How to Maximize Your Spa's Retail

By Elaine Fenard Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Europe and U.S., Spatality | February 22, 2009

The formula for maximizing a spa's retail business lies in building a solid foundation of training, supervision, accountability, reward, customer service, guest experience and product selection. Sure, it sounds like a lot, but the model is really no different from that of any product-focused business model, and it's a very achievable formula in that it focuses primarily on changing the culture of how retail is perceived among spa managers, directors, therapists and aestheticians as opposed to simply throwing money at the problem. If you think of your retail program as a low-cost opportunity to increase revenues then you've already taken the first step. Of course, the pivotal player in making this a reality is the spa director, the one person who is in the best position to orchestrate the retail program to success.

Much like the general manager of a hotel, but in a slightly different aesthetical universe, the spa director wears many managerial hats: HR, operations, customer service representative, marketing director and retail manager to name a few. It's an extremely demanding position that requires the skill sets of a unique professional who not only understands the business of spa, but who also is an exemplary organizer, planner and people-person. One who can motivate his or her staff to view retail through the same lens so that all involved are party to the common goal of increased sales. Some might feel that retail sales runs counter to the philosophy of spa, but we all understand that spa is a business and should certainly not be viewed as a lost leader. Make sure that your spa director fits the bill; otherwise, your spa's retail goals will likely go unrealized.

With a strong spa director in place, your first retail priority should be training. Training is not merely a one-time class; it is an ongoing process that includes continuous staff education of retail protocols, product details and benefits, operating standards and merchandising guidelines. During sales training, encourage employees to develop their own selling techniques with which they find themselves most comfortable, but provide a framework that also addresses the importance of closing without being pushy, with being able to read the temperament of a customer and reacting to it accordingly. It's a very sensitive subject with many therapists and aestheticians because traditional "sales" is not in their nature. So be sure to express that their role isn't as a salesperson as much as it is a product consultant to each guest.

As part of the training, each employee should be assigned an area of responsibility to maintain that includes reorders, markdowns, merchandising and general upkeep of how the products are displayed. This serves two functions: (1) it allows each employee to become the de facto expert in regards to a specific set of retail brands and (2) the increased product knowledge becomes a benefit to guests.

The next priority is consistent supervision. Although protocols, expectations and standards may be in place, they aren't always followed. A monthly performance review should be executed to highlight each employee's strengths and developmental opportunities and to review monthly retail sales goals. If goals are consistently missed, it could mean additional coaching is necessary.

Employee rewards programs are another method to increasing retail sales. Monetary rewards, points systems, even employee recognition awards all can work to the spa's advantage by motivating the staff to achieve sales goals. A sales commission system also works well in that it affects the employee's paycheck on a regular basis. Such a commission system is becoming increasingly used in the spa environment, and it dovetails wonderfully with a well trained spa staff. Sales contests, too, continue to be effective motivators: dinner for two at an elegant restaurant, a gift certificate to a favorite accessories boutique that sells shoes and handbags, the list is endless. You could even involve the employees in determining the sales contest/incentive program as a team building exercise.

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