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How to Become a Distributor in the Hair Industry

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The hair care industry comprises many types of product areas. Hairstylist supplies and beauty salon equipment includes hair shampoos, conditioners, oils, coloring products, hair straightening and curling solutions, and an assortment of styling tools. The number of hair decorative adornments such as head-bands and fasteners are numerous. As a result, there are a number of available opportunities for distributors within the hair industry. A distributor is a company that purchases goods from manufacturers and sells to retailers or other agents in the distribution channel until it ultimately gets to the end-user.

Identify hair industry products. Get started as a distributor by chosing a hair product or line of products to distribute. The market is so diverse that product focus is required. Visit hair supply shops, hair salons and supplies to conduct market research on products and identify manufacturers.

Contact wholesale distributors or manufacturers. Once a line of hair industry products are identified make a list of the manufacturers. Find corporate contact information and call to inquire about whether they use exclusive distributors or manufacturer's representatives. Request a wholesale catalog from the manufacturer and obtain information about becoming a non-exclusive product distributor.

Write a business plan. Break-out of all start-up costs, such as leasing office and warehouse space, purchasing furniture and office equipment, and procuring initial inventory. Identify ways of reaching the start-up company's target market. For help on business plan drafting, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides instructions and templates on its website.

Finance the business. While some distributors may wait until sales have accumulated before buying manufacturer's products there are still a number of start-up expenses that will require financing. The start-up business owner may use personal resources, ask assistance from family and friends or seek a loan. Check out the SBA's website for information on eligibility requirements for SBA guaranteed loan programs.

Secure business facilities. A distributor may purchase merchandise up front and warehouse goods. This will require an office space with warehousing facilities. This should be located a convenient distance to transportation outlets and customers. Also, keep in mind that shipping and receiving logistics is an important part of this business.

Price products. Pricing should cover the distributor's wholesale costs, handling costs, overhead, and factor in a profit. Handling costs includes shipping, cargo insurance, sales representative commissions, and other project costs associated with securing the product. Applicable tariffs and forwarder fees will also apply if products are imports.

Sell products. Distributors often develop experienced sales teams who seek orders from targeted retailers. The start-up owner may wear many hats at the beginning and as sales opportunities increase hire account executives or sales representatives.

Join industry organizations and attend trade shows to stay abreast of trends, news, and information in the hair-care industry. The Salon and Spa Association comprises salon and spa industry owners and managers and focuses on business operations. The International Beauty Show New York is the world's largest and oldest running expo of its kind, and showcases the latest beauty industry trends. Attendees have an opportunity to attend workshops, seminars, and exhibit booths that include hair industry products.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice related to legal or tax matters.


Vanessa Cross has practiced law in Tennessee and lectured as an adjunct professor on law and business topics. She has also contributed as a business writer to news publications such as the "Chicago Tribune" and published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Cross holds a B.A. in journalism, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in international business law.

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