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Massage Today
August, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 08

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT

Author's note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality profiles, trends and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs in the spa industry. The style is epistolary, meaning the articles are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.

Dear Lou,

The Spa House is open! It's unbelievable, or at least it must seem so to you.

Finally, after years of dreaming and working toward your goal, and months of frantic preparations, you are now officially the owner of your own operating day spa. Congratulations! Take a deep breath. Give yourself a pat on the back. And now... get ready for the real work. It's the day-to-day operational grind that is the true test of any spa.

So, what's next? Of course, the tendency in these early weeks and months is to have a myopic view about what needs to be done, focusing on fires to put out, customers to serve, employees to deal with and so on. No doubt, you'll also anxiously think about those who are NOT your spa customers yet, the hours on the clock NOT yet booked, and the treatment rooms that remain empty. At this stage, though, I would advise you not to fret too much about these obvious matters. Instead, put some energy into an area that, at least in the long run, will play a vital role in the Spa House's success - your bread and butter, so to speak. Namely, retail.

Sales, Sales, Sales

As you go through the inevitable slow periods at the beginning of your business, take advantage of your free time and spend it making some important decisions about your retail program, tweaking and fine-tuning it as you get feedback from your customers.

Remember, retail success (or lack of success) can often make or break a spa. Most spas have profit margins in the 10 percent to 15 percent range, if they're profitable at all. Without retail, many of them would see their profits dwindle to nothing. So, in planning for your spa's longevity, you've got to include retail as a big part of that vision. In these first months of operation, retail sales can make up for an initial lack of customers.

Just think: if you sell home-care products at a 50 percent service-to-sales ratio, it will be like having 50 percent more customers in your spa. During this early phase, 25 customers a day at $100 each would add an extra $1,250 to your bottom line. Granted, that would paint a rosy picture about the salesmanship ability of your staff, but even at half that level you'd be doing well, at least in the beginning. Later, you can expect much more as your clientele expands.

Training & Commissions

So, how are you going to get all these sales rolling in? Since it will be your staff making the sales, it only makes sense to spend the time and even a little money getting them adequately trained for the job. Often, the vendor who supplies the product will also supply sales training since it is to your mutual advantage; I suggest taking this a step further and investing in some stand-alone sales training, either by a hired expert or by your partner, Barbara, who is an expert business person.

Sales trainers are not cheap - expect to pay at least several thousand for a two-day course - but the good ones are worth it. You can find them via the National Speaker's Association ( or visit your local bookstore for sales books you like and see if the author is available for trainings (many are). Training your staff is not enough, though. You must also motivate them. When it comes to sales, nothing motivates like money. Typically, commissions are paid on sliding scale.

For example, you can pay your staff 5 percent commission on the first $500 of product and merchandise they sell in a calendar month; 10 percent on $501- $1,000; and 15 percent above that. You have to come up with your own numbers based on realistic expectations. Also, estheticians are far more likely to sell than therapists due to the nature of their services, so you might want to adjust for that, making it easier for therapists to get to the next level. If no service person makes the sale, the commission can go to the front desk person who rings it up. The front desk people should be trained in sales, too, as should the receptionists. Everyone in the Spa House should be trained to sell.

Private Label Time?

You've already chosen top-quality organic product lines for your retail section; now you just have to back it up with the sales know-how of your staff. I'm sure you'll do great with your retail program as it stands, but you can take it even further through private labeling, which means that you take an existing product and put the Spa House label on it.

I suggest you monitor which items sell the most during the first few months of operation, then approach the companies who sell them and ask if they offer private labeling. You'd be surprised how many do. Several companies specialize in private labeling. You can contact them directly to get the best deal, but you'll want to try each line first to make sure it lives up to your standards. Just do an Internet search (I prefer Google) for "private label spa products" and you'll come up with hundreds of possibilities.

A Final Word About Sales

You can, quite literally, sell anything in your spa store. Well, maybe not cars, alcohol, tobacco or firearms, but most other items are fair game. Now that you have an outlet, take advantage of it. Poll your customers for their needs and desires, and give them what they want. As long as it fits in with your spa's overall vision, you can go wild. Think of your resale tax ID number as your ticket to creativity. How about books? Candles? CDs? Sunglasses? Watches? Clothing? Ceramics? Gifts? And on and on...

Lou, I'm wishing you the best of luck. Somehow, I can tell that you and Barbara are more than up to the task of making the Spa House work. I feel as though you're about ready to make a go of it on your own and you probably don't need my advice as much as you have over the past few years, but I'll write a few more times just to make sure you're up and running, and that everything is OK.

Take care,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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