While it’s not considered the “busy season” yet for most, the holidays are an important period in the tanning calendar for a variety of reasons. Beyond being a time to service clients for their holiday events and provide gifts for their friends and families, there are other opportunities you can seize to move your peak period forward and also set the stage for a more productive traditional prime season and entire year to come.
There’s a lot to consider, but also so much to be gained as you wrap up 2019 on a high note and lay the groundwork for reaching all your goals in 2020. But, it can also be a difficult time to stay focused, so, first things first, don’t underestimate the importance of this period for your business, and remember that it will only be what you make of it.
“Stay energized, don’t get comfortable and go in every day like it’s an opportunity,” says New Sunshine Regional Sales Manager Jason Brooks. “Staff and owners sometimes check out because of other things going on with families. This is the start of a brand new year, and we want to stay in the game and ready to go.”
‘Tis the Season
Traditionally, Thanksgiving is considered the official start of the holiday season, and Black Friday the turning point in the holiday sales season. It’s the perfect time to kick off your holiday gift and gift card sales push and jump into the holiday spirit. Salons tend to approach Black Friday in a variety of ways. Some go with the flow and take advantage of the busy shopping day with big promotions. Others find there to be too much direct competition, and put their own spin on it.
While huge deals from big box retails can be a little intimidating to compete with on the actual day, do remember that Black Friday shopping is a fun event, not just a shopping trip, so groups of shoppers might be inclined to stop in the salon as part of their routine – particularly with the right encouragement. To kick the season off with a bang, some salons even schedule free tan weekends following Thanksgiving.
“Free tan weekends are an amazing way to create a lot of product sales. It’s a great shopping time, and you can kill two birds with one stone,” says Sun Evolutions Global Sales Trainer David McFarland. “Show some appreciation, get some new customers, and at the same time pull in all that black Friday traffic. All the girls I know that go shopping on Black Friday also get their nails done and other stuff. Anything you can do to get your traffic up and booming is what you want to do.”
Other salons manipulate timing to avoid the competition of Black Friday, and stage a kickoff where they can be more of the center of attention. “Pink Wednesday,” held the day before Thanksgiving has emerged as a trend in the industry, or you can embrace your position as an independent business after the dust has settled from the weekend.
“I just did a webinar about not focusing on Black Friday, because it’s hard to compete. I’m encouraging salons to take advantage of Small Business Day,” says Brooks. “Look into your community, when they’re highlighting small businesses to make their Black Friday. Everyone’s doing social media today, so even if you’re a small, independent salon, you can put an ad online for a Cyber Monday special, too.”
Regardless of the exact timing, this holiday kickoff is where you can make a big push in product sales and also begin to set the stage for the rest of the holiday season and even beyond. That can be accomplished with a combination of attractive product discounts and tanning offers that will ensure repeat business for an extended period.
“I have an account that does a huge Black Friday sale every year. All prepaid memberships are 40 percent off – prepay for EFT or individual sessions,” says Devoted Creations Director of Brand Development Lisa Parsons. “Then, they pick 10 different product skews, and each one comes with something for free. Also, they do 50 percent off sale on all 2018 products to get them out and bring in room for the ’19 stuff.”
Following Black Friday, the world is fully focused on Christmas, and you should be too. There’s so much to do to embrace the holiday feel and become a gift and party-prep destination, but that can all be centered around some big promotions. One of the most commonly used promotions that will drive traffic and excitement throughout the month of December is some variation of the “12 Days of Christmas.” JaMakin’ ME Tan does 24 Days of Christmas, and Midnite Sun, a mid-sized chain in Michigan, does a variation with freebies, called 12 Days of Giveaways.
One of the key elements of 24 Days of Christmas is that the deals become progressively bigger and better as it gets closer to Christmas, so anticipation builds, and those who take advantage of early deals are likely to check out the rest as well. “We make a nice little Christmas calendar, and each day there’s a new little special,” Lewis says. “People seem to get really excited about that. We look at how each day performed the last year and adjust accordingly.
Midnite Sun also developed a holiday coupon book that added to the holiday feel by benefitting charity. At a $15 cost with $5 going to charity, and a $200 value in coupons, it’s appealing enough to bring clients into the salon just for that purchase. And, it contains time-specific coupons for the entire year to come, so it will ensure buyers will be coming back throughout 2019 to take advantage of their purchase.
“I think customers really like the value, but the best way to sell it is part of the proceeds actually go back to the community and local area,” Roth says. “Donating to a big charity is great, but people don’t identify with it as well.
Once Christmas has come and gone, it’s not time to regroup and relish in your holiday success yet. You still have the opportunity to take advantage of several days where virtually everybody is getting ready for some sort of New Year’s celebration. While people will surely be coming in throughout December to work on their natural tans in preparation, the late push is, of course, best for spray tans. Parsons even advises getting those NYE spray tans on the books early.
“I would do a sunless promotion in the middle of December. Everyone wants to spray tan for New Year’s,” she says. “So, you can do something to get them to buy it ahead of time, like a package deal with three spray tans and a maintenance product for NYE.”
The package strategy also lends itself to turning those special event tanners into regular spray tanners.
“The main goal is to get them back. If they say they’re coming to get a spray for a party, have a package as a ‘come back and try us again’ deal,” Brooks says. “Buy this sunless retail product, and we’ll give you two free sprays. A lot of salons are starting to introduce that to get clients used to using pre- and post-sunless products.”
Spreading Holiday Cheer
Those types of promotion will have a built-in impact, appealing to the clients that are coming in to tan anyway throughout the holidays, but you also need to be extending your reach to prospective clients and those who might not be coming in much that time of year.
As seems to be the trend in the industry throughout the year, most salons are turning away from more traditional media and toward social and other digital media that is highly trackable and generally efficient. Especially this time of year, you have great promos that just need to be put in front of eyes for minimal cost, and it’s easy to come up with additional content that will catch eyes because of holiday engagement. For deals that are too big to pass up if they’re known about, definitely use email, text or other direct approaches to reach previous clients.
“Instagram is growing dramatically, so I’d encourage marketing there,” Brooks says. Creating a strong presence is important because it’s a minimal cost. Some of the mailers are still working, and email collection, I would also recommend. When clients are coming in this time of year, make sure you can contact them via email and text.”
As far as your social media approach for the holidays, one of the most things you can do is getting started right away. You can’t promote your events or sales the day before and expect everyone to see each post or to respond immediately. By starting early, you can build anticipation, be part of the holiday excitement and imprint yourself in the minds of consumers.
“Repetition sells, so market often,” McFarland says. “On social sites, post, post, post…multiple emails and holiday cards. You can’t organically expect people to learn about your promos when you have a small amount of time.”
However, to be successful on social media, it’s important to be about more than sell, sell, sell. You need to pique interest to gain a following, as well as engage with them to improve your brand reputation and be more personable as a business.
And free stuff – free always works.
Midnite Sun developed another holiday promo that is less about selling and more about the combination of those elements of social success. Calling it “Santa Selfies,” clients are encouraged to share selfies of themselves spreading Christmas cheer, for a chance to win a free bottle of moisturizer.
Along with bringing in more prospects with outside advertising, really embracing the holiday spirit can have a bigger impact on converting more sales than you might expect. Santa Selfies is a great example, and you also need to bring the spirit into the salon. That naturally starts with holiday décor.
“I think it brings people’s spirits up. Because we put that extra effort into it, they feel so much more welcome. When people feel welcome, they spend their money,” Lewis says. “It’s not just about sales – it’s about customer service and caring about the customer so we are the place they like to come to.”
As exemplified by Midnite Sun’s coupon book, another great way to embrace the holiday spirit is to give back to the community.
“As an independent salon, you need to get involved with your community. Christmas bazaars and parades, a lot of people are out shopping, maybe do something in a local mall or sponsor an angel tree kit,” Brooks says. “A lot of people buy with their heart as well these days. People see you supporting charities that are important to the community, and it makes a lasting impression.”
The Gift of Giving
Many of the same elements of supplying holiday spirit also relate to the idea of presenting your salon as a destination for purchasing gifts. That’s the area where you can really boost the bottom line this time of year. Even if your average traffic is no different than in July, you can generate far more revenue by making gift sales that normally wouldn’t be on the table.
But, before you can present as such to the clients, being a gift destination starts with conveying that to your staff.
“For the holidays, we focus on ‘who, who and you.’ The idea is who’s on your Christmas list we can check off, who else we can check off, and then what for you,” Roth says. “Sell moisturizers and the little extra bath bombs and things. Get staff into the ideas of you’re not just selling tanning and products secondary, but helping hem with their Christmas list.”
Then, the décor and arrangement play a major role. We’ve discussed getting clients in the holiday mood with decorations, but the way you present and arrange good gift options will really make the difference in encouraging additional purchases. First, keep in mind that tanning isn’t for everyone, so you need to present options that are.
“I think this is a very important time to make sure you have point of sale things around your counter. There are so many sales that occur in beauty, and retail period, where the person isn’t thinking about it, and that only happens when there’s stuff around the counter,” McFarland says.
Another great way to present products as gift options, and elicit a bigger sale, is to bundle packages and add the little extra touches that relate it to the holiday.
“We put a tree together that has a specific tanning product, aftercare and face lotion, so they have a trio,” Lewis says. “We put it in a nice little package for them.”
As always, bundling also allows you the opportunity to make an attractive offer, while still making a large sale with a relatively minimal discount.
“Bundling works. There’s just something psychological about a girl and buying and bag deals,” McFarland says. “Make a bag deal with a couple things full price, but throw something in free, like a bath bomb, and market it that way. Free works.”
Midnite Sun also takes its gift presentation a step further by putting it in print. They developed a gift guide catalog that’s printed externally to resemble a catalog from a popular retailer like Victoria’s Secret. Overall, it’s just one piece of a complete puzzle that’s sum is greater than each part in achieving gift destination status.
“We tie in in-store and external marketing and social, so it’s all one big Christmas feeling. The catalog wasn’t a promotion – just a catalog – but it showed us as the gifting destination,” Roth says. “Then, when we did print ads, we tried to make it the same feel. Customers are definitely more tied into it, rather than just this promo and this promo. It also helps with customer loyalty.”
While many people like to give a tangible gift, gift cards are still the easiest to choose, and they can be a boon for you business. Not only do they provide you up-front cash, but they also offer the opportunity to make additional sales when they’re redeemed and, in many cases, to convert a totally new customer. Make sure gift cards are a known option, presented front and center in the store, and promoted externally. Also, a gift card sale can be well worth some major incentives for purchase.
“Offer clients incentive to buy gift cards. You can do buy one, get half back in credit,” Parsons says. “Make sure they can’t use it until after Dec. 25. so they don’t spend it that day. I would put out little signs to promote it, like ‘Treat yourself! Buy one for somebody else and get half back.”
But, when it comes down to it, remember that regardless of the promotion or positioning you come up with, your sales successful will depend heavily on your staff’s motivation to sell. Financial motivators are musts, but you can also give them some stake in the game by increasing their involvement in the holiday sales plan.
“Let the crew have a lot of creative say in promos, because when you can enlist them to come up with contests and promos, they take ownership when they know it’s what they came up with,” McFarland says. “It’s a cool trick. Even if you led them there, let them come up with it on their own, and it builds confidence. Make the whole team part of the process.”
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
In tanning, the holidays are actually the precursor for the most wonderful time of the year – busy season! There are so many things you can do to make the holiday season a hugely successful finish to your year of business, but you also need to look at the bigger picture, too. It’s not only the end of the year, but a beginning as well.
“That’s all part of the plan when you kick off holiday season. Yeah, you want great cash flow, but you always want to set yourself up,” McFarland says. “To me, there’s nothing more important than great engagement with your guests. That’s something that every salon can do immediately is become better and how they’re engaging with guests.”
The best thing you can do to make a lasting impact now is to find ways to lock visitors into memberships, or at least packages. The product sales you make now, and the way you educate clients to use products, will also affect their buying decisions moving forward.
“We try to focus on membership the most, because peak does hit right after holidays,” Roth says. “Jan., Feb., March are big months, so we want to get people into memberships before that and sell them products now, so we can sell them again later when they run out.”
Another timely matter, outside of the holiday realm, is the release of new products for 2019. Depending on your vendors, you’re already receiving never-before-seen products that you can introduce to your clients. How you do that and prepare your staff to sell the products as they face more and more clients will also impact the entire year to come.
“I think the early launch of products this year is imperative for the success of the salon. It’s going to give you the time to evaluate the current lineup and see what products to switch out,” Parsons says. “It really gives you time to get staff educated and trained and familiar with it, so you’re not bringing it in at the same time they get busy. With the staggered launch, they’re not seeing 20 products at one time. So, it’s really about the preparation and education, which is why we launched early.”
“You don’t want to launch too much, either. If you order and choose correctly, with a couple different price points, five to six new products at a time is plenty,” McFarland says. “No need to get rid of everything and restock your shelves. Then, you can re-launch again in a few months with new stuff you didn’t the first time. There’s nothing more exciting than new products.”
You’ve thought about how you’re going to sell more gift cards this holiday season, but the more overlooked matter is how you’re going to handle the people that come in to redeem them. You should aggressively be trying to convert these people to members, as well as trying to extend their purchases beyond the value of the gift cards.
“Encourage them to use their gift card on special promotions. Bring in different goods that are good for all clients – things that cater to the masses. Aggressive promos on that to take back some sales from the mall, Bath & Body Works and such. Make it easier for the client to spend a little more,” Brooks says.
Beyond converting people to members and training them to use all the products they need, you also have the opportunity to change the way you relate to your clients coming into the new year. If your staff is too often stuck in the mode of just setting time and asking if they need lotion, now is the perfect time to push reset and develop an approach that improves both service and sales.
“The most important thing your salespeople are going to do is talk. If they don’t talk a lot, you’re never going to sell a lot. I take any opportunity with a salon to say, going into the holidays, you’re going to get a vibe going in your salon,” McFarland says. “How are you talking with them? How are you bringing up specials? How are you getting them to do the most important thing, which is spend time in your salons? I think this time of year is an incredible time to change the culture.”