With the end of summer quickly approaching, in retail that can only mean one thing—the holidays are coming soon. And although the shopping season may seem like a long way off, the time to prepare for a profitable holiday is right now.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the holiday season, defined as sales made in the months of November and December, can account for as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales. Holiday sales increased 4 percent in 2016, with more than 154 million consumers shopping for gifts over Thanksgiving weekend alone. And in 2015, health and personal care stores took in an impressive $56 billion, up from $53 billion the previous year. Also in 2015, health and personal care retailers took in an average of 17.9 percent of their annual sales during the holidays.
We’ve rounded up the expert advice of industry pros who know a thing or two about selling beauty products both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. Although 44 percent of consumers did their shopping online in 2016, according to the NRF, a still-solid 40 percent made their purchases at store locations.
Every season, Katie Krentz, a buyer at Cos Bar, collaborates with the company’s founder and four other buyers as they hunt for the latest and greatest beauty offerings. She says, “Finding the true gems takes hunting, both internationally and domestically.”
Cera Fass is a co-owner of Arch Apothecary, a Midwest chain of boutiques that bring together beauty products and salon services. Fass says that year round, “we do our research to keep brands that are well sought-after with good quality and natural ingredients.”
At Beauty Collection, which has locations in southern California, Maria Rush serves as the vice president of business development alongside Dominique Rush, an assistant buyer. Maria says that when choosing products to carry, beauty store owners should ask themselves important questions, such as, “Do the products deliver on their brand promise?”, “Are they effective?” and “Is it something our customers are asking for?”
These are essential questions to con- sider when implementing strategies in your store for the holidays. The following professional advice based on years of experience can help you have your most successful season yet.
1. Touch on Trends
All the best and brightest trends make an appearance during the holidays, tailored to shoppers searching for the newest and most popular gifts. The holidays are the time to roll out the red carpet for your most in-demand products.
As a beauty supply store owner, you understand how important it is to stay on top of the newest information and products. As Fass says, “The beauty industry is a fast-growing, forward-thinking and innovative one. Keeping up with trends and hot colors, products and gifts is key.” Shoppers are looking to buy what’s on trend particularly during the holiday shopping season.
Maria Rush recommends that owners “review recent sales trends and data to forecast holiday needs.” She also says that she attends trade shows leading up to the holiday season “so we can start planning our gift items and merchandising needs and we can start placing orders as early as May all the way through October.”
Dominique Rush says that she discovers the products people are looking for by using “social media to stay informed of new trends,” by reading beauty articles and searching online. She adds, “I enjoy festive items that stand out. I’ve found that bringing in certain items only for the holidays, so that we can be that one-stop shop for our customers, has worked. Our customers know they have to buy it when they see it because it will sell out quickly. Then we can introduce them to the next hot item creating excitement.”
Dominique Rush’s advice is simple but effective. She says, “Always be on top of what’s out there, continue to educate yourself with trends and customer needs, test products yourself and have fun with it.”
2. Know Your Clientele
Although trade shows are a great way to get a front-row seat to what Krentz calls an “industry that is continually changing,” Fass also likes to rely on good old-fashioned, one-on-one interactions with customers.
She says, “It’s important to know your clientele. Getting to know each customer on a personal level will help you boost sales during the holidays, along with sending personal thank-you notes to repeat buyers. This keeps your small business relationships important, which increases the awareness of shopping local.”
Maria Rush agrees that customers operate as barometers for the items that should be carried in stores during the holiday season, saying, “Listen to your customer—they will tell you what you need to have in your store.”
3. Plan Ahead
Fall is the ideal time to start strategizing for the holiday season, allowing for research, planning and executing while still offering right-this-minute, on-trend items. Also, it’s critical to allow enough time for the products to be delivered to the store.
Fass says, “Along with gift cards, we do a ton of sales during this time, so we need to start preparing in the fall to get all of our holiday products in on time for clients to purchase in November and December. We look at reports to see what was trending from previous holiday seasons, stock up on all of our best-sellers and are sure to have tons of holiday reed diffusers, candles and home fragrances.”
“The beauty industry is a fast-growing, forward-thinking and innovative one. Keeping up with trends and hot colors, products and gifts is key.”
-Cera Fass, Arch Apothecary
4. Review Past Years
The only way to improve, in life or in your beauty supply store, is to review successes and lessons learned from past seasons. When devising a plan for the holidays, Maria Rush says, “Number one is to analyze the previous year’s sales by category and product type.” Breaking things down will give you the opportunity to see which products were popular and the areas that need improvement.
5. Prep Your Promos
There’s a fairly easy way to attract more customers to your store—provide deals, sales and promotions that inspire shoppers to pick up those gifts on their list. Consumers have come to expect breaks during the holidays, and it’s a wise move when stores capitalize upon this idea.
Fass shares some creative and effective ways Arch Apothecary offers promotions to their customers. She says, “In the past, we’ve done promotions for gifting with purpose, offering incentives to buy multiple gift cards when purchasing. We also do a free brow wax with a purchase of $50 and a free blowout with the purchase of $100 as offers for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Last year, we did a promotion for Cyber Monday, offering 10 percent off your entire online purchase.”
6. Spotlight Stocking Stuffers
If a customer is reluctant to invest in expensive or high-end products as gifts, he or she may turn to stocking stuffers instead. Small beauty items serve as bonus gifts alongside larger items, trinkets to give to teachers or colleagues, or even as won’t-break-the-bank treats for shoppers themselves.
“We look for items that people can splurge on for loved ones along with perfect little add-ons and unique stocking stuffers,” Fass says. “A lot of our clients also celebrate Hanukkah, so we stock up on small candles, travel- and purse- sized hair products, and lots of lipsticks and nail polishes for small, ‘I’m thinking about you’ gifts.” The store stocks holiday cards as well.
When choosing products to sell during the holidays, Maria Rush says, “We look for easy impulse items for a quick turn,” a category stocking stuffers would certainly fall into. Her colleague Dominique agrees, saying, “I think products that are playful and fun for stocking stuffers are a fantastic add-on.”
7. Feature Festive Looks
In addition to gift-giving, consumers are busy preparing for holiday parties, so break out special, sparkling beauty products to try out during the season’s celebrations.
Fass says, “Clients will come in for holiday parties and events, so we like to stay current on all of the latest makeup and hair trends. Because let’s face it—you’ve got to look beautiful to feel great during the busy season!”
Throughout the holidays, Fass believes that with all the get-togethers and festivi- ties going on, people strive to look their very best. Carrying top-notch products will help consumers fill that need.
“People love to feel beautiful around the holidays when seeing family and friends that they might not see all the time,” says Fass. “It’s the perfect time for them to purchase products for themselves.”
8. Set the Scene
There are few things more joyful-looking than holiday displays. They communicate a certain specialness that only the holidays can offer and inspire merry moods among shoppers. There’s also quite a bit of strategy involved with holiday displays.
Krentz says to “make the store visually fun with festive decorations,” but she also recommends to move your merchandise daily to “help the store look new and fresh.” She also says that it’s imperative to have an area that’s specifically designated for gifts.
Maria Rush says that gifts “should be merchandised together, displayed in a ‘go-to’ section of the store.” She adds that complementary products should be sprinkled throughout the space as well.
She says, “For example, in the home section where you have your candles, you can display candle snuffers, cloches and trimmers. Displays should look like they would be in someone’s home or workplace to promote the visual concept.”
Fass shares that when she sets up holiday displays, they “give clients ideas for gifting as well as signage for what they will receive as gifts with purchase.”
Adding to the celebratory atmosphere, the boutique provides gift baskets and wrapping. “We do a ton of gift wrapping with pretty boxes and bows, which takes pressure off clients to do it themselves. It’s the little extra things like tissue paper and bows that people recognize and think about each year when they’re ready to purchase for all occasions.”
"Displays should look like they would be in someone’s home or workplace to promote the visual concept.”
-Maria Rush, Beauty Collection
-Maria Rush, Beauty Collection
9. Price for Every Budget
Most importantly, during the holiday season, beauty supply stores should make ease and convenience for every budget a top priority. “You need to have something within every price range, even within the luxury category,” says Krentz.
Beauty stores should consider all types of customers when strategizing for the holidays, incorporating budget shoppers as well as those who make it a priority to purchase high-end products. Offer solutions to a wide range of consumers with varying needs.
“Our number one [goal] is to provide a solution for our customers,” Maria Rush says. “Our products must deliver results. Our goal is to provide brands in an upscale environment with a memorable experience, backed by excellent customer service and product knowledge.”
She goes on to say, “High-margin products, unique high-ticket items and current-trend items that a customer wouldn’t normally find in a beauty environment add value to their shopping and make it more convenient for them.”
And convenience is certainly top-of-mind for today’s holiday consumers. These tips all support a winning service for your customers—ease. The ease of not running around in circles looking for popular products; the ease of finding something for everyone on a shopping list; and the ease of knowing they’ve found just the right gifts at a beauty supply store that provide excellent customer service.
Make the Season Bright
It’s not called the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. Leading up to the holidays, consumers desire to create a celebratory feel through the gifts they give and the cosmetics they wear. Our experts share tips on how to make the holiday shopping experience special.
- Show Your Appreciation: “Each year, we have a client appreciation day in December to remind clients that we appreciate them shopping and receiving services with us. This way, they can sip, shop and mingle with friends while receiving special perks and gifts.” –Cera Fass, Arch Apothecary
- Cover Your Bases: “We know consumers will be thinking gifts, but they are also shopping for the latest party looks, latest self-indulgent items, etc. Thus, we aim to have something for everyone and everyone’s shopping lists.” –Katie Krentz, Cos Bar
- Offer High-End Goods and Stocking Stuffers: “Everyone loves beauty and to be pampered! It’s a time to splurge on special items.” –Maria Rush, Beauty Collection
- Give the Gift of Luxury: “I feel beauty products are a great way to spoil your loved ones with things they would not normally pick up themselves.” –Dominique Rush, Beauty Collection