Retail Therapy

At 450 square feet, Tesoro Beauty Boutique in Douglas, AZ, is barely larger than a studio apartment, but the salon's small size does not translate into small sales. Owner Carlos Valenzuela has found success by offering not just products or services, but an experience where retail sales, which make up 40 percent of the total revenue, are as important as cuts and color.


Valenzuela designed the aptly named Tesoro Beauty Boutique to resemble a store rather than a standard salon. From the minute clients walk in the door, they are surrounded by a vast array of products, because the retail space is completely integrated into the salon experience. "Two chairs are visible because of course we do hair," he says, "but all around you, in glass cases and on countertops, are custom-blended mineral makeup, organic haircare products, soaps and skincare."

Knowing your market is essential for high retail sales, says Valenzuela, who has worked in the beauty industry for more than 35 years and is a longtime member of the National Cosmetology Association. Douglas, a town of 15,000 on the Arizona-Mexico border with at least 35 percent of the population living below the poverty level, posed a challenge to Valenzuela, who had previously worked in Chicago. In response, he kept prices low and distinguished his salon by offering products and services not found at competitors like JCPenney and Wal-Mart. At Tesoro, clients receive a free beauty consultation upon arrival as well as Valenzuela's undivided attention, because no walk-in customers are accepted.

Tesoro Beauty Boutique in Douglas, AZ, makes retail a big focus.
Tesoro Beauty Boutique in Douglas, AZ, makes retail a big focus.

Retail sales should be part of every client's experience at the salon, Valenzuela says. He suggests first familiarizing clients with the products that are available, which he does by giving every new client a brief tour of the space and always pointing out the products he uses. Valenzuela says it's essential to provide clients with what he calls the "Sephora confidence." "You have to show clients that your products have been specifically selected because of their quality," he says.

Valenzuela sells exclusive products that clients can't find anywhere else, which he says has been invaluable for his business. "The first year I tried to sell name brands, but I found myself selling them hard and it just didn't work," he says. "I can't carry anything that is sold at Wal-Mart because they can sell it for less." Valenzuela developed his own line of custom-blended mineral makeup made right in the salon. Additionally, he offers products that specifically cater to his clientele, like the skincare line Shea Terra, which was created in Morocco for skin that encounters dry, dusty and arid weather. And all products are either organic or all natural, which further helps to distinguish them from products sold elsewhere.

Whether it's the salon's design, concept or product line, Valenzuela says it pays to be different. "We must go back to the roots of the industry," he says. "It's important to produce and offer products and services that are not cookie-cutter." —A.F.

The National Cosmetology Association (NCA) has launched an aggressive campaign to help salons increase retail sales by $50 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.