to Retail: The Spa Retail Advantage
By Julie D. Taylor
Why, you might ask, should you dedicate precious space and staffing power
to add a retail element to your spa? Well, spa architect Robert D. Henry’s
intelligent approach to spa design has made him one of the foremost spa
experts in the world. In this exclusive interview, we asked Mr. Henry
to share some of his insights on how to make a retail component successful
R+R: Why is the retail element so important
to the resort spa?
RH: The retail shop can be your best source of marketing. Let me explain:
Your guests are enjoying the total experience of your resort—the
site, the treatments, the food, etc. When they purchase something from
the spa, they will bring home a piece of the experience. Every time they
use that product—especially if it’s a private-label product—they
will be reminded of the experience. The more chances to bring back that
experience, the more the guests will want to come back, and tell their
friends, as well.
R+R: Why is the spa retail, in particular,
so connected to the marketing?
RH: If your guest doesn’t have a favorable experience in the spa,
she will have a bad memory of the whole trip. (I say “she”,
because most of the spa-goers are women and are the ones that most often
book the trips.) The spa is where she lets go, is pampered, and gets more
personal attention than anywhere else in the resort. She experiences luxury
and TLC that she doesn’t get in daily life. When she uses that product—feels
the lotion on her body, smells the unique fragrance—she will replay
the great experience at your resort. The product is the strongest perceptual
connection back to the place. It’s that repeat subliminal seduction
that will bring a person back to the resort.
R+R: What about the return on investment?
RH: On the bottom-line orientation, your retail should out-perform, per
square foot, any other segment in the spa—and perhaps the whole
resort. But, it has to be presented and marketed professionally.
R+R: How so?
RH: For the spas we design, we have patrons experience the spa product
three times during their visit. First, we bring them through the retail
area upon entry, where they can browse as they wait to check in or check
out. We may also commingle the retail in the waiting area. Second, the
therapists explain the products being used?before, during, or after the
treatment. They can even offer suggestions and give a list of products,
especially if they’ve just done a personalized regimen. Some therapists
may be uncomfortable with the notion of “selling,” the products.
A subtle, non-obtrusive way of suggestion should be worked out with the
staff so that they don’t feel like salespeople and patrons don’t
feel taken advantage of. The third experience is at the spa check-out,
where the retail is. At check-out, they can be asked if they would like
to bring home their experience.
Another advantage in the resort environment is that most things are signed
to the room. Psychologically, if they don’t have to pull out cash,
it’s a more seamless sale. Again, a soft-sell approach is the best—tell
them they can come back anytime in their stay, if they’re unsure
about purchasing at that moment.
R+R: What about other, non-product,
RH: These are important as well, and can encompass everything from robes
and slippers to art and accessories. These lifestyle elements contribute
to giving the patron an entire experience. If they just bring home a lotion,
it’s not the same as bringing home the experience of a healthy,
luxurious lifestyle that they’ve experienced at your spa. You can
even create a package with robe, slippers, and product so that they have
the necessary tools to maintain the feeling they’ve just experienced.
Your spa retail sales staff should be able to help them integrate the
products and processes to their daily lives.
R+R: Should there be dedicated staff
for the retail?
RH: If you are making the commitment to it, go all the way. The best retail
ventures we’ve been involved in all have a dedicated staff. You
want a personable, product expert who can show the effectiveness and uniqueness
of the products. Just providing the space and not a person will backfire.
With the added personalized effort, the products will really raise your
R+R: How much space should be allotted
to the retail?
RH: There really isn’t a formula for how much space should be devoted
to the retail operation. It has more to do with how much the resort wants
to dedicate to the retail. It could be as large as 10 to 15 percent of
the space, or a very small boutique that’s 5 percent of the space.
The key is the right staffing and attractive displays. The displays are
as important as the staffing. Make sure the display area is different
from the stocking area—too much product lined up is too overwhelming.
Artfully arrange the products and have them open for the patrons to touch
and sample—never behind glass.
R+R: Should the same designer do the
spa and retail?
RH: Yes. Both areas should be conceived as part of a greater whole. There
are so many areas of a spa—retail, waiting, treatment rooms, dressing
room, locker area, staff areas, storage—that need to be coordinated
to make it work perfectly. You also want the interiors of the spa and
the merchandising to relate to each other for the full experience. Because
it is such a s specialized practice, you may want to bring in a spa design
expert—different from the resort designers—who has experience
in all these areas.
R+R: If there’s a gift shop in
the resort, why have retail in the spa as well?
RH: Again, to make it work, you need to be committed to doing the retail
correctly. The resort gift shop may have one or two spa items, but the
spa shop must be very directed toward replicating the spa experience and
promoting the lifestyle. If spa product were only offered in the main
gift shop, then you would lose the opportunity for the sale by redirecting
the patron to another area. As well, when one emerges from the spa, she
is blissful, meditative, and happy. Entering the main gift shop could
bring noise, newspapers, and the ring of cash registers—just the
things to break the mood.
R+R: How can the spa products be promoted
throughout the resort?
RH: If spa products are used for in-room amenities, you have an even better
chance of selling more of them through the spa. If someone is using the
product everyday, and receiving the benefits, they are going to seek that
product out. Again, you go for that seamless experience.