Creating Connections

The products you purchase and display can increase profits for your spa or slowly break the bank, depending upon your commitment to create a viable retail outlet. Knowing and understanding your target market and spa image is the springboard to help you make successful purchasing, design, and merchandising decisions. By paying attention to a few key areas, you can propel your retail shop toward success.

1. Don't Send Mixed Messages

Does your spa promote a stress-free environment while your retail shop bulges at the seams with knick knacks toppling over onto the floor? Do you promote a spa gift boutique, only to have a few disjointed items sitting on a shelf in a dark corner? If so, you are creating confusion in the minds of your customers. Your retail products, price points, and presentation should be spot-on in reflecting your overall spa image. If you are an eco-friendly spa, then your products, packaging, and ambience should reflect that. If you cater to a girl's-getaway weekend crowd, than laughter-inspired gifts might be more appropriate. Be clear about your target market and what makes your spa unique, then have your retail shop reflect that image.

Retail items placed on shelves staggered at different heights, such as those at The Spa at Red Rock (Las Vegas), are visually enticing to buyers.
Retail items placed on shelves staggered at different heights, such as those at The Spa at Red Rock (Las Vegas), are visually enticing to buyers.

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2. Plan Your Merchandising

When purchasing products, have a plan on how you will display the items once they arrive in your shop. This forethought will help alleviate overbuying, a common problem in spa boutiques. Products need a stage to shine, and if the only space you offer is a bottom shelf with poor lighting, you are creating less-than-ideal selling opportunities. Have a theme or promotion in mind when buying so you can cross-merchandise items such as books, jewelry, and skincare to create higher multiple sales per transaction. Your fixtures should complement items, so be choosey about vendor display units that are not right for your spa environment. Often, a quick coat of paint can enhance a drab display unit. Show your fashion savvy by draping a piece of luminous fabric in the latest color under an already existing product line. There is no need to carry an entire product line that may fall out of fashion quickly. Blend lackluster products with new items to keep merchandise moving.

By pairing products of similar size, SenSpa (San Francisco) provides spa-goers with a more appealing collection of retail items.
By pairing products of similar size, SenSpa (San Francisco) provides spa-goers with a more appealing collection of retail items.

3. Commit to Vendors

Choose a few key vendors and provide depth and breadth within a product line rather than a plethora of vendors competing for sales and space. This will provide you with better product knowledge and a stronger client/vendor partnership and demonstrate to your customers that you believe in the products. The more enthusiasm and product knowledge you and your staff have, the better you can educate your customers. A dedicated rep can also visit your spa to help create optimal selling and merchandising opportunities that are in line with your image.

The boutique at Bliss at the W San Francisco features a wide range of retail offerings without appearing over-cluttered.
The boutique at Bliss at the W San Francisco features a wide range of retail offerings without appearing over-cluttered.

4. Think Outside the Shelf

Spa and salon products, by default, are often displayed on shelves in an endless side-by-side position. This style of merchandising is visually dull and makes it difficult for any one product to stand out. Add creativity to your design by displaying products on a round table or rotating disk. Group items by season, color, or age demographic. Create focus by using an unusual prop, such as an antique hand to display a bracelet, or a claw-foot tub to promote bath products. If shelving is your only option, separate products according to height, space, and light. Instead of a Lucite riser, opt for a steel or bamboo one to create interest. Contrast a vanilla pillar candle on a jet-black tray, or display a bunch of dried lavender to promote an ingredient. Pay special attention to products above eye level and below the waist for they will require additional focus in presentation or lighting.

The complementary packaging colors of the retail items at Skoah (Vancouver, B.C.) provide a seamless shopping experience.
The complementary packaging colors of the retail items at Skoah (Vancouver, B.C.) provide a seamless shopping experience.

5. Don't Cram Countertops

Your retail checkout counter leaves one of the last impressions of your spa, so make it great. Don't overload your countertop with half-hearted items, but instead, choose a few items that are eye-catching and reasonably priced. A selection of magnets or a humorous bath toy of a Buddha holding a cell phone will encourage impulse buys. Showcasing a favorite CD or employee book-of-the-month is also appealing. Items under twenty dollars require less "think time" and are more apt to be added to a purchase.

6. Find Flawless Flow

Your image is enhanced or depleted by traffic flow. Create areas for your customers to pause, explore, and educate themselves without bumping bottoms. A co-ed spa requires more personal space than a women's-only one. Family- or pet-friendly spas need to accommodate their target markets with sturdy displays and extended product offerings. If your spa retail is the backdrop for a seating area, then rotate the seats to face the products. This will encourage product interaction. A tastefully merchandised space with meaningful products will reinforce your image and entice your customers to buy. Efficient checkout is essential to flawless flow. It is frustrating for a customer to wait for a credit card machine to work or for an employee to find a price, especially after a calming massage. Customer service hiccups chip away at your spa's image, so plan ahead to address potential retail problems.

7. Promote With Purpose

Your signage and packaging can bolster your image. For signage, choose a consistent color, font, and frame that unite products with your spa image. Last minute handwritten signs often look rushed and desperate. Also, do not showcase too many signs in your boutique, or you will overwhelm your customers with information. Instead, highlight a few products that have unique ingredients, artisanship, or local flavor. Post a customer's testimonial alongside an item to create interest. Change your focus monthly to give each product a chance in the limelight.

Your retail packaging is also a powerful promotional tool that is carried home with your customer. Your logo should be visible on shopping bags to remind guests of their experience. Enclose a tester or tuck a handwritten thank-you note inside the bag—it is always a treat to get more than you expect. As guests exit your retail space, create a memorable ritual to reinforce your spa image. For example, consider featuring a wish tree for guests to write down their day's intention or offering a dollop of signature hand lotion to remember your spa's scent. By creating meaningful connections between your spa image and retail products, your customers will be inspired to return again and again, with a friend in tow. —Pam Pesetti

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