don’t like to be sold to.

The best retailers among stylists I know are those who have established a relationship with their clients and who talk to them about their hair. They make it easy for the client to open up about problems they may be having with it. Sometimes this can even happen on a first visit.

From there, it’s an easy step to offer a solution to the problem — a conditioner to prevent split ends or a special shampoo to help keep hair from falling out and thinning. You know these things because you deal with hair all day long. Give your clients the benefit of your expertise.

And just think — if you’d been doing enough retailing, it could have considerably eased the financial strain during Covid, when salon services were shut down in many places.

But hindsight is 20/20, and it’s useless to dwell on that now. So let’s talk about setting up a retailing safety net for the future.

If you’re computer savvy, you could set up an online sales operation, and I’ll go into that a bit more in a moment. But let’s say you’re not so computer savvy, so you want to do it in a more low-tech way.

All you’d have to do is let people know you have the retailing service available, and then deliver it. Call them up and tell them about it. Or send out handwritten postcards, telling them to call in and order more shampoo, when they’re running low.

Take their credit card payment over the phone, and offer curbside pickup. Have them text you when they arrive, and then deliver their package to them while they’re sitting safely in their car.

This can help tide you over until you’re operating at full capacity again.

For online sales, there are a few extra steps, depending on what model you choose. There are endless variations — from Shopify and other shopping cart software, where much of the heavy lifting of putting up an ecommerce website has been done for you — to selling your own private label products on Amazon, which is somewhat more complex.

People need to know they can trust the online platform where they’re entering their sensitive financial information. This is why I recommend staying with those that have established a reputation for reliability — like PayPal, Shopify, and Amazon.

Amazon is great for the size of the audience you can reach. But the competition is brutal, because everyone else wants to reach that audience too. So price wars happen, and it becomes a race to the bottom.

You don’t dare charge enough to make a decent profit, because there’s always someone who’ll undercut you — somebody bigger who can afford to lose money on one sale, because once they have a new customer to sell to, they can make it up on the back end, selling other products from their massive inventory, which requires an investment you might not be ready to make.

If you do go the private label route, make sure your packaging includes information on how people can reorder from you, instead of going back to Amazon, where they can be lured away by the competition.

There is an alternative though, on Amazon. As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” You can become a reseller for one of the big companies.

There’s a whole course on how to do this profitably. It’s not available all the time though, because the guys who teach it are too busy working at it most of the time. So the information they teach is based on real life experience with how it actually works, not on some theory about how it should work.

If you’d like to know more about it, contact me, and I’ll get the information to you.

In the meantime, a basic strategy would be to set up your own shopping cart on Shopify, and let your existing clients know about it. They already know, like, and trust you, and they’ll want to support you, because they hope you’ll still be in business when Covid is over — which it will be eventually.

To avoid having to invest in a large amount of inventory and establishing a shipping operation, you can use Shopify’s drop-shipping option. That is, you can sell the products one at a time and delegate the shipping to the Shopify app.

Just let your clients know how they can help, and they’ll be glad to do it, because you’ve built a relationship with them, and they’re happy with the way you do their hair. It really would be a hassle for them to have to find somebody new to do it. They don’t want to take a chance that the next person might mess it up.

So you see, there’s no real trick to retailing. You’ll do fine at it, as long as you keep in mind that you’re offering it as a service to people who want it, not pounding on them to “Buy Now!” when the timing isn’t right for them. Why would they buy shampoo right now, if they still have half a bottle left from the last time they bought? 

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