Do the Research
Seek advice from your trade association or consider hiring an industry consultant to conduct a formal study of what customers value most and what they value least about your business. Speak to your manufacturer product sales person. They should be able to assist you with a true understanding of what should sell in your salon when it comes to retailing. You should also come up with a plan to counter attack the big box store with items they do not sell. Understand your store's competitive edge. Don't be afraid to shop your competition. One way to be educated about the way your competition does business is by experiencing their customer service first hand. If possible, talk to their customers. Find out what their shoppers like or dislike about the chain store. Visit the store several times with and without your staff to see exactly what it is you need to do and offer to be a better service and retail provider to your customer base.
Dare to Be Different
Mass merchandisers generally have a little of everything, whereas smaller specialty stores can focus on a narrow but lucrative niche. This can establish your store as the place to go when buying these items. If your market niche is very small, consider keeping a few products and services that appeal to a wider range of customers, but have exceptional product depth. Education is key and your staff needs to understand the retail products your salon uses and sells. If the big box store sells the same products as your salon, you may think about dropping your current brands and find another. By doing this you are now different then the big box store. Find a manufacturer that is willing to help you grow your business with a new product offering. If you choose to stick with your retail brands you currently use, then you better become the specialists in these brands and know the ins and outs of these products. Knowledge is key to overcoming your competitors when trying to beat then at the retailing game.
Focus on what makes your business unique. Emphasize the originality of your inventory as compared to the items offered by the chain store. Customers are intrigued by the unusual and are often attracted to the idea of getting something special from an independently owned business. Smaller retail businesses also have the luxury of creating a comfortable, cozy atmosphere within their store. This gives your store a personality which is often lacking at the big stores. Let your customers touch, feel, smell and use the product before the purchase.