Retail Therapy




Mark Garrison Salon emphasizes the importance of educating both stylists and clients to boost retail sales.


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This month's expert advice on boosting retail sales comes from Mark Garrison, renowned celebrity stylist and owner of Mark Garrison Salon in New York City. More than 40 percent of his clients make retail purchases with an average value of $48. And despite the economic downturn, his retail sales have increased since 2007, now accounting for one-third of each ticket value.


Garrison sees retail not as a mere selling of products, but as an integral part of the overall service. To him, no cut or color is complete without a product prescription to preserve the style. "If I create a style, I want the client to have the right product to be versatile with it," he says.

 Mark Garrison Salon, New York City
Mark Garrison Salon, New York City

In this economic climate, Garrison also believes that prescribing the right product protects a client's investment. "Hair is a precious accessory," he says. "You don't throw a precious accessory in the dryer; you take it to the cleaners. You focus on both the care and after-care." This is particularly crucial for haircolor clients. "It's very important to protect and enhance the color by conditioning the hair with the right products," Garrison says. "Keeping the hair healthy and in optimal condition gives it that 'wow' factor."

Garrison attributes much of his retail success to the strength of the products he sells. After researching various lines, he chose Kérastase, Shu Uemura and Graham Webb, which he says address a range of price points and provide great results. "I'm not a department store," he says, "but I carry three solid lines. Once the client uses them, they come back for more."

In fact, Garrison wins clients over by offering a money-back guarantee. If a product does not give clients the result that they left with after their service, then they get either a refund or a replacement product. "But really, the proof is in the pudding," he says. "If the client learns what I'm using and how to use it, they'll experience the difference."

In order to make sure each recommendation has integrity, Garrison holds in-house sessions where top retail profit-generating stylists train assistants on how to educate each client on products. "Instead of waiting for a company rep to come by and present new products, we take it a step further," Garrison says.

Since Garrison makes education a top priority at his salon, he cashes in the points accrued from Wella or L'Oréal through buying products to sponsor classes, many of them held at his salon. Garrison then holds competitions between the styling and coloring departments to motivate sales from both ends, offering the top sellers a chance to attend these classes. This year, Garrison hosted 24 classes in-house through the Wella studio. "Everyone gets really excited about them," Garrison says. "Education is always a great motivator for both stylists and colorists."

In the end, Garrison says being successful at retail sales all comes down to enabling his stylists to educate the client properly. "If the stylist is confident about what he's using and gives the right prescription," he says, "you've got a client who's going to be loyal to you and your products." —G.B.

The National Cosmetology Association (NCA) has launched an aggressive campaign to help salons increase retail sales by $50 per stylist per day. That's a $600 million infusion of cash into salons in 2009 if just 25 percent of the 50,000 salons in the United States participate. Visit for more information.