Beauty Squad-Hattiesburg, MS

Mr.Hong, wary of customer leaving empty-handed, has a dream

Beauty Squad Hattiesburg, MS | Sunny Kim


We visited ‘Beauty Squad’ located in Hattiesburg, MS, also known as ‘the Hub City’ because it connects six major highways in the Gulf Coast. After taking over his par-ent’s business, he recently moved to a new larger location nearby and was working hard from an early morning to setup a more welcoming retail space and to compete against nearby retail stores..

Q. Is there anything special about Beauty Squad?


Wigs are our strategic priority.
“Customers reacted more positively than we had ex-pected. Being located in a rural area, we made a great effort to carry all the wigs customers would look for; as a result, the inventory grew from 400 to 1,000.” Although it’s only been a month since moving to a bigger retail space, his staff were already receiving great feedbacks from customers including some from remote towns up to an hour drive away. He’s obvi-ously fueling the business with his vigor, passion, and courage.


Surviving a price competition
“We simply can’t help. There are too many items sold at a discounted price in nearby stores, so we always send out employees to survey the market prices. There’s no other way but to match the competitors’ price. Customers are really swift. Especially, the social media exposes prices outright, making it highly sensitive. Sometimes, it’s painful to sell quality products at a discounted price, but we don’t have a choice in order to survive.”


Top Customer Service
“All employees work with a pride in our service. As the retail space grew, we hired more employees.” CEO Hong hosts happy hours for employees quite frequently. He adds that being appreciative of the staff members who drive the sales and providing them of adequate incentives are very important.


Pleasant Retail Atmosphere for a Convenient Shopping Experience
Cosmetics, edge gels, and other goods that customers prefer to actually smell, and feel are available for testing with almost no exception. In case customers visit along with other family members, there is a waiting area where children and male customers can relax and wait for other family members to shop.

Q. Do you have any memorable moment with a customer??

“Do you recognize me?”
“Wow, you didn’t change a bit.”

One day, a female soldier came to the counter. The story goes back fifteen years ago, the first day he started working for his father at the store. He caught a customer who sneaked out without paying for the items. His dad told him to just let her go saying she’s just a young student. Then, years later, she became a soldier and returned to the store. She said she had been deployed in South Korea, and he sincerely welcomed her. Though he had felt unsatisfying to let her go without reporting to the police at the moment, now he thinks his dad was right. He smiles now saying, “she is a regular.”



Q. Online retails, how do you deal with them?

“The biggest problem is when customer purchases bundle hairs online. There is no guarantee of quality or the seller, so they are taking a big risk when buying without actually looking at the product. Moreover, the price is not actually lower. I had customers who bring in goods purchased online and ask for similar items. That’s when I felt really sorry.” There are also customers who boast of a wig purchased online. You might get lucky the first or second time, but customers themselves know of problems. He often hears customers sharing bad experiences while waiting in the check-out line. CEO Hong reemphasizes that selling good products at a good price is the answer; especially when it comes to bundle hair, you got to have the best products. “Customers prefer purchasing wigs in brick-and-mortar stores. You’ve got to read their minds. In the wig market, we are still upper-handed. Wigs are particularly trendy, so most hot items are quickly sold out online. As long as you consistently provide good customer service, customers will come.” CEO Hong brings up an example while showing a wig room, which are well organized to make shopping easier and for which he’s been making a continuous effort to have quality products including store-exclusive items. “A natural looking and light weight hair product with baby hair is great; even better if at a good price. This product comes in body and straight styles and in various colors.” He emphasizes that you must have a unique color as well as reliable colors. Also, he recommends having frequent promotions for old stocks and items that are sold at a lower rate than anticipated by utilizing the retail space efficiently.

Q. What is your current project?


Brightening Retail Space
“Now, we’re replacing conventional light bulbs with LEDs. If we do it DIY, the labor cost is zero. Furthermore, if we want professional help, we are placed in a long wait list especially due to the locale. I felt restless and desired to save money, so I began to teach myself.” CEO Hong places orders for light equipments and replaces bulbs himself to brighten the store. In addition, from television displays to security cameras in the store, he is a skilled in many things like MacGyver.


Focusing on Trendy, Luxury Items
“We are trying to re-position ourselves from low-priced to mid-to-high priced retail sector.” You can’t sell at a regular price if the items are available everywhere. Using to the same approach, he plans to bring higher-end bundle hairs to replace low-priced goods.


Assigning Tasks to a Right Person
“We tend to compliment each other a lot.” There are employees who sell high-end products very well, who clean well, who greet well, who sees what customers want without asking, who’s good at putting on wigs, and so on; assigning individuals to a tailored task they are skilled for is a sure way to improve sales.

Q. Were there times you struggled?

“There was time when wearing natural hair was trendy. Customers came in and bought only shampoos and conditioners that had low margin. Cro-chet hair trend that followed improved the situation. I am wishing Be-yonce’s human hair look goes viral in social media soon. (laugh) Another example is having so many African population in the neighborhood. Also, we have many beauticians. Building a great realtionship with them is an-other point.”



Q. How do you deal with old stocks?

“It’s fortunate. The product went out of business, but I didn’t.” When he feels the end of life for a product is approaching, CEO Hong analyzes POS data and cuts the price at no margin or sometimes at a loss. He thinks you’d better to liquidate them and invest the money in other goods that sell. He doesn’t think in terms of “losing $500” but “salvaging $200”. “I should’ve listened to that sales guy! Who can I blame? I made the deci-sion…” CEO Hong’s optimistic views help him thrive in the beauty industry. CEO Hong stepped into the beauty industry when he started assisting his parents running their business after his military duty in South Korea. he’s blessed. There’s very few business where you can procure goods without speaking in English. He’s just grateful that he could go on with his family business. His mother oversees all the matters for accessories from ordering to displaying them. His wife is in charge of chemicals, and all family members merrily work together in harmony for the beauty supply. “This beauty supply business is something I want to hand down to my son and daughter,” says CEO Hong with confidence. In his father’s day, any products brought in by sales associates they knew were welcome, but he tries to do it another way: procuring selectively. Though he opens the store 7 days a week due to the competition, there are still times customers walk out the door empty-handed. Those times include when they couldn’t find what they wanted or pricing wasn’t right. CEO Hong left a short message at the conclusion of our meeting. “The most scary moment is when a customer walks out our store without buying anything.”

Beauty Supply
BNB Magazine 2019, May ©