Last week my sister came to stay with her children. Sophie asked me to help her do her makeup. While I was sorting through her makeup bag, I noticed an eye-cream from a well-known brand, along with a concealer. When I asked her about it, she told me that the sales assistant had told her the concealer wouldn’t work as well without an eye cream. She blatantly upsold a £30 eye cream to a 14 year old, who was paying for it with her baby-sitting money. Not only did Sophie leave with a £30 eye cream, but also TWO concealers – one costing £20 and the other costing £26.
Needless to say, my sister was furious, and now, so am I! We’ve both had a proper word with my niece about champagne taste on beer money, but she didn’t want the eye cream and she didn’t want two concealers. She wanted one concealer that was a bit of a treat. I think it’s rare, at 14, to have the social skills to say no with confidence, especially on a one-to-one at a beauty counter. Sophie is confident, but in this situation she didn’t feel she could say no.
So, before I blast a beauty counter, we have to look at the brands that set targets that encourage people to behave without sense or consideration of the bigger picture. Clearly, there is no 14 year old in the world that ‘needs’ an eye cream, and the fact that the concealer ‘works better if you use this eye cream’ only makes me think the brand should be making better concealers. Sophie is tall for her age but doesn’t look 20 – or anything near it. Clearly, though, the human picture of the consumer has been lost in a sea of targets because nobody would, if the situation was clearly laid out to them, take a 14 year old’s babysitting money for a product they obviously don’t need. Has nobody thought of a simple age check? It’s easy enough to drop into the conversation, especially where eye cream is involved. Most brands used to incorporate ‘selling skills’ into their counter training which focussed on recognising customer style and rapport building but this has disappeared from many brands. I also have enough access to inside info to know that at least a couple of brands give no new product training to their counter staff whatsoever, so how accurate recommendations occur is anyone’s guess.
Bricks and mortar stores have a strong contender in the internet beauty market, and yet, according to one report, only 6% of women buy their beauty on-line. I think we all probably know that the thing about sales targets is that the minute you hit it, it goes up for next time, meaning that anyone in beauty sales (or any sales, really) can’t relax for one minute. However, brand’s own websites are cannibalising their counters with tantalising offers of samples with purchase…and of course, the gold dust data capture that comes with any on-line purchase. Most brands will try and take some data at counter, but it becomes a little muddy because the data will then belong to the store the brand sits in rather than the actual brand, although the brand can use it.
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There is always room for a personal consultation and counter sales staff do build up, where they are allowed to, immensely strong relationships with customers who come back time and time again. My point is absolutely not to have a go at counter staff but to highlight unrealistic sales targets born of a process of internal self-destruction. Internet vs counter. The only people losing here are people like my niece and her eye cream. All I can tell you is that she will never, ever go to that counter again, nor will her mum and nor will I. So, that inappropriate sale wasn’t only costly to poor old Sophie.
I have taken this up with the brand (internally, not at counter). They immediately offered a refund but at the same time, pushed the point that the concealer does work better with the eye cream. Can I say that I felt like screaming!
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