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Retailing Results are More Than Skin Deep

Jenny Hogan October 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
client shopping for spa retail products

How you retail professional products in your spa will not only have an enormous impact on your revenue, but it also may be the key profit-driver that keeps your front door open during tough economic times.

Most spa owners and skin care professionals are already aware of the value of retailing professional products. Clients must adhere to a home-care regimen to complement the esthetic services that are provided in the spa in order to enjoy optimum results. However, you may not be fully aware of just how great the potential is for retail to dramatically increase business profits and advance your career.

Focus on retail

“Many spa owners relay that retail is the main profit-driver of their businesses; the portion contributing most directly to profitability,” notes Lauren Gartland, founder and president of Inspiring Champions, a business training and coaching company. “Selling retail items will make your business more profitable immediately, and there is a direct correlation with retail increasing your client loyalty and retention. Plus, retail doesn’t get sick or have any problems; it just sits there and makes you money.”

Selling retail products will earn your spa six times more profit than esthetic services alone. “What this means to the spa professional is that it’s all about the bottom line. If you are currently producing $70,000 a year in retail volume, a 30% increase will provide sizeable profits. If you increase sales to $100,000 per year, you should see an additional $15,000 in profit. If you want to retain your profits and increase revenue, then your focus must become retail,” Gartland notes.

Increase client loyalty

According to the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), 83% of clients never buy products from spas, and just 8% purchase from them regularly. This indicates a large number of clients are not being converted to purchasing retail. They will probably buy retail skin care products at their drugstore, grocery store or online. Why not offer them the chance to buy those products from you?

“Your clients trust you to recommend products that they need, that are professional-grade and that you know will benefit their specific requirements,” explains Gartland. “In fact, clients actually expect you to give them recommendations, especially if they have been with you for two years or more.”

Client loyalty and retention are increased when spa professionals retail products. It increases your credibility and commitment, showing that you really care about your clients’ results and success. The PBA reports that 71% of spa clients are not offered product recommendations; however, 44% will purchase products if they are recommended. “Clients view spa professionals as the best source for product information, and 83% say that professionals should provide retailing information to clients. If you put three products in a client’s hands, there is a 78% chance they will make a purchase. If you put nothing out in front of them, then they will definitely take home nothing,” Gartland stresses.

To begin your retailing plan, first grasp the reality of what using the right products means to your clients. If your professional products were taken away from you, could you still finish your skin care services effectively? The answer is usually “no.” Your clients also won’t be able to perform their skin care regimens successfully at home without your professional product recommendations. “It is not about selling; it is simply about completing the service,” says Gartland. “You have a responsibility to educate your clients and show them what they can achieve for their looks and for the health of their skin.”

Consider your markets

Always conduct a thorough client consultation before your skin care services for new clients, and every season for your regulars. By determining your clients’ needs, goals and lifestyles, you will be better able to recommend professional products that reflect their specific conditions. Consider your target markets and keep your product lines consistent with them. You may need several lines to reflect different markets, depending on your client base. These may include a line for the younger, more economical consumer, a practical men’s line, an organic eco-conscious line and an elegant, prestige line.

At the very minimum, always show every client a good basic cleanser and moisturizer. These are items they will definitely be purchasing somewhere, so it may as well be from you. Don’t sell; educate your clients about the purpose of the products that pertain to them, as well as the value of using professional-grade lines. Incorporate retailing into every step of your normal services and don’t wait until the end of the appointment to awkwardly squeeze it in. Memorize a 30-second script about every product, and let clients know what you are using during their services and why.

Of course, you do not want to be constantly chatting during treatments and intrude on the serenity of your client’s facial. However, it is possible to slip in very brief explanations about the benefits of the products you are using, such as how the exfoliating mask helps to speed up skin renewal on aging skin and leaves a healthy glow. Explain that you will show all the products you used during the service afterward, and then have an attractive tray prepared with those products to bring to the client. After the service, review them briefly and offer your recommendations; also write them out on a prescription pad. Or, if time allows, you could have the products waiting at the front reception area and walk out with the client to review, asking, “What would you like to get started with today?”

Often during skin care services, the opportunity arises to recommend a specialty product for a specific condition. Perhaps you’ve used an acne care product, a mask for sensitive skin or rosacea, or an item you’ve offered as an add-on service, such as a collagen eye treatment or a glycolic hand treatment. Always mention that you retail all the specialty items you’ve used in the service. When you finish your facial with a professional-grade sunscreen application, tell the client that you sell that item, and they don’t have to use those greasy drugstore brands anymore. Apply a delicious organic lip balm in a tempting vanilla, honey or mango scent and then offer those at the front desk; your clients will be much more likely to splurge on an item after testing it first.

Merchandising methods

Having a monthly product special displayed by the checkout area is a great way to promote seasonal products or new items. You can also create attractive displays in your treatment rooms, at hair care or nail stations, or get creative by suspending products from mobiles overhead. “If you retail hand soap, then make sure your bathroom is stocked with it, along with hand lotion, air freshener, candles or any other bath items you sell. Instead of wasting wall space with mirrors or artwork, put up shelving or display industry posters reflecting your product lines. Don’t waste counter space at your reception area with plants or decorative items; display your monthly product special with a counter card to pique interest, along with smaller impulse items, such as lipstick, candles or perfume,” suggests Gartland.

Clients love trying products, so always have testers displayed for items, such as hand lotions, makeup or anything with scent. “According to, the average length of stay for customers in a Bath & Body Works store is 45 minutes. People are fully engaged with smelling and using the products while there,” Gartland says. Many spas also feature items such as jewelry, purses or designer sunglasses. “As you are merchandising, the rule of thumb is to make sure that whatever you carry is aligned with the culture of your business,” continues Gartland. “Proceed with caution and don’t go overboard. You could bring in local designers and feature their work, or attend trunk shows to find unique items. Whenever you get something new, do an e-mail blast to alert your clients and feature a retail sale of 10–15%.”

Check with your product representatives to see what promotional materials they provide, or make simple ones on your own. Have shelf-talkers and other signage set up by the products to explain their use. Arrange attractive displays where your clients can see them while waiting for their appointments. Always have products above knee height and do not put displays behind a desk where they can’t be reached. “Have a minimum of four products on a shelf or it will look like a museum,” Gartland notes. “Placing a table within 10 feet of the front door with special offerings is a wonderful way to display and is actually more effective than shelves. Make sure all the products have labels with prices and your business’s contact information.”

Share with your staff

If you are a spa owner with employees, share with your staff how important retail is to your business in order to get them fired up about selling products. “Most spa professionals are notoriously reluctant to become salespeople, preferring to focus on services instead,” Gartland says. “Breaking it down to the numbers will show the impact that retail really makes. It is about challenging the mindset of the professional. Share how those increased profits will impact their earnings and improve their careers.”

Jill Ruone, owner of City Looks Salon and Spa in Minnetonka, Minnesota, relays that retail is significant to her business and is where her profitability lies. “Retail can give you from 30–50% profit,” she states. “Because of retailing, I can afford to provide benefits to my employees. I offer health care, paid vacation and an education fund. The more they retail, the more money goes into the fund. Service sales pay for running the spa, but retail pays for the employee benefits.”

City Looks employees understand that retailing increases client retention, and that it is part of their overall job of making clients look and feel better. Team members are also inspired to retail with a level system for increased sales. “We use a system with six levels based on different criteria, such as average retail tickets. After maintaining their average for 90 days, employees get a promotion to the next level, which involves a salary increase, additional vacation days and more money in their education fund,” Ruone notes.

The City Looks team also brainstorms together for fun promotional ideas that involve clients as well as employees. To promote a new makeup line, it ran a Hot Lips promotion on Valentine’s Day. Employees cut out paper lips and posted them around the spa, writing in lipstick, “Ask about our lips!” Clients who bought lipstick kissed a piece of paper to enter the contest. City Looks then hosted an open house to announce winners and had three local firefighters attend to pick the three hottest lips from the lipstick kisses. “We had ladies ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s participate in this promotion,” Ruone shares. “Winners received $50 worth of makeup, and the spa team member who sold the most lipstick won $25 worth of makeup. It was great fun and really promoted the new line well.”

Change your mindset

Changing your own mindset about retailing is the first step toward implementing this simple way to guarantee profits. Incorporate retailing into every step of your normal services and use education to show your clients the value of your professional products. Showing your clients the potential of what they can achieve for their looks and the health of their skin will give them great results and help successfully grow your business.

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