What You Should Know Before Entering the Spa Market
By Stephanie Beck
In my seven years in the spa market, some of you might remember meeting me
over the phone, in person at a tradeshow, or attending one of my classes. Others of
you are asking, "Who is this person?" I might not have had the pleasure of meeting
or speaking personally with you yet, but I look forward to the opportunity.
Whether you are looking to open a new day spa or be a spa director, I would
like to share what I hope you will consider valuable information from myself and
from some top industry professionals. We will start with the basics, and expand
to include the benefits of offering spa treatments, how to retail, how to select
the right spa products, selecting the right vendor, how to create menus the list
goes on and on. I hope you enjoy this series and consider it helpful to your endeavors.
OK, so you want to open a day spa. What type of day spa do you want to open?
What kinds of treatments do you want to offer? How do you decide which treatments
work best for your environment? For some of you, these questions can be
answered easily; for those still contemplating the answers, let's look at a plan.
Most of the day spas create a theme for the spa. Design a theme or layout
that inspires you. Perhaps you have a deep desire to help others achieve the
perfect body. There are a variety of themes, like "Spiritual," "Health and
Wellness," "Cultural," or one conducive to your environment. The important thing to
remember is that this spa is a part of you your aspirations and your dreams so it
needs to be something you feel passionate about.
What do I mean by "conducive to my
environment?" For example, if you are planning on opening a day spa in Lemon Grove, Calif., you might want to play off
the citrus theme and have several treatments designed with lemon or other
citrus essential oils and extracts. You might decide to serve freshly squeezed
juices before each treatment, and keep your colors very bright and cheerful.
However, just living in a particular area doesn't mean you have to adhere
to that environment. If you have a desire for sports massage and deep tissue work,
you might want to open a day spa next to a sports complex or fitness center. You
might want to have nutritional supplements and sports drinks in your retail area,
and keep your reception areas very contemporary and your colors simple; lots of
white, with accents of bright, bold colors. Perhaps your uniforms are more casual;
for example, you could use polo shirts with logos instead of lab coats.
I have talked quite a bit about the environment, colors, uniforms and some
of the menu. But there is a lot of work involved in creating themes. What if you
aren't in a position to open your own spa? You might have other possibilities, like
being hired as a spa manager for a new and upcoming spa with a particular theme. This
was the case for Lynn Bisoce, the business manager for Spa Balinesia, one of
the hottest new day-spa chains in the Los Angeles area. Lynn's background was
sports massage and sports therapy before being hired in her new position last year. I
was able to interview Lynn and ask her for her advice to other massage therapist
that want to break into the day spa market.
"In my opinion, every massage therapist new to the spa environment should
know the vision and intention of all services offered," Lynn said. "Study the menu
of services and research products utilized. Take courses in aromatherapy and
hydrotherapy. Learn as much as possible, not only for yourself, but for the guest
who deserves the utmost quality in care."
"My advice to massage therapists, in general, would be to obtain your
national certification for massage and bodywork and become a member of a
professional organization such as the American Massage Therapy Association. Continue your education in, for example, aromatherapy, Reiki, body treatments, nutrition,
and herbology. You will become highly marketable and in high demand," Lynn added.
Don't be discouraged if you find yourself having to make adjustments to
your menu, design or theme as you progress with the design concept. According to
Lynn, "We made a number of changes as we progressed. The main changes began with
Once you have selected a theme and created a rough draft of your menu, one of
the most important things you can think about is equipment. Generally, equipment
has the longest lead time when ordering. It also can be one of the more
expensive investments for your day spa, and like the professionals you select, it can make
a lasting impression on your clientele base. So, what kind of equipment are
you looking for?
It can be overwhelming to the mind and pocketbook to start looking at
equipment. In general, it helps if you are prepared when you start looking. Know what type
of budget you have to work with, and think long-term when considering equipment.
What is going to produce the quickest return on your investment? For example, you
can put portable massage tables in your new five-room day spa. They will be
less expensive now, but are they able to produce the most return? You might
decide, based on your selection of services, that you need multifunction tables that can
be adjusted to meet the needs and services of your clients quickly and easily.
The more often you are able to use the equipment, the quicker it's going to pay
Another good thing to keep in mind is that you generally will get a better
deal if you can purchase all of your products, including crèmes, lotions, muds,
equipment, stools, bolsters, uniforms, disposables, herbs, skin care items, etc.,
from the same "one-stop shopping" source. You undoubtedly will be laden with
countless decisions, and the last thing you need to concern yourself with is calling five
to 10 different distributors to check to make sure the lotions are shipping.
All of these items can be handled by a professional spa distributor. You will
be busy with personnel hiring, training, spa menu development, marketing,
insurance, business licensees, and all the rest of the daily duties to make this day spa
run efficiently and effectively. So, make things easier on yourself, and get as
much as you can from one place. Make sure they have staff that are easy to
reach, reliable, knowledgeable and friendly. Trust me; it's much better to make
one phone call and get all of the answers than flipping through your Rolodex or invoices
to find who you purchased what from! In the long run, you will make life easier
for yourself or your product manager, and you will get the best pricing and service
by developing a lasting relationship with your professional spa distributor.
I have seen a few day spa owners try to cut corners by purchasing large
buckets of a product and re-bottling it into smaller containers to sell in their
retail area. While this might seem like a harmless and less expensive way than
purchasing the retail sizes to sell, you must be aware of the potential risk.
Product liability can be very costly. All manufactures provide product liability
that extends through their distributors as long as the product has not been
tampered with, adulterated or misused in any way. If you purchase a gallon of lotion,
fill several small containers with the lotion and re-sell it to your clients, you
have broken the responsibility to the manufacturer. They are no longer responsible
for the product because they were not the ones that sold your client the product.
Since they did not fill the bottle, they are released from any responsibility.
Please keep in mind: The manufacturers are in the business of making product in
sterile, clean environments and should have met all the FDA regulations to be qualified
to sell the products. The other question to ask yourself is, do you or your staff
want to spend time servicing the clients or filling small containers for retail?
Working for a manufacturer for more than six years and now for a distributor,
I have learned we all have a role and a purpose. Manufacturers are great at
making products, packaging products, and providing them to the appropriate channels to
get the products to the end user. Distributors are the best at maintaining a large variety of products and delivering them with friendly, reliable and timely
service to the end users. They are an extension of the manufactures, and are able to
meet your needs on multiple levels that a manufacturer is unable to. You, as a day
spa owner or spa manager, are the best at meeting the needs of the customer and
using the proper goods and services to enhance a customer's well-being. As always,
it's best to check with your local or state licensing and regulatory offices to find
out what licenses are required for each service your practitioners offer, and to
adhere to those regulations.
Next month, we will discuss the benefits of offering spa treatments. If you
have questions or comments pertaining to any of the items mentioned in this
article, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Spa Sales
Scrip Massage & Spa Supply, Inc.
|Stephanie Beck is a massage and spa industry professional with over 16 years of sales and management experience in the direct, retail, outside sales and wholesale markets. For the seven years prior to joining the Scrip team she was the corporate trainer and sales manager for Biotone Professional Products, Distributor Division.