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Creating Retail Profit Centers

by Melinda Minton

If there is one area of spa business that immediately could improve the bottom line, enhance series sales, improve client satisfaction and establish the facility and staff as results-driven and professional, it is retail operations. Avoid considering it a retail area, because retail is not an area, but rather a process and a destination.

Selling vs. Advising

Some spas virtually force product onto clients. Systems carefully are crafted and scripted, and operate like a manufacturing line— the client goes from retail counter to treatment to salesperson extraordinaire or closer, who is in the front of the house, to be loaded up with goods. While this may make for a fat initial sale, this approach brings buyer’s remorse, a high rate of returns and ill will.

Real selling is consultative in nature. Following a strong initial greeting, the client and technician not only must form a service relationship but also forge the client’s path for treatment together.

A natural consequence of this kind of interaction is for the client and technician to create a goal, timeline and vision for treatment and homecare maintenance. This plan must consider the client’s lifestyle, personal-care preferences, budget and long-term goals. This is not mandatory selling, but is the duty and requirement of a licensed professional. In fact, many spa-goers specifically seek out spas for treatment items and makeup because they want the expertise of a professional who can analyze their skin while offering a professional treatment.

Infusing Retail Into Treatment Protocols

Some spas claim retail impotence, but often they do not use any of their retail products in their treatment protocols.

While some back bar areas obviously are for professional use only, the bulk of classic retail easily is integrated into treatments. When a professional mask or peel is the primary focus of the treatment, there always should be a retail maintenance item or system that complements the treatments between services. On the other hand, some series sales, such as contouring services and non-ablative skin rejuvenation, are best sold with homecare included in the overall price.

Personal Best

Not everyone is a natural salesperson, even when the sales approach is consultative and integrative. Some technicians will be shy; others will lack confidence; and some will find that selling retail doesn’t conform to the standards they set for their job description. No matter the specific root of the problem, a creative solution can remedy the sales challenges.

It may be helpful to sit down with technicians initially and discuss their work and/or selling style. Ask what their optimum conditions are for relating to clients, and discuss the benefits of homecare. By working together, you can formulate ways to satisfy everyone involved.

Focusing in on key aspects of the sales process also is helpful. Role-playing and lightly scripting the challenging parts of the sale will prove helpful in the beginning and lend to the development of the technician’s own long-term, winning sales style.

Finally, find out what the technician believes in, what product he or she would purchase, and what treatments he or she would want to receive. Use the answers to help drive your retail plan. Then coach, support and measure for sales results until you receive the desired outcome.

Series Sales And Lifestyle Programming

A new era of treatment programming is poised to deliver more organic and holistic long-term results. Some call it fusion therapy while others simply call it customized spa programming. No matter the term, the method is popular with clients and is results-focused.

Starting with a detailed intake form, clients are assessed by a master technician who can detail their treatment needs—from esthetics to body-care, medical and, finally, homecare and lifestyle enhancements and rituals. After this assessment, the client then visits the spa on a weekly basis, with additional visits to outside therapists such as acupuncturists, nutritionists and personal trainers as appropriate.

Not only does retail become naturally factored into this new way of approaching spa-treatment management, but the clients experience continuous improvement as they progress through their therapies.

Retail Positioning

While the amount and type of retail operations at the spa has something to do with its size and theme, there are basic principles that hold true for any spa.

As a general rule of thumb: a 3,000- square-foot spa should have three major treatment lines. It’s also a good idea to carry a private-label line designated for general-purpose use. A private-label line that is good for sensitive skin and easily built into a unique menu format is ideal.

A good second choice is a natural or thematic line, such as an alginate-based line, essential oil specialty line or other specialty line that focuses on results and natural ingredients. Finally, a medically focused line often is appropriate for spas today. This doesn’t imply medical-grade ingredients but rather a line that is a bit more biologically aggressive than the typical spa offering.

While some vendors will stress that their entire line is a must-stock, this generally is not a good business decision. Ask which line items move well and why; what consumers like about the company’s products; and which lines are most similar to each other. Following this assessment, go back to the spa’s demographics and menu for answers about which items your clients would most prefer.

Certainly remember the importance of making an easy sale, and try to create opportunities for add-on sales by offering gift baskets, cards and gift items. Seasonal makeup kits, summer pedicure packages, holiday nail promotions, spring tanning kits and general corporate gifting options are other retail-boosting inventory possibilities.

Overall, retailing in the spa environment can be designed and managed much more easily with a little effort and the right planning.

Melinda Minton is a spa consultant and health and beauty expert living in Fort Collins, Colo. A licensed massage therapist, esthetician and cosmetologist with an MBA in marketing, she founded The Spa Association, a world-class organization dedicated to enriching the professional beauty industry through self-regulation, education and sound business practices. Minton serves as a resource for such magazines as Better Homes and Gardens, Shape, First for Women and Alternative Medicine.

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