Spa RETAIL: Handy Retailing Guide for the Holidays

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Gift Card Gauntlet

Everyone knows the super sales periods for spa gift certificates: the winter holidays, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. In fact, Phillips notes that there’s such a last-minute pressure crunch surrounding Valentine’s Day that the average dollar amount loaded onto certificates actually rises as February 14 nears! But ask yourself this: How are you promoting spa gift certificates throughout the rest of the year?

Market THE GIFT OPTION

Soukup says that the spa industry has gotten so accustomed to clients just coming in and picking up gift certificates that many owners have stopped actively pushing them. “They just expect people to ask for them,” she says.

All employees of EsSpa Organic Skincare & Spa carry at least four $40 “1st Time” gift cards at all times that they can present to potential clients, wherever they might meet them. “We also keep a database of everyone who has ever interacted with our spa that includes their birthdays and anniversary dates,” says co-owner Scott Kerschbaumer. “Every day, our software scans this information and automatically generates birthday and anniversary reminders that include a complimentary gift certificate that must be used within the next 45 days.”

EsSpa integrates gift-card marketing into every possible channel and promotion. “Every email we send has a link that takes guests immediately to a page where they can instantly purchase gift certificates—in any amount or for a specific treatment or package of their choice,” explains Kerschbaumer. “And every page, treatment and service on our website has one-click capability for online visitors to buy anything we offer, including a gift card that we’ll send via priority mail. And we run specific sales for every special occasion on the calendar.”

Another way to regularly promote gift cards? West-Harrison offers this tip: “When clients are thrilled with their facial service, we say, ‘Tell everyone you loved it, so they’ll buy you gift certificates to come back!’”

Placement Pointers

Remember, never wait for clients to ask about gift certificates. “Set up a kiosk or designated place in your retail area for a year-round gift card display with a banner,” suggests Soukup. “Offer card packages at three different price points ($50 card w/$50 gift, $150 card w/$100 gift, etc.) and, for the holidays, wrap gifts along with the cards. Then let every client know that you have three options—everyone leaves happy.”

Phillips agrees with the “separate station” philosophy and suggests displaying an enlarged gift certificate (like the jumbo checks you see presented to charities or sweepstakes winners). “Fill in the blanks like it’s a real gift certificate and it’s sure to be an attention-grabber.”

At Oasis, the reception staff is trained to offer everyone gift cards. “It all comes down to asking questions,” says Schoenberg. “We say, ‘Who is this for? What’s your budget?’, tell them about our most popular packages, and suggest spa dollars if they don’t know what they want.”

And since the holiday rush is always a hectic time, why not take advantage of opportunities to help clients check people off their gift list? “Keep an iPad at pedi stations so clients can avoid lines by purchasing online gift cards while receiving a service,” suggests Phillips.

Creativity Consult

Getting bored with certificates in envelopes? Your clients likely are. Look around and see what other spas are doing to jazz theirs up. Cox of Pampered People embraces signature flourishes to create rapport and make her spa memorable. “I put certificates in Chinese takeout boxes along with chop sticks, a fortune cookie, foil product samples, a lip balm, business card and other goodies to get the conversation going,” she says. “This gets the client sampling and becoming educated right away, and it sends the message that this is a spa that puts a lot of thought and detail into what it does.”

Whatever you do, Phillips cautions against making certificates look like bills. “Try wrapping gift cards in the pocket of a high-end silk robe, along with samples and a spa menu, and then placing everything in a robe box with a clear lid,” she suggests.

Profit Center

So, say the winter holidays are over and you discover you had the best gift card sales to date. Now is not the time to go on a product spending spree or to redecorate the spa with your gift card bounty. Always consider the lean times to come (ahem, January) when gift sales may not be as fruitful.
Schoenberg urges spa owners to put gift certificate profits into a reserve fund. “Place at least 50% of gift certificate sales into a ‘piggy bank’,” he says.

Soukup and Phillips agree—this is not your spending money. “Put it into an accrual account and pull it out monthly, depending on what’s redeemed,” advises Phillips. Soukup suggests that the money sit in an escrow account until all certificates have been redeemed. —Liz Barrett


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Related: Holiday-ify Your Spa Retail Boutique | DAYSPA's Expanded 2012 Holiday Retail Gift Guide—Part 1 | 6 Ways to Go Green for the Holidays | The (Newly Widespread) Gift of Spa and Wellness | Manage Your Online Reviews | Social Deal Participation: Point and Counterpoint | Mobile Spa Management