Ms. Curtis

Spas, Health & Fitness

Identifying the 'Right' Retail Mix for Your Spa and Guest

By Nina Curtis, Founder & President, The Nile Institute

The retail mix is not a simple process of picking merchandise and putting it on the shelf, it's the culmination of factors that you will use to satisfy your guests' needs and influence their purchase decisions through your merchandise offering, promotions, and your visual merchandise display.

To begin you will need to take a snap shot of your current situation, your offering and how you go about your daily business. What does your spa look like? Does it speak of luxury, boutique, sophistication, or exclusiveness? Who is your target market? Where do they come from and what are their needs? You must know these answers to these questions like the back of your hand but let's see if you can become even more expert in understanding what your guest want and how to best offer it.

How do you choose which merchandise to offer in your spa? Merchandise management is the process by which you attempt to offer the right quantity of the right merchandise in the right place at the right time while meeting the financial goals of your company.

How many product lines do you currently offer? Two, three or five? What is your treatment offering and how do your product lines support your treatments? What special merchandise did you offer this past holiday season and how will your promotional calendar support the movement of merchandise and treatment sales throughout the rest of the year? Do you already have answers to these questions, I'm sure you do but let's think about it a bit more.

We already know that your merchandise and treatment offering is widely based on your target market and their needs so how do you score? What percentage of your guests are local compared to the percentage of vacation or business travelers that you serve? If they're traveling for business or on vacation, do you offer treatment and products as an all inclusive package? I mean do you combine a facial treatment and included in the cost the guest receives their travel size assortment of cleanser, toner, and moisturizer? Something to think about.

Most travelers do not want to buy new skin care products while traveling and not sure of how the products will really work when they return home or they have what they think they love. If you can offer your guest a complete program of treatment and products in an introductory way it may even stimulate the sell of more products as they get back to their rooms use that products and want more.

What about your body treatments, do you offer a complete package where in the guest receives her body scrub and massage and then is presented with a bath soak to use during her hotel stay and a body lotion to keep her skin moisturized and smooth. Once again all added in the cost (investment) of the total treatment package. This again may bring her back for more.

This approach makes a lot of sense when you think about it. I have witnessed time and time again where destination and hotel quest just don't think of buying skin care and body products when on vacation or during their business travel.

Some times your spa associates and therapist just don't have the time to even sell with the way they are booked and when the spa is at full occupancy, maybe your associates feel intimidated to ask a guest after their relaxing treatment if they want to buy something (we will address this in future articles). But none-the-less you still have goals and financial obligations to meet.

Retailing in the hotel spa arena and in the day spa can be different and we have to identify how you should go about approaching your uniqueness to move more more merchandise in your spa. If one hundred percent of your guest are locals then your operation is more like a day spa where you see quest on a monthly basis on average but I would dare to believe that's not the case so this is where retailing in the hotel spa environment really differs. You have a more transient clientele and you have to narrow in on their specific travel needs.

To give more thought to this take a look at your current treatment offering and identify the treatments that you can automatically combine merchandise with to create a complete package, get your vendors involved. In the wake of change in the way we travel today I am noticing more and more vendors offering introduction personal care packages for their accounts to be able to sell.

I remember a client not buying a product that I recommended because she could not carry in on the plane and she was not checking any luggage. She wanted the product for the benefits it offered her skin but she did not buy it because it did not meet 'carry on travel requirements. Think about it, how do your guest get to and from you?

You know that the merchandise you offer has been chosen for its quality and performance but now it's important to analyze the ease by which you can sell it. Accessories, travel sizes, ease of use packaging is always going to sell in the hotel spa environment because it speaks to the needs of your travel guest. It's now your job to really analyze this idea and decide to what degree can you implement all inclusive treatment and product packages? And then have individual product merchandise to move as you win your guest trust.

How do you promote what your spa offers throughout your hotel? Do you work closely with your reservations and rooms managers to insure that promotional information on the spa is available at the time a quest makes their reservations and when they check into their room? This is an integral part of your success in promoting your spa's offering. How integrated is your spa with the overall concept of your hotel? In the retail promotion aspect of the spa you must inform, persuade and remind the hotel guest that you exist. What does your six-month promotional calendar look like? Easter, Mother's Day, Beginning of Summer, Forth of July and all the other specific promotions you may be offering, how is this information being presented throughout your hotel? Yes, this is a part of managing your retail mix as you need to let guest know what you are offering in order to make sales. How soon can you schedule meetings with the appropriate managers and directors of your hotel to get your point across?

With so many things to consider, last but not least I started out by asking how does your spa look? What is your position and do you send a message that you have merchandise for sell? So often I visit hotel spas where merchandise is locked up behind beautiful glass cases more like being in a museum then an environment that encourages the guest to pick up products and get engaged. Years ago many specialty stores created the 'open to buy' concept and brought products out front and center stage instead of locked up behind counters. It's time to see if this can work effectively in the hotel spa arena. Looking like we are in the business of retailing is half the battle. The guest is already accustomed to this and picks up buying signals when retail merchandising, displays and visual aspects are presented creatively. Take a picture of your retail department and then stand back and observe the message it is sending. Yes, we have products but they are locked behind cases so you can't get them. How do you present shelf talkers (silent sales tools) to promote your products and the benefits? Do you have shelf talkers? These tent cards can walk your guest through your offering a tell an engaging story when presented properly. What products are you highlighting to support your promotional activities? If summer is approaching and you are focusing on your tanning services and 'self tanning' products how are you displaying this message throughout the hotel and spa?

With a bit of planning, organization and a consorted effort on your part you can build a winning retail mix and manage your retail depart for financial gain while delighting your guest.

Offering the 'right' retail mix will be based on your understanding of who you serve and how best to serve their needs along with support from your entire hotel management team to ensure that your message is communicated throughout your hotel community.

In future articles we will discuss getting total 'buying in' from your associates and providing them with the tools and knowledge to sell with confidence. Here's to your continued retail success!

Founder and President of the Nile Institute, Nina Curtis has worked in the personal care and spa industry for more than 25 years. She holds certifications in aromatherapy, reflexology, acupressure and color therapy and was instrumental in developing of training programs for salons and spas across the country. As principal of Curtis Communications, she consults for leading companies in the personal care industry. Ms. Curtis earned a MBA from Pepperdine University, and sees the value of learning business skills that are directly applied to the spa a nd hospitality industries. Ms. Curtis can be contacted at 310-275-6453 or curtiscomm@earthlink.net Extended Bio...

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