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Massage Today
June, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 06

Selecting the Right Spa Vendor and Creating a Good Relationship

By Stephanie Beck

We have covered most of the basics: You have selected a vision for your business, you understand which treatments offer the right benefits that coordinate with the vision, and you have a good understanding of what products and equipment you will need to purchase.

But, now you are left with figuring out where to purchase your products. So, let's uncover some basic truths that will help you work smarter instead of harder.

Benefits in Ordering From a Distributor

There are many vendor choices currently in the market. Determining the right choice for you can be confusing. Some of you might think that working directly with a manufacturer is the best way to go, but let's take a look at some of the myths and facts.

Myth: I get a better discount if I order directly from the manufacturer. Fact: All the spa and massage product and equipment manufacturers have distributors and all of them have policies not to undercut their distributors. Manufacturers and distributors have to operate on a level of trust and have great working relationships, so if a manufacturer were to compete with their distributor, their relationship would be over. Also, keep in mind that you might be in New York and the manufacturer is in California, but they have a distributor in Illinois; the savings in shipping costs alone by ordering from Illinois rather than California makes that the logical choice.

Myth: I receive fresher products if I order directly from the manufacturer. Fact: Manufacturers have shelf life and turn around times on all their products and most do not keep product inventory for more than 60 days at a time. Any authorized distributor should rotate stock on a regular basis; they never want more inventory than what they will sell in a given period, therefore products from the distributor should never be more than 60 days old, either.

Myth: I need to receive my training directly from the manufacturer. Fact: Every skin care manufacturer offers training, and most of them charge extra for it. Most distributors pay to have their staff trained - not just for one product line but several product lines - and the training can be included with your purchase without additional expense from a distributor. Also, there are several videos and DVD's, manuals and workshops that cover, in great detail, the training needed to operate the equipment or apply techniques and products. Therefore, it's not necessary to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars to end up with multiple trainers from different manufacturers coming to your facility to train your personnel. So, how do you determine which distributor is going to meet your needs the best?

How Supportive Are They to My Business and My Industry?

If you recall, in the first article I touched on the "one stop shopping" theory, in that it makes sense that the more you can order from one place, the better your pricing and service will be. Plus, think about how convenient it would be to make one phone call to order all your products, check on order status, report any claims, schedule training, etc. than to have to make those same calls to a bevy of different people who may or may not be available.

And this brings up another good point: How available are they? How responsive are they to your calls and questions? Do they have a Web site or direct contact information for an expert to call you back or for you to have your questions answered in a timely fashion?

Also, what kind of marketing materials do they offer? Are they able to assist with materials that will drive your sales? How educated are they to your needs and do they understand what is important to help you grow your business? How involved are they in the industry? Do they belong to the professional organizations and contribute to the education process? Think about it. Why would anyone want to support a company that is only concerned about making the almighty dollar and not giving back to their community?

You have a responsibility, too. You need to make sure that you are giving the spa vendor all of the information needed to support you. For instance, if you wait until three weeks before an opening to contact the distributor and you need to order three stationary tables, one wet table and 100 customized robes, you must understand that not even the manufacturers would be able to pull that off in such a short time. That is why it's important for you to plan your work and work your plan. Also, it's much easier for us, as spa experts, to work within your budget and recommend the right equipment and product lines if we know what your financial limits are ahead of time.

Company Policies

It's just as important to know the company's philosophies, policies, shipping/lead times, as well as their general level of friendliness and willingness to help on the phone. What are their return policies, backorder policies, warranties and guarantees? Sometimes it's not just about price. Sometimes that old adage is true: "You get what you pay for," so be aware that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It makes sense for you to want to conduct business with people who have an interest in you and treat you like more than just another account number. The very famous customer service motto is true, "If you don't take care of your customers, someone else will." You should not have to compromise service, friendliness or knowledge to fit a distributor's needs. We are here, as experts in the industry, to make sure your needs and the needs of your customers are being met.

If you have further questions regarding selecting the right spa vendor, please feel free to e-mail me at , and thank you for the support and feedback from everyone else who has been writing.

Click here for previous articles by Stephanie Beck.


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