By Suzelle Tempero
Adding purses, scarves and jewelry to your spa’s retail area might seem like an easy, no-brainer way to boost sales. In fact, industry figures say that a boutique can represent anywhere from 25 percent to 40 percent of a spa’s total sales, and that a customer who buys products is more likely to return for services.
But a negative product experience—like a sooty soy candle or an organic cotton T-shirt that shrinks—may cancel out the positives of a great service. Clients come for pampering and to get results from their treatment, and they expect the same high quality in the products for sale at a spa’s retail boutique.
That’s why research is just as important when bringing new items into your retail space as it is when you begin using a new product line in services, says Teri Strickland, spa supervisor at Spa Intercontinental in Atlanta’s Buckhead area.
“Choose your product carefully,” Strickland says, noting that since November, she has overseen the addition of two new lines to the spa’s boutique, which doubled the brands sold there and helped boost revenue from products to more than 25 percent of total sales. One of Spa Intercontinental’s newest offerings is Amala, a 100 percent natural and certified-organic line that the spa uses in skin care services. Strickland chose the Amala line because its high quality and focus on sustainable ingredients fits with the spa’s mission to promote environmental responsibility while providing luxurious service.
If a product isn’t selling well, or isn’t the quality that you had hoped, then it’s important to remove it from your shelves. The Lane Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, evaluates all of its retail products every season, says Cassandra Adams. When a specific product or an entire brand is a hot item, like the Binka line of fashion T-shirts that the spa sells, then Adams increases the number of products in the spa’s boutique.
“We see how each product goes,” Adams says, “And then depending on what sells the most, we reorder.”
Your clients can also serve as guides as you look to expand your retail space because they know what they like. Often, they may discover a new product as they seek their own solutions, says Jemma Lotzer, assistant spa director and buyer at Spa Space in downtown Chicago.
“I look for a brand that has credibility, has been established and is a known product to our clients,” Lotzer says. “Listen to your clients and tailor your retail around that.”
Spa Space has always had a retail section since it opened seven years ago, but it has expanded its offerings by about 50 percent in the last two years. In addition to the skin care and body products used in its massage, facial and nail treatments, Spa Space also sells women’s clothing lines Three Dot and James Pierce. Other top sellers are baby massage T-shirts from Basic Need, which clients like to bundle with gift certificates for prenatal services, Lotzer says.
Cross-marketing can really pay off, increasing the likelihood that clients will return, according to Sequence XO, a spa products retailing arm of California-based Robinson Pharma Inc. If a client buys just one product, there is a 25 percent chance they will return, but if they buy three or more, the likelihood increases to 75 percent.
Bell Tower Salon and Spa in Wyomissiong, Pennsylvania, found that its recently expanded boutique has actually drawn a new base of customers who first came for the high-end retail and then returned for salon and spa services, says Simara Stork, brand manager.
When Bell Tower moved to its current location in 1999, they had a small retail space in the lobby but quickly realized that their sales of high-end clothing and accessories were outstripping many of their skin care and beauty products. Three years ago, they remodeled and moved the boutique to a separate building, which allowed for better merchandising, space to carry more lines and fitting rooms, Stork says.
Sales quickly increased 300 percent and the boutique now carries more than 20 lines of clothing, such as Betsy Johnson dresses, locally designed handbags and jewelry.
The boutique also has a dedicated sales staff as well as a buyer, another investment that has boosted growth.
“Having a specific retail staff really helps,” Stork says, noting they can provide one-on-one attention to shoppers. “The people working in our store are not answering phones and taking appointments.”
five tips for success
1. Educate staff about all products sold in the retail area, not just products used in spa services.
2. Cross-market products and services as much as possible and pick products that complement the spa’s image.
3. Establish quality to ensure products stand out from the online and discount competitors.
4. Creatively promote and merchandise products, and consider seasonal rotations.
5. Recognize that the retail space is a business within a business—hiring a boutique manager and dedicated sales staff can truly pay off.
Looking for more information? The International Spa Association offers a course on Retail Management for Spas. Go to experienceispa.com for more information.