Managing director of Professional Salon Brands John Restaino talks to Professional Beauty about his passion for helping salons succeed through quality products and professional support.
When and why was Professional Salon Brands established?
The formation of Professional Salon Brands dates back to 1999, when I started out as a single operator. Soon after that I brought Teena (who later became my wife) onboard. Our original focus was selling top-class, professional products to local salons up and down the Gold Coast.
How has the business changed since then?
In the beginning Professional Salon Brands operated out of a tiny shop, which was only about 100-square-metres. After a short time we saw a major opportunity to focus on the trend towards UV gel nails and away from acrylic nails, so we travelled to Los Angeles to meet with [professional nail brand] ibd. We presented them with a business plan with the aim of building an international partnership, which would lead to national success. The meeting and partnership with ibd was a massive win for us. What we forged has gone on to become one of the most respected and trusted professional nail brands in Australia and New Zealand, and worldwide.
Professional Salon Brands quickly expanded following the success of the ibd brand marketing. We now boast over 24 major brands, which we import and distribute to the professional salon market worldwide.
In 2005 we expanded further to establish a showroom, training facilities, and a distribution setup in Auckland, New Zealand.
What is the business’s key focus today?
Today our focus has two main elements: high-quality brands and industry leading customer service.
Marketing great quality brands is the cornerstone of our business; it’s what we do. We provide brands that ensure the best salon performance ‒ this equals complete customer satisfaction from both salons and their retail clients, which leads to healthy repeat business.
Thanks to our marketing and product performance we’re now approaching the industry on an international scale. We don’t just carry international brands; we also support the creation of Australian brands that have international appeal and reach.
As a company, we’ve always had a focus on customer service. Our customers ‒ from single operators to large chain wholesalers ‒ always receive our full attention and respect, in both product delivery and support.
Education is also a big part of our customer service focus. We understand that the salon industry has its challenges, and we invest heavily in advanced education and support for our clients. Through education, our focus is to deliver information and pathways for salons to create and enjoy success, and grow their businesses. While we provide wonderful products, we also need to support salons by teaching owners the correct techniques and marketing to get the most out of our products.
How does Professional Salon Brands differ from other suppliers/brands in the industry?
We differ in our product offering. Professional Salon Brands carries such a vast line up of international brands in all major beauty categories, and we have a portfolio of salon brands that are each considered category leaders. Each one of our brands has its own market leading qualities.
At Professional Salon Brands we’ve always held our heads up high with the way we conduct our business and market the products that we represent. Our business focus is always customer-first‒the success of our customers drives our success, now and for the future.
We strive to provide only the best performing products and support services. We’re always upfront and honest about what the products that we market can do, how they work, and how we support them. The profit margins in some salons don’t allow for cupboards of under-delivering products or unsupported services. We want our clients’ salons to succeed; we want to contribute to the success of these salons and the industry as whole. We want to promote the growth and sustainability of our industry for years to come.
What have been the biggest changes you have seen in the industry since the business started?
We have seen a number of major changes but a few that stand out would be the shift in the nail industry from acrylic nails to UV/LED gel products, the introduction of spray tanning, the boom in the eyelash category, the increase in market transparency and product availability through the internet, and the explosion of Vietnamese nail bars/salons. With all these changes there have been many new challenges to face and opportunities to explore ‒ it’s been quite a ride.
What do you think are the biggest opportunities in the industry in the next few years?
Focusing on niche markets is one of the biggest opportunities out there. With the explosion of such a large variety of treatments salons can offer, there’s now the opportunity for them to take a step back and focus on one specific service or category, rather than try and be everything to all their clients. There are some risks involved with this approach, of course, but there are many examples of amazing salons that have specialised and are doing really well. These opportunities exist not only for salons but for product manufacturers and suppliers to also provide specialised products and support.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the industry in the next few years?
The internet is an ever-growing and evolving challenge. Salons need to make more money from retail product sales rather than just the services they provide, but the internet is strangling retail margins and opportunities. This raises the question of how salons can not only survive, but make a healthy and rewarding income.
There’s also still the challenge of how regulated and professional our industry is. At the moment it’s a bit of a grey area, and it is rather unclear as to who can be classed as a practicing professional. The broadness of this regulation has allowed for the quick expansion in the number of people practicing in our industry; however, with this comes a standard that continues to halt the level of professionalism across the industry as a whole.
What are Professional Salon Brands’ plans for the future?
Professional Salon Brands will keep expanding and providing major brands to the Australian and New Zealand professional salon market. We’re also embarking on some exciting projects, such as the international launch of e color and Brow Code. We recently collaborated with Melanie Marris, Australia’s own world-famous eyebrow stylist, to create a range of brow cosmetics and professional depilatory wax that we’re going to market internationally. While we’re still in the infant stages of launching, we’ve already exported to more than eight different countries, and we anticipate the number of countries and volume of products will only increase.
Through travelling the world, looking at many different products and meeting many different companies, we know that in Australia and New Zealand we’ve got such great talent that we can help create salons and products that are world beaters.