Nicola Smyth: Make Money From Your Salon’s Retail Shelf

With over 19 years’ experience in the industry, Nicola Smyth is an international award winning hairdresser who now has 4 amazing salons (in Leamington Spa, Warwick, and Kenilworth) along with co-owner Dan Smyth Humphriss, who looks after the business side of things.


Salonfrog’s Andrew chatted to Nicola and Dan backstage at Salon International, before joining them at their one hour workshop on how to make money from selling retail stock. Some of what they spoke about was quite different to what we’d seen before in the hair & beauty industry and very refreshing to say the least!

Here’s what Andrew had to say:

First off, I have to say that Nicola and Dan exude energy and it’s obvious how enthusiastic they both are!

I didn’t have too long before they presented their workshop but while chatting to them, two facts became very apparent:

#1 Nicola was adamant on how important the awards that they had won had been to the growth and success of their salons.

#2 Dan agreed but added that they’d got to where they are by focussing on what really matters and also by not being too greedy; explaining that yes, you need to make profit but you also need to treat your staff right, ensuring a share of profits are passed to them while also putting money back into the business. Both Nicola and Dan explored this philosophy more in the workshop.

And finally, it came to light that they both plowed every penny they had into their business in the beginning – even using their honeymoon money!

Then I settled down for the workshop.

Both Nicola and Dan are really friendly and I saw how they welcomed every guest into their workshop personally as each arrived.

Nicola opened by running through the history of their salon business and the multiple awards it had won before moving onto the subject of how to maximise the money you make from selling retail. Nicola indicated the value of £ retail sales to their business, which I won’t print here, but left most of the room speechless, including me!

With that in mind, Nicola explained that to get those sort of retails sale, you need to have 3 key pieces lined up:

  1. Have enough stock to sell in the first place
    which is more than you’d think and quite opposite to a lot of salons that try not to tie cash up in their shelf
  2. Get a key support mechanism in place
    This comes from the top down, supporting your staff; but also from your key suppliers who you’d be amazed what support they are able to give if you ask
  3. Give your stylists the confidence to drive sales
    as you’ll often find staff don’t think they can sell or it may not be natural to them 

Nicola and Dan expanded on each of these pieces, explaining the issues most salons face by not having them in place and how their own salons also went through the same journey to get where they are now.

The rest of the workshop really nailed down these 3 things – often from quite a different approach to many salon owners.

I won’t say much more as Nicola runs courses on how to do all of this – and she can tell you in a classroom setting over half a day better than I can in a blog! But here’s just 5 of the many points they covered which will give you an idea:

  • Commissions on their own aren’t enough
    Nicola described how their staff receive the usual 10% commission on retail like in most salons. But then went on to explain how this isn’t enough – and that having clear incentives in place on top of a commission structure had been the real driver to their boost in retail sales.They’ve tried various types of incentives but quite seriously ask the audience: “why not send your biggest sellers to a local health spa if they reach their targets?!”
    And if you think this question is tongue in cheek – it’s not. In one of their incentives, they sent everyone to Spain! More of this below.One point they were both adamant on: you should make it fun rather than a stress for your staff to achieve their targets.
  • Get the whole team involved
    Nicola & Dan get all their staff involved in the selling target.“The idea is to get everyone on board,” explained Nicola, adding, “it only takes one person to drag everyone else down.”So for example they took the whole team (not just the best sellers) for a weekend to Marbella when the collective sales target was reached! Even including the staff that hadn’t reached their targets – if they had been excluded, the Team would suddenly become separated – and this can have serious issues back in the Salon.And it wasn’t as expensive as you’d think.“It all goes back to not being greedy,” reiterates Dan.
  • What’s not measured isn’t done
    Nicola and Dan are very strict on having weekly 1-2-1’s with every staff member, where they talk about what’s happening both in and outside of the salon.Dan also sends daily performance targets to his staff every night by a WhatsApp group! A simple to read report that shows where everyone is versus their targets. So there’s no escaping!
  • Sounds too expensive for Salon owners?
    Dan explained that having an incentive program in place isn’t expensive –  in fact, it’s self funding. From your typical 40% retail margin, 10% is your staff commission, 10% is put away towards the incentive program, and 20% goes towards profit and reinvestment into the business. And as the incentive program increases your retail sales, you end up having more profit to use. Again, it’s about not being greedy!
  • Leave your prejudices at home
    Never assume your Clients can’t afford to buy your retail. Instead, your staff’s mind set is to assume they can!All their staff are primed to give every one of their Clients a full consultation, every visit. They also show their clients how to recreate the look they’ve just had in the Salon at home themselves; running through the product that’s just been used, and even getting the Client to actually have a go with the straighteners or the brush to show they can really do it themselves once they get home. Nicola sums this up well:

    “If you show the Client they can do it themselves, using the product you’ve used, why wouldn’t they want to buy it?”

An hour goes quickly

I’ve just touched on some of the points of the workshop. Nicola and Dan have a refreshing and confident approach to retail, and they have the proof that it works. To finish off they conclude in their own modest style that it’s nothing other salons couldn’t also replicate.

How to contact Nicola and Dan

If you want to learn more about selling retail, Nicola or Dan would be happy to chat to you about how they can help with bespoke courses either at their salon, or at yours. Simply contact them here:


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