Ring those bells this holiday season with some sound advice on how to display your spa’s retail products.

Spa Habitat

It’s gift-buying season and you’ve purchased a healthy supply of high-quality, eye-catching products to spice up your spa’s retail shelves. However, great merchandise is no guarantee of great sales. If you don’t set up retail spaces in a way that entices guests to make a purchase, you can end up with a discouragingly full discount bin come January.

To help you avoid that sad scenario, DAYSPA consulted four retail mavens and asked their opinions on maximizing retail space, from the ideal size and location to shelving and stocking options. Find out what these pros had to say and assess how your spa retail area measures up—before the shopping season gets into full swing.

Our Panel

Fulvio Bondi, vice president, Deserving Thyme, an aromatherapy manufacturer and distributor, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Laura Cummins, owner, Nine Dotz Consulting, a business marketing consultancy, Flemington, New Jersey
Patricia Kaspian, esthetician/owner, A French Touch Parisian Skincare Salon, San Luis Obispo, California
Wendei Smith, owner, Peace of Mind Skin & Body Care, Studio City, California

Is there a rule of thumb when it comes to the size and location of a spa’s retail space?

Obviously, the size of a spa’s retail area should depend largely on the size of the spa as a whole. Deserving Thyme’s Fulvio Bondi estimates that a small day spa—say 1,400 square feet—’should allocate about 15% of its space to retail.’ Spa owner Patricia Kaspian believes that owners should dedicate 20% or more to this purpose, and spa owner Wendei Smith says a spa’s retail area should be equivalent to two or three of that spa’s treatment rooms.

When it comes to the location of the retail department, however, there’s a general consensus that visibility is a key factor. This means that lobby
areas are the obvious choice, but that only holds if your lobby area is heavily traveled. If clients walk straight through it on their way to your relaxation lounge, you should consider alternative, or even multiple, locations.

“You want retail areas to be easily accessible, and in places that receive the most foot traffic—perhaps one display by the front desk and another in between treatment rooms near the relaxation area,” suggests business consultant Laura Cummins. “As people are waiting for their services to begin, they may want to browse and do a little shopping.” Smith even keeps a few retail items for display right outside the bathroom “so that clients see them as they pass by.”

Cummins warns against positioning retail too far away from the entrance, however, as that makes access difficult for clients who want to just stop by and pick up a gift card or replenish a product. “Also, men who are shopping for their wives or girlfriends for special occasions don’t want to walk through a spa to purchase items,” she points out.

Should a spa’s retail department have a particular look or color scheme?

Although Cummins feels that a color scheme is a great concept, she reminds that it can also be limiting, and so recommends a light touch. “I tend to like neutral hues since this provides a blank canvas for creative merchandising,” she says.

In general, your retail area’s color scheme should “speak to your spa’s branding and relate to the overall esthetic/décor of the spa,” says Bondi. Smith, for example, sticks with one material. “I use natural wood in my treatment rooms and bathroom, so I also use natural wood bookcases for my retail cabinets,” she says.

Kaspian opts for a non-distracting, clean look that aligns with her spa’s aesthetic. “I create simple but eye-catching displays with multi-level acrylic stands and a themed ‘spot’ color (but not a primary color), used very sparingly,” she says. “I prefer clean, glass cases that let the products themselves draw the attention. Any colors I use are in sync with my general spa style and colors. Then I use simple signage.”

How do you create a quiet and muted retail space that also attracts buyers?

Shoppers are drawn to uncomplicated displays that also tell a story, and that storytelling can begin before the guest even enters your spa.

“Spa owners tend to neglect window space, but it’s very valuable in attracting people who are walking by—people who may have never visited your business,” Cummins says. “If your window is telling an interesting enough story, people will walk in and shop. But be sure your interior retail area continues the narrative.”

For additional display ideas, Cummins suggests visiting local antique shops and specialty stores to purchase props to accent windows and retail spaces. “Remember that your window is a prime area to market and promote your business,” she says. “Update your window and retail spaces every four to six weeks and your clients and staff will take notice. You’ll notice too, via an increase in sales on a service and retail level.”

Bondi suggests creating impact with evocative spa images and aromas. A lit candle or burning essential oils placed among the displays draws guests’ attention to those areas. In addition, products located at eye level and on feature tables become a focus, as do related products that are merchandised together (think nail polish paired in a display with foot care and flip-flops).

How much information about products should I display?

Opinions vary as to the value of shelf talkers in a spa’s retail area. Smith, for instance, isn’t a fan. “I’ve never seen that they make a difference,” she says. “People like to buy from people, not shelf talkers.” But Bondi supports their use in promoting product brands or service specials. “Try using standard Plexiglass sign holders to display information in each treatment room,” he suggests, “and insert new signs when needed.”

Kaspian uses brief, descriptive signage in display areas to “talk” for her when she’s busy with a client. She keeps these messages short, however. “Be specific and create urgency with deadlines such as ‘Get X when you buy Y through March 31!’ and always match the graphics to the style of your spa to maintain your branding,” she advises.

Don’t stop at your main retail area either. Cummins suggests using tent cards in your restrooms, treatment rooms, relaxation areas, and so on, to showcase your latest products. (If you’re concerned with theft, display an empty box.) “Avoid using shelves that are too high up or too low since people tend to ignore these areas,” she adds.

Consider the type of information most likely to interest shoppers. “Research trends and see what’s hot,” suggests Cummins. “Share these stories on each shelf by speaking with your vendors and having them provide tear sheets that highlight who is using their products and why. For example, you’ll see an increase in sales if Oprah recommends a product.”

Like Smith, Cummins believes that, “at the end of the day, most people who shop at a spa or
salon will purchase items that are recommended to them by their esthetician or stylist. They also buy products that they are already using. I don’t feel shelf talkers are necessary when people are shopping this way. With each collection, I would recommend a product focus of the month, or week, depending on foot traffic. This is a great way to introduce new products to your clients and you can display the product one-sheet that most vendors provide in a frame next to the new item.”

What’s the most effective way to stock shelves?

Bondi says that you can show clients that you support the products used in your spa by having lots of them. “Certain products used in popular treatments, as well as ones that sell well, should be well stocked, with a minimum of four to six units,” he says. “If you have too few of an item in stock, the consumer may think the item has been discontinued or that the spa doesn’t truly support that line. When you are low and sold out on product, you risk losing a sale.”

“Try to keep at least three, if not more, of each product on the shelves,” Smith says, but adds that a strategy is key to avoiding clutter. “I keep product lines grouped together; I keep seasonal items, such as tanning lotions and bronzers, together; and I have a separate area for my makeup display. Also, I’ve found that products displayed on bottom shelves don’t do well, so I display sample gift bags or baskets on those shelves.”

Smith displays her seasonal items at her spa’s reception desk to grab the attention of clients checking in or out. “Last summer I did a grouping of foot products—spray, foot butter, cute nail polish, buffer, for example,” she says. Kaspian uses her front desk similarly. “It trains clientele so they always know where to look for those specials,” she says. And what do you do if items start collecting dust? “Take products that aren’t moving and put them on special to move them out,” urges Smith.

As for the locked glass case, most agree that it discourages sales. “The only thing locked in a case at our spa in the makeup inventory, because of a space issue,” says Smith. “People enjoy touching and picking up products. I teach my clients how to read ingredient labels so they feel empowered when they are making a purchase, whether it’s from my spa or somewhere else.”

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