How to Build Your Lash Inventory & Why It Matters
If you’re an eyelash extension artist looking to grow your revenue, your back bar inventory should be much more than an item on your to-do list. It should be a foundational part of your business strategy.
You have thousands of options when it comes to stocking lash extensions and related accessories. So, it’s only smart to have a focused plan that will help you manage inventory to ensure you have exactly what your clients need on hand at all times.
This is one of several strategies that took lash artist Courtney Buhler from home-based lash artist to owner of the multimillion-dollar company, Sugarlash Pro, in under a decade. With lash bars across nine countries and 160,000+ Sugarlash Pro artists today, the mastermind behind the brand knows a thing or two about marketing eyelash extensions and keeping clients happy—including how to keep your inventory stocked in a way that benefits your success.
Why You Should Have a Strong Inventory
“Right now, the lash industry is like the wild west,” Buhler says. “There are so many [product] options, and so many amazing lash artists, that artists just trying to get into the industry are constantly being tugged in different directions.”
A concrete strategy for your inventory and product management helps you manage expenses, serve clients better and make your business stronger. Here are three crucial things it allows you to do:
1. Focus on Your Best Products
The lash industry is young, with brands of all sizes vying for a slice of the market. Lash artists and estheticians have to wade through this huge range of products when stocking inventory, and this can get tricky, fast.
Some providers constantly try new products and experiment with new combos. That makes it harder to set up a rhythm for restocking and predict what you’ll need, and when. A strong inventory strategy will keep you supplied with tried-and-true products that you know inside and out.
2. Get Out of Guinea-Pig Mode
When you order lashes and liquids from many different distributors and try them in different combinations, you won’t get consistent results. Some products and combinations will work great. Others will leave you less than impressed. All it takes is one bad appointment to accidentally drive a client away, so you risk shrinking your client base if you keep experimenting.
Buhler calls this “guinea-pig mode,” and it can be a business killer. “It takes power away from the artist to understand their product range,” she says.
When you build up inventory levels of product you’re intimately familiar with, more clients leave their appointment with satisfying results which, in turn, brings you more bookings & referrals. Plus, when problems do crop up, you can troubleshoot them faster because there are fewer variables at play.
3. Calculating Cost-Per-Service
If you buy your classic lashes from Company A, your mega-volumes from Company B, and liquids from Companies C, D & E, calculating your cost-per-service gets tricky. Which liquid did you use with which lash? What combination gets the best results and leads to fewer fix-it appointments? With a consistent inventory, you have far more insight into your profit margins and can manage expenses better.
How to Manage Your Lash Inventory
Okay, so inventory strategy is important. But what, exactly, should that strategy look like?
Let these five best practices for lash inventory be your guide to better business health and faster growth:
1. Commit to a Lash Type and Brand
The number of lash options on the market is dizzying. Instead of throwing hundreds of new products at the wall to see what sticks, trust your instincts and plant your flag on a brand or type that you personally love.
Decide what material, lengths, curl shape and diameters you want to use. Then, find a brand with quality products that meets those requirements. That’s the core of your inventory. You’ll keep those lashes stocked at all times.
Some lash types are so versatile that they should be part of every artist’s repertoire. Make sure to keep a robust supply of C curls, CC curls & D curls. If you’re new to the field, start there and expand to other curl types gradually as determined by clientele demand.
2. Figure Out Your Signature Style
Buhler encourages every lash extension provider to figure out a signature style and get really good at it. Do you want to do primarily big, bold and glamourous? Natural looks? Elegant? Dramatic? Figuring this out will make things easier for you in the long run.
Certain people will start coming to you because you specialize in a particular style and this will give way to a certain client type, thus streamlining your inventory decisions.
But, how do you figure out a signature style? Check out existing lash bars and individual lash artists in your region. Which clients are already being served well? Is there a hole in the market that you could fill?
For example, if your city has a multitude of trendy lash bars with an energetic vibe, house music and artists specializing in glam looks, it’s safe to assume the clubbing 20-somethings in your area are covered. It may be hard for you to get a piece of that pie.
So, who’s serving the moms out for a day of pampering, or the CEOs on lunch break who just want to nap in the chair while someone else takes care of things? Those clients might be easier to get, and they’ll probably want a different look, usually, than the younger, club-going demographic. They might lean more toward classic and subdued extensions or simple tint & lash-lift appointments. Style your offerings accordingly. Supply & demand, friend.
3. Order What You Know You’ll Use
“The number one thing that hurts [lash artists’] profitability is ordering lashes that they don’t necessarily know that they’re going to use, or expanding their product range into too broad of an assortment and then having a hard time keeping it up,” Buhler says.
It may be tempting to stock an arsenal of different items. But, unless you already know there’s strong demand for that much variety among your clientele, those exciting and dramatic products may just drain your bank account and gather dust.
The other side of this order-what-you’ll-use rule is that you must develop a schedule for checking inventory levels and conducting your vendor purchasing. Pay attention to how fast your stock dwindles and make sure you never run short on the high-demand items. And with business management apps like Vagaro, you can automate your inventory so that you get alerts when stock is running low. You’re able to track inventory down to the item and view trends & insights with powerful reports. The smart purchase order feature can automatically reorder products and keep you organized with PO history.
This streamlines the process of making, managing and cancelling purchases. And—surprise!—Sugarlash Pro has partnered with Vagaro to offer one-click checkout for Sugarlash backbar and retail items!
Let’s also not forget about retail inventory. Buhler advises that a lash artist’s total revenue should be 30% retail sales, so keep close inventory counts on the items frequently added at checkout.
4. Keep a Backup Brand of Liquid
Choosing liquid product is admittedly easier than choosing lashes. Some brands, like Sugarlash Pro, have step-by-step application processes that lay out exactly which liquids you need. These include cleansers, primers, bond boosters, adhesives, liquid removers and aftercare kits. Keep in mind that different liquid adhesives behave differently depending on temperature and humidity, so take your local climate into consideration and make sure your shop thermostat is set to an optimal temperature for application.
It’s also important to not rely on just one type of liquid product. Always, always have a backup on your shelves. Lash liquids can be fickle, and you never know when the humidity or temperature will make a normally steadfast product go haywire. Have a backup on your shelves so you can carry on without missing a beat.
5. Watch the Trends
Remember that the lash industry is young and evolving, and your inventory may have to evolve, too. Keep your ear to the ground for new trends and stay up on industry news.
What lash trends does Buhler see for 2023?
- Brunette, baby! Brown lashes are gaining traction, especially for people whose natural hair color is a far cry from black (think redheads and natural blonds).
- Wet & wild. The wet, spiky effect is trending hot.
- Slimmer volume. With the return of the controversial “skinny brow” (God’s gift to faces, or the ruin of fashion, depending on who you ask), lashes will probably trend thinner as well, with less demand for mega-volume drama.
Meanwhile, Internet fashion giant, Byrdie, swore by emphasizing lower lashes in 2022. This could definitely be something to keep going in 2023, especially with the 1970s aesthetic strong on the horizon!
So, straighten your shelves, draft an ordering calendar and get your workstation ready—you’ve got an inventory to build! With a few simple best practices, a plan for purchase consistency and the right technology at your side, you can make your customers happier and grow your revenue.
BONUS: Want to learn all about the lash business from Sugarlash Pro? Check out their educational courses for estheticians and lash-focused providers. Vagaro users get 20% off!
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Vagaro is a cloud-based scheduling software commonly used by beauty, fitness, and wellness businesses to manage booking, credit card payments and processing, marketing, payroll, inventory management, reporting, and much more.