Ringing in the Holidays

Q. I want to offer some holiday promotions at my spa, but I want to do something that will stand out. How do I come up with promotions that are unique enough to catch the attention of overwhelmed holiday shoppers?

A. During the holidays, it's common to lose sight of the fact that an effective promotion helps position your spa throughout the year, not just in November and December. Your promotions should fit into your strategic sales philosophy as well as the tactics you use to execute them. In other words, effective holiday promotions should be part of your annual promotional plan—not something you dust off and tack on at the end of the year.


We traditionally look at the holiday retail season from Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, to Dec. 24, thus implying that the holiday season and holiday shopping are confined to a four- or five-week window. It's no wonder we are all stressed. Cramming all the merriment, partying, retailing, wholesaling, and year-end deadlines into a 30-day period is not for the weak of heart. Add to that the mandatory office, personal, religious, and familial socializing, and spa services become less of a luxury and more of a survival mechanism for our stressed-out and time-starved clientele.

So, let us take a page from traditional retailers and redefine the holiday season. A strategic game plan may ease you into the season and be appropriate with a soft launch as early as mid-October. While this may sound too early, it is not. Clearly, we do not want to see visages of mulled wine and snowy roofs in October or early November, but we can offer pre-season sales packaged in the spirit of fall, which can be expanded upon as the temperatures drop and the sugar plums start their dance rehearsals. Not only does this give you a running start on the season, but it also allows you to be both clever and strategic and create a linear narrative that engages customers and increases sales.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the backbone of holiday sales—gift cards. Some spas have allowed their customers to purchase $100 gift cards for $75 dollars. An early seasonal launch allows you to further enhance this program by offering an additional discount of $5 off of each gift card purchased with treatment or retail sales above a designated price point. Furthermore, you can use this type of promotion to also drive traffic to your spa during slow times by enhancing the discount, for example, if the sale happens between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. Monday through Thursday. In this case, your holiday promotions can fit seamlessly into a yielding program and a revenue management campaign. And the beauty of this is that it will be seamless to your guests. They will be selflessly exfoliated as they do their (discounted) holiday shopping and be rewarded for finishing it early.

In comparison, the traditional Black Friday shopping inauguration may now appear to be both clunky and abrupt versus a two- to three-month promotion. Your holiday campaign can start with Hunkering Down for the Holidays in late October and end with a New Year's Renovation and Restoration package running through the end of January. Extending the length of your holiday promotions and crafting treatments that specifically address the anxiety seasonal shoppers are under is win-win for everyone.

What are some of the ways you can tailor your spa's promotions to the season? Consider creating abbreviated treatments for harried shoppers. A 20-minute peppermint foot rub accompanied by a cup of hot cocoa might just do the trick to get exhausted shoppers off their feet and into your spa. To maximize this promotion, train your staff to subtly sell your treatments, services, and retail while they are pampering your guests. In this capacity, you are helping weary shoppers catch their second wind and get it all done.

No matter how one acknowledges the end of the year, it is a time of completion and community. Involve your spa in something meaningful as part of a community outreach program. Support a cause that is important to you, and make sure you are proactive in addressing it during this season. Once again, if this is a strategic year-round activity, it'll have credibility. If it is a short-term holiday promotion, you run the risk of appearing opportunistic. If this is your first go at community involvement, select a cause or need that you will be happy continuing throughout the year.

Companies often look for unique ways to celebrate the season, be it employee recognition in the form of holiday gifts or holiday events. Creating a corporate gift package allows companies to provide gift cards to their clients, vendors, and employees as a token of their appreciation throughout the year. The size of the gift can be tailored to the appropriate "level of appreciation" and can be as small as a $25 gift card (toward treatments) or as grand as a "Bliss-of-the-Month" package.

If it is in the terms of your lease, you may elect to open your spa for holiday events. These events may be held after your normal working hours or might result in a company renting out the spa, akin to a restaurant that is closed for a private party. Your holiday parties may be coordinated with a local catering company and could also feature modified spa treatments as part of the festivities. If you start your promotions early enough, you can target local businesses that have a size and sensibility that might enjoy this holiday option.

Because the holidays are a time of giving thanks and reflection, ensure that you give thanks to your frequent customers, skilled staff members, vendors, and suppliers. While you might not overtly think of this as a holiday promotion, it is. Providing your laundry delivery person with a free massage as a token of your appreciation for all of his or her on-time deliveries may yield great benefits when you find yourself in an unforeseen laundry shortage in mid-February. In addition, taking your staff out for a holiday meal may result in lower turnover in the next business cycle. A free gift with purchase or 30 complimentary minutes on the massage table may keep your spa the spa of choice for your regular customers. Holiday promotions are a time to plant the seeds to increase sales for the entire year.

Peter C. Anderson is a principal at Anderson & Associates, a spa consulting firm based in Santa Monica, CA. He is also on the board of advisors for the Spa and Hospitality Management Program at the University of California-Irvine. You can email him at [email protected].