How profitable is a beauty supply store?

Opening and operating a beauty supply store can be a very lucrative business venture, but like any retail business, success depends heavily on location, inventory, and managing costs effectively. With careful planning and hard work, beauty supply stores have the potential to deliver excellent returns. Let’s take a closer look at the key factors that determine profitability.

What is the Overall Industry Outlook?

The beauty industry as a whole has shown consistent growth over the past decade. According to IBISWorld research, beauty supply stores are expected to grow at an annualized rate of 2.4% from 2022-2027. Several factors are driving this growth:

  • Increasing demand for premium and luxury beauty products
  • Growth of the aging population demanding more beauty products
  • Rising disposable incomes enabling more spending on personal care
  • Growing diversity and demand for ethnic beauty products
  • Ongoing innovation in skincare, cosmetics, hair care, fragrances, and more

While competition from drug stores, department stores, salons, and online retailers exists, beauty supply stores remain popular shopping destinations. Consumers enjoy being able to test, compare, and find knowledgeable help all in one place. The industry outlook remains positive for both retail and wholesale beauty supply businesses.

What Products Should Be Sold?

Product selection is key to maximizing profitability. Top selling merchandise categories include:

  • Hair care: shampoos, conditioners, styling products, hair color, wigs, extensions, hair pieces, etc.
  • Skin care: cleansers, moisturizers, toners, masks, anti-aging creams, acne treatments, etc.
  • Cosmetics: foundations, powders, blushes, eye shadows, lip colors, nail polishes, makeup tools
  • Fragrance: women’s and men’s perfumes, colognes, body sprays
  • Nail care: polishes, gel manicure supplies, pedicure supplies
  • Beauty tools: makeup brushes, tweezers, razors, clippers, shaving supplies
  • Hair accessories: barrettes, headbands, elastics, clips
  • Spa/bath products: lotions, soaps, masks, candles, essential oils
  • Ethnic beauty: products targeted to diverse hair textures, skin tones
  • Men’s grooming: shaving creams, razors, skincare
  • Salon equipment/furniture: for salon owners

Researching local demographics and what top products customers are searching for can help optimize inventory. Carrying a wide selection of trending and staple items customers want is key to driving sales. Partnering with top brands also boosts credibility.

What Are Startup Costs?

Startup costs vary based on location and size of the store, but expect initial investments between $100,000-$500,000. Key expenses include:

  • Store rental lease: Monthly payments average $3,000-$10,000 for 1,000-3,000 sq.ft.
  • Store build-out/renovations: $20,000-$100,000 if improvements needed
  • Fixtures and displays: $20,000+ for shelves, racks, registers, etc.
  • Starting inventory: Plan on 2-3 months of stock at $20,000+
  • Working capital: At least 3 months operating expenses
  • Licenses, permits, insurance: Varies by state, around $5,000
  • POS system: $1,500+ for software, hardware, setup
  • Initial marketing and advertising: $5,000+ to announce opening

Having access to financing or investors can help cover these start-up costs. Taking out small business loans is also an option.

What Are the Typical Profit Margins?

Profit margins vary in the beauty supply industry. According to IBISWorld, average profit margins are around 9%. However, well-run stores can achieve 15-20% profit margins on average. Markups on merchandise generally range from 2.2-2.5 times the wholesale cost. Factors impacting profitability include:

  • Ability to negotiate with suppliers/distributors to get good wholesale pricing
  • Careful inventory management to minimize waste and losses
  • Product mix favoring higher margin items
  • Managing shrinkage due to theft
  • Controlling labor costs through good staffing models
  • Driving customer traffic and repeat business
  • Minimizing operating expenses like rent, utilities, supplies

Beauty supply stores can yield good profits either as independent retail stores or small chains. Wholesale distribution can also be very lucrative, selling to salons and other B2B customers.

What Are Common Challenges?

Despite the growth potential, beauty supply stores face some key challenges, including:

  • Intense competition: Competing against drug stores, big box retailers, online sellers, and direct salon sales.
  • High inventory costs: Need for high stock levels and risk of spoilage/expiration.
  • Employee turnover: Finding qualified staff and minimizing turnover.
  • Shoplifting: Beauty products are highly targeted for theft.
  • Trends changing quickly: Keeping up with new brands, products, and beauty fads.
  • Water damage: Leaks and floods can damage fragile inventory.

Careful planning to counteract these challenges is key. Competitive pricing, great customer service, robust security, insurance protection, and adapting to trends can help overcome them.

What Are Ways to Increase Profitability?

Beauty supply retailers can employ a range of strategies to maximize profits, including:

  • Carrying exclusive and professional products
  • Offering loyalty programs and memberships
  • Selling private label merchandise
  • Promoting add-on and impulse purchases
  • Generating supplier rebates and incentives
  • Partnering with salons for retail space
  • Offering professional education classes/events
  • Providing subscription reorder programs
  • Engaging in community outreach and PR
  • Advertising successfully to boost sales

Wholesale distributors can increase profits by expanding their customer base, carrying a wide selection of brands, and offering competitive pricing and value-added services.

What Are Examples of Profitable Beauty Supply Stores?

Some examples of profitable beauty supply retailers include:

  • Sally Beauty Holdings – The largest beauty retailer/distributor with over $4 billion in annual sales and 2,700+ North American stores under brands like Sally Beauty Supply and CosmoProf. Gross profit margins around 50%.
  • Ulta Beauty – Major beauty retailer with over 1,300 stores averaging sales per square foot over $600. Operating margins around 13%.
  • Lovely Beauty Supply – Successful chain of 80+ stores focused on African American hair care. Estimated to generate over $100 million in annual sales.
  • JBS Hair Extensions & Beauty Supplies – Single store earning over $4 million in annual sales by specializing in hair for African, European, and Asian clientele.
  • Nigel Beauty Emporium – Leading distributor of salon-quality ethnic hair care products and tools with over $60 million in yearly revenues.

Based on these examples, both large chains and single location stores can thrive by tailoring inventory to their clientele, controlling costs, and providing excellent service.

Example Beauty Supply Store Profit and Loss Statement

Here is an example profit and loss statement for a fictional beauty supply store called Beauty Plus showing strong profitability:

Beauty Plus Profit & Loss Statement
Sales Revenue $1,200,000
Cost of Goods Sold $480,000
Gross Profit $720,000
Wages & Salaries $150,000
Rent & Utilities $96,000
Advertising $48,000
Credit Card Fees $36,000
Supplies & Equipment $30,000
Insurance $24,000
Total Operating Expenses $384,000
Operating Income $336,000
Interest Expense $22,000
Net Income Before Taxes $314,000
Income Taxes $94,200
Net Income After Taxes $219,800

With $1.2 million in annual sales and gross profit margin of 60%, Beauty Plus generated over $200K in net earnings after expenses and taxes. This represents a strong 18% net profit margin.

What is the Growth Potential?

The growth outlook for beauty supply stores remains positive. Here are some growth opportunities:

  • Opening new locations in underserved neighborhoods
  • Expanding selection and inventory for increased sales
  • Selling on a profitable ecommerce site or third-party marketplace
  • Offering salon services like blowouts, makeup, nails
  • Expanding via franchising in new regions
  • Forming alliances with influencers and brand ambassadors
  • Partnering with subscription services and auto-replenishment programs
  • Hosting events and education to attract new customers

Careful market research, site selection, and rolling out proven business models can facilitate steady expansion and growth.


The beauty supply industry offers exciting profit potential for motivated entrepreneurs. As an essential destination for restocking hair, makeup, skincare, and salon products, beauty supply stores can be quite lucrative. By controlling costs, managing inventory diligently, marketing effectively, and delivering excellent customer experiences, beauty retailers can achieve strong profits year after year. With careful planning and solid execution, a beauty supply store startup can yield significant earnings.

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