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Ms. Fenard

Spas, Health & Wellness

How to Maximize Your Spa's Retail

By Elaine Fenard, Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Europe and U.S., Spatality

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.

With much of the focus on sales training and meeting goals, it's critical not to forget about the guest. Customer service and the guest experience are the primary factors in creating a strong retail program, particularly when it comes to creating loyalty and repeat purchases. It is not enough for employees to be gracious and kind when interacting with a guest; they need to personalize their interaction and make the guest truly feel at home. The employee needs to remember the small details: family member names, birthdays, favorite music when receiving a treatment and a retail item they would like to purchase when it goes on sale. Keep a guest record and make note of the details so that when the guest returns, there remains a level of familiarity and warmth. After all, when a person feels more comfortable in a particular environment, he or she will spend more time there. So make the environment the best it can be.

The guest experience also plays a crucial role in sales, especially repeat sales. In a retail boutique within a spa, creating an interactive environment arouses multiple senses, allowing the customer to engage on a much deeper level and resulting in longer periods spent within the retail area, generally a good thing for sales. There are many different successful approaches to creating a more interactive environment without breaking the bank. A few favorites are music centers, makeup consultation counters, juice bars or tea areas, and installing large sinks where numerous customers can gather to experiment with different hand-face-body products. Which leads us to product selection.

Having the right product for the right audience at the right time is both art and science, and taking a disciplined approach to product selection is important. First, a thorough competitive analysis is needed. The person in charge of retail purchasing-whether it's the spa manager or a retail purchaser from the hotel-should shop not only the local spas within the area, but all the specialty boutiques for accessories, ready-to-wear, home products, and whatever other categories best fits within your specific retail environment. Be selective, and make sure your spa's retail offerings are as unique as possible. Clearly, you won't be in an exclusive position with many of the brands you carry, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to assemble a creative array of products that fit within the spa's overall brand personality and that are enticing to guests. So, expand the product classifications beyond the traditional boundaries of spa and create a more dynamic environment. Make sure your guests feel they are discovering special, exclusive and unique products.

By creating a culture where retail is viewed as an important part of the spa's overall business, you can positively, and cost effectively, impact the bottom line. The retail boutique should be more than a place to put product-it should be an experience on its own, with, in some cases, its own customer base completely separate from the spa's. And remember, in most spas the retail environment is located within or adjacent to the checkout area. That means for many guests the retail area provides a spa's final. Make sure it's their most memorable one.

Elaine Fenard is an integral partner in Spa Strategy, one of the world's leading spa consulting and design firms. Joining in the Spa Strategy quest to create innovative and profitable spas, Elaine brought to the team more than 25 years experience in spa development and operations with one of the world's largest hotel companies and the leading international spa operations company. As an industry pioneer and recognized expert, Elaine is a frequent speaker at many conferences, and is a regular guest speaker at Cornell University. Ms. Fenard can be contacted at 303-573-8100 or Elaine@spastategy.com Extended Bio...

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