How Catwalk took its hair and beauty salon online

From a small salon in Sydney to a thriving online business, Catwalk has built a name as a leading provider of hair, skin and make-up products from quality brands.

The family-owned business, led by CEO Ben Bahmani and general manager Javad Bahmani, offers a luscious range of products from the likes of Moroccanoil, De Lorenzo, Keune, ghd, Redken, Dermalogica and Skinstitut. Ordering is smooth, delivery is fast, and customer service is held as the most important value.

Making the move online

Catwalk began to evolve into an online business in 2005, when digital retail was still blossoming in Australia.

“Back then, there was virtually no-one in that space doing what we’re doing now,” Javad Bahmani says. “There was also still a lot of fear around online retail. Online payments weren’t what they are today.

“But we went out there and committed to making an online store. It was small – a much smaller operation than it is today. Then we started to see some great results and kept going from strength to strength, and the online part of our business kept growing.”

The online marketplace was new to the Catwalk team, which meant plenty of learning by doing.

“It was something we didn’t really have any experience with, in terms of how to get customers, how to sell online. Getting a website built, choosing a web developer, managing the site, knowing how many resources to put into it – they were all challenges.”

Looking back now, the hard work has certainly paid off. “We’re glad now that we started 10 years ago,” Bahmani says. “The marketplace is a lot more competitive. There are a lot more players, it’s a lot more dynamic and you have overseas competitors. But we take a lot of pride in what we’ve done and in being quite unique in what we provide.”

Keeping suppliers on side

One of the core strengths of Catwalk is its stable of products from leading hair, skin and make-up brands. Bahmani says that developing and keeping good relationships with these brands is a large part of what has allowed their business to flourish.

“We had good relationships initially because of how we performed in the salon,” he says. “We continue to have good relationships because we’ve always been true to our word. A lot of people go out there and try to undercut these brands. We have longevity because we’ve been very ethical in our approach and work with these brands to create great partnerships.”

As well as nurturing relationships with suppliers, Catwalk values its community of loyal customers, and strives to grow its audience in an organic way.

“We’ve never gone out there and purchased a database. Our database has grown organically. Everything has been through word of mouth, through social media, through obtaining customers and keeping them. It’s people who trust what we do.”

Smooth payment, swift delivery and happy customers

To make the shopping experience as seamless as possible, Catwalk uses SecurePay for reliable online payment processing and Australia Post for fast, reliable delivery. As a bonus, customers in Sydney are offered same-day and overnight delivery.

“All that means is we need to prioritise the local orders that come in and process them before the cut-off time. We work very hard to make sure we have the stock available for dispatch.”

Three tips for online business success

1. Offer something unique. “Being unique is probably the most important thing you can do these days. When you’re entering any kind of marketplace, the one thing you’ve got to ask yourself is: do you have a unique product? Is the market over- or under-saturated? Why would someone shop from you? What are you providing that others aren’t?”

2. Put the customer first. “We pride ourselves on providing a very competitive price and a very good service, and people respond to that. When you look at our reviews, 99 per cent of our customers are happy.”

3. Keep aiming higher. “We’re a family business – we are still quite humble in size and we keep true to our beliefs. We still strive to grow this business, and we have a hunger to do even bigger things with it. We can always picture something greater and that’s what drives us every day.

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