Most girls dream of being one of the girls in the cosmetic halls—getting paid to wear and play with cosmetics all day sounds perfect, yet the reality of it is quite different. In a department store, other members of staff always consider the beauty girls vain and arrogant, and are a little frightened of them. Trust me, they are normal people with sales targets, just their image is part of their job. If someone asked me if they should take a job as a beauty counter girl, what would I advise? A part-time role would be better, as it’s not a career—even if you become a Counter Manager. Some companies promise to promote within, but it rarely happens unless you have marketing or business qualifications already. Here are the pros and cons, so decide for yourself!
- The best thing is the allocation and freebies: Depending on which company you join, you get an allocation per month or quarter of free products to use. Usually a wholesale value is allowed, because they want you to use the products. Then you are allowed to buy at discount any other items. The cost is normally deducted from your wages and you can’t buy more than you earn, quantities maybe limited.
- The season’s new colors are free: If the house has new colors each season, each consultant is usually given their own kit so they can advertise the new look for the season. These can be full size or testers, so that consultants can’t trade them in.
- Training: There is always some training course to go on, and you get paid to go. Most will be in a hotel conference room, or some will have a training department in the Head Office. You can pick up skills on make-up, skincare, fragrance, and massages, and most will give you a certificate and goody bag afterwards too.
- Conferences: Most will have an annual conference where all consultants will be treated to an overnight stay somewhere. It’s where awards for the best consultant will be announced as well as those promoted within the company. It’s a good time to network if you want to transfer somewhere, and there are always gifts given out.
- Free gifts and samples: The wonderful gift with purchase (GWP) and special sample sizes are an advantage, and most counters will do a swap, so you can try other products. These days, companies are cutting down on samples, or use sachets instead of bottles. Some counters have their own sterile pots, and decant from testers instead to cut down on waste and costs.
- Varicose veins and corns: Standing on your feet all day in heels will result in sore feet, corns, and varicose veins. It can’t be avoided, but people do invest in support stockings and insoles to make it more comfortable. However, long term standing will lead to one or both of the ailments.
- Low pay: The job may look glamorous, but the pay is low and most consultants are on commission-based salaries with a small basic. The targets are divided into various categories, skincare, fragrance, and make-up. Typically skincare carries a higher percentage than the others. One of my companies, it was 5% for skincare and 2% for make-up (as they felt make-up sold itself) up to target, and there maybe a higher rate for sales over the target amount. It’s important that targets are achievable, because they can demotivate consultants. Override is still possible for large accounts (where the Counter Manager gets commission on the whole account) but is not as common as it used to be. The store computer does a break down of what was sold, and you get commission only on the official store computer figures. If people return items, then that amount maybe deducted from your sales. Very few companies allow returns and don’t deduct them from the sales figure. That’s why consultants prefer an exchange rather than a refund.
- Job prospects: In larger companies and if you are in an A store, it’s possible to move into training or as an area manager if there are vacancies. These jobs also rely on targets and commission, and how much you can get stores to buy in.
- Rude customers: This is a retail job and people will be rude to you and you have to be nice and smile, as you are the face of the company. You are on show all day and you can’t really hide, and must look perfect all of the time.
- Long working hours: Unless you are part-time, you will work over the holiday season, as it is the most profitable time of year. As stores open longer hours, you will be expected to work store hours and late nights, and full-time when there are promotions on. You will not be allowed vacation time during promotions or launches of new products, especially if you are the manager.
- Free makeovers: On a quiet day these are fine to pass the time, but can be a pain as there is no guarantee of them buying anything if it is a walk up. Most counters now ask for a booking fee, that can be redeemed against any product to prevent time wasters. Others offer free makeovers because they need to boost their client file, or to reach their consultation targets. This often happens when new colors are released to promote them.
- Cleaning: You will be responsible for cleaning the counter; that means dusting and scrubbing everything each day. Most companies allow you put things like dusters, rubber gloves and detergents on expenses. I had a black counter where dust showed up constantly, and I had to clean it several times a day. When deliveries arrive you have to unpack the stock and and count the inventory. Some stores will require you to price items as well.
- Mystery shoppers: The industry is hot on mystery shopping to see if consultants offer the correct advice, and to see if they need more training. Usually this will be targeted and the mystery shopper will be given a description of you specifically, and a set scenario. While it is necessary, it can be nerve-racking being tested all of the time and makes the job less fun.
- Competition: Rivalry among the companies is fierce and holding onto clients is hard and requires charm as well as good products. Most consultants get on well and work as a team, but there can be rivalries and jealousies, and in a contained area factions can arise. A good working relationship with others means that they may recommend your product if they if they are out of stock. I had other consultants recommend my products because we helped one another out.
Beauty Super Spy Advice
- Apply for work experience if you at college (especially beauty therapy), as many counters welcome additional help and are always on the look out for new consultants. It may result in a part-time or weekend position which will build up your experience.
- If you want to work locally, get to know the Counter Manager, as they will interview potential staff as well as head office and the store.
- Don’t stop going to school. A career in beauty isn’t guaranteed, and your chances of promotion are greater with more qualifications.
- Look for jobs through temping or promotion agencies. Many companies use temps to cover days off or vacations, or hire staff extra staff when there is a launch. It will give you an inside look at a company with added experience. I hired several members of staff after they temped for me, and I also temped to see which companies were the best ones.
- There are other stores like Lush and Sephora, or a M.A.C store if you are a qualified make-up artist that you can apply to if you don’t want to work in a department store.
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