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Spring 2008 Nail the Sales with Nail Art

Creating works of art on fingernails—perhaps butterflies and flowers for the tween set, or if you’re a groupie of pop singer Fergie, a set of dominos—was once a service only offered by salons. But today, with product innovations such as stamping nail art kits, customers can produce high-shine manicures or intricate nail art designs that rival the work of top-notch salons—in the comfort of their own homes.

When Deborah Campbell, owner of Island Nail & Body Art in Kapaa, HI, returned from a Florida vacation last year, she brought home $200 worth of nail art products purchased at a Florida kiosk.

“I was hooked,” she says. Hooked enough, in fact, to open her own cart selling nail art at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center in Lihue, HI, joining a number of other specialty retailers who have taken the latest nail products and created a viable year-round cart and kiosk business. Customers paying nail salon prices are all too happy to find take-home nail products at the mall that give them a professionally manicured look but are easy to apply and don’t drain the wallet.

Let’s face it: Consumers—mostly women—spend a lot of time and money on their nails. According to an industry report from NAILS magazine, a trade magazine in Torrance, CA that serves the nail salon industry, in 2006 salon customers spent $6.24 billion on nail services. But not everyone wants to head to the salon.

Packaged Facts, a division of, a leading market researcher in Rockville, MD, reported sales of nail products topped $951 million in 2004, the latest figures available. Clearly, millions of consumers gladly lay out the cash if the product, and the price, are right.

The fingernail as canvas

What products are specialty retailers stocking to pique their customers’ interest?

Leading the way are Stamping Nail Art kits from Konad U.S.A. Distribution, Inc. in Rancho Dominguez, CA. Konad has 10 different Stamping Nail Art kits (including a professional salon version) that together include more than 300 different nail art designs. The company wholesales to more than 200 retailers, including traditional salons and more than 50 carts and kiosks.

imageThe Konad kits contain everything customers need to create eye-catching nail art designs, including image plates, polishes, a stamp and a scraper. Quantities of image plates and polishes vary depending on the kit, and some kits include additional items. A Gift Set contains a pack of rhinestones; the French Set contains items for a stamping nail art French manicure, including special polishes and corrector pen.

Customers first apply a base coat, place special polish over their desired image, scrape off the excess and apply the design of their choice with the image plate and stamper. A topcoat seals the deal.

Moshe Atkins, co-owner of Nail Art, a cart in the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, NV, attributes the success of nail stamping to its simplicity. “Even kids can do it,” he says, which makes it attractive to a wide range of customers.

Not only is nail stamping easy, it’s economical when compared to a salon visit, which is a strong selling point. “People pay $20 for manicures,” says Atkins. For only $25 the customer can buy a nail art kit they can use “a couple hundred times.”

Campbell of Island Nail & Body Art puts it this way: “[Customers] can have professionally designed nails at a fraction of the cost.” Nail art can also be applied with “stripers,” essentially a nail lacquer with a fine-point brush that customers use to apply designs freehand.

imageIn February, Lawrence, NY-based Forsythe Cosmetics Group, introduced Carnival kits, the lastest product in a series of nail products for the company. Carnival kits include four stripers, a top coat sealer, four sprinkles jars and 288 gems. Sprinkles come in a variety of styles—metallic tiny balls, silver flowers, gold stars—that can be applied with tweezers or sprinkled on the nail design.

Forsythe also wholesales “Art from the Heart” wedding kits for brides and the bridal party. These “occasion kits” have become increasingly popular. The wedding kit includes four stripers, 252 specialty gems (such as pearls), a topcoat sealer and two sheets of stick-on decals. Brides can take the kits to their nail salons or do it themselves with ease, says Patti DeMarbiex, a Forsythe marketing director.

Another product that started out as a bridesmaid gift or wedding favor is a unique manicure kit cleverly packaged as a mini flip-flop, with pink straps and a flower accent, available from Wedding Belle Favors in Canby, OR. At 3″ x 5″the kit is small enough to throw in a purse, and includes a nail file, nail clippers, tweezers, cuticle shaper and scissors, all for $9.95 retail.

In the buff

imageOf course, not all customers desire painted nails. Some prefer a look that is clean, professional and polished—naturally. Dead Sea Spa Care serves this market with its patented nail buffer, designed to bring out the natural shine in nails. After buffing, “it looks like clear nail polish is on,” says Edith Torkiya, vice-president of marketing and sales in Celina, TX. The company wholesales to more than 100 specialty retailers who sell the buffers individually or in a set with Cuticle Oil and a bottle of Hand and Body Massage Lotion.

Although women are the core market for nail buffers, men have become an increasingly important customer base, Torkiya says. “We sell a lot to men because they don’t walk easily into a salon and are often in professional jobs where their hands need to look nice.”

Torkiya’s experience mirrors an increase in sales of men’s grooming products that’s taken place nationwide. As Packaged Facts stated in its recent nail-products report: “The overall male grooming market is growing in leaps and bounds as men get more comfortable with the idea of working on their appearance.”

Show it, sell it

Whether you’re selling a nail buffer or a nail art kit, demonstration is key in this market.

“The sale is 99 percent based on demonstration,” says David Ahn, president of Konad U.S.A. Distribution, Inc. “You can’t have [the product] just sitting.” Campbell of Island Nail agrees: “You definitely need a demo area. That’s what sells it.”

Because the demonstration is key, many companies have developed sophisticated demonstration strategies that help the retail sales staff explain key features and benefits, including Konad.

“We have a speech on how to sell [nail art] and we have a DVD [on our unit],” says Miron Broshi, owner of Nail Art in Queens Center in Astoria, NY, which sells Konad products. The sales pitch hits key product selling points, and the DVD shows customers exactly how the process works. The two work together to boost sales.

Michael Wu, owner of DIY Nail Art, a cart in Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, CA, has two LCD monitors continuously running a video on his unit. “It pulls in clients and then our sales staff offers to do a presentation,” he says.

imageRetailers of nail art kits say the kits appeal to many customers, but stress the importance of selling products individually. In addition to the eight to 10 nail kits Atkins carries at his Fashion Show cart, he sells nail polishes, nail polish remover and cotton balls, so customers will have everything “from A to Z to do it at home,” he says.

Wu adds nail buffers, nail dryers, and French nail correction pens to the selection of his nail stamping kits. “Accessories are always critical. They add to the sale and it makes a better experience for [customers] when they go home,” says Wu. His average sale is $50 to $60.

Campbell suggests specialty retailers stock additional colors of nail polish in small and medium sizes. “[Nail stamping] doesn’t work with regular polish,” she notes, which is a bonus for retailers in terms of both add-on sales and establishing repeat purchases. In Hawaii where everyday sandals are a given and the newest trend is a line of rhinestones next to the big-toe cuticle, Campbell makes sure to stock lots of rhinestones in various colors to boost her sales and give her customers the chance to really bling it up.

People love to make their own personal fashion statements with their nails—even more so when it’s economical, fun and easy. Whether your customers desire classic French manicures or want to celebrate the Fourth of July in red, white, and blue, you can show them how—and turn a profit at the same time.

Emily Lambert

Lambert, a senior writer for SRR, resides in Philadelphia. She can be reached at .

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