Offer Spa Products to Boost Client Outcome and Practice Income

The glow on your client’s face as she exits the treatment room reflects her deep satisfaction with the massage you’ve just given. Wouldn’t you like to extend that experience beyond the massage table?

The answer to this question rests in your hands, literally.

The body lotions, candles, analgesics and other products you use in your practice could very well boost your bottom line as retail items.

Moreover, carrying a line of distinctive skin-care products could strengthen the client-therapist relationship.

Ed and Kathy Cefalu, owners of TrioSpa in San Jose, California, offer massage therapy and esthetician services. They added a retail component to their business at the end of 2008.

Kathy Cefalu had trained on a particular brand of body-care products in school, liked it and decided to carry it for her clients. She says it becomes a natural progression for a client to purchase a product he or she has experienced during treatment.

“I can send a client home with a take-home product that can be customized,” Kathy Cefalu says. “It’s reasonably priced and I use it myself.”

Having the products she uses on hand for sale is convenient for clients, she adds—and some clients visit between sessions to purchase products.

Stock the shelf
Massage therapists have a ready-made opportunity to increase their income, with little effort, through product sales, according to Jill Dunk, founding partner-sales at Mama Mio skin-care company in Boca Raton, Florida.

“Private practitioners are dealing on a consistent level with clients,” she says, and repeat visits tend to form a bond that benefits both therapist and client.

“Massage therapists are in a position of trust, and clients value their advice,” Dunk adds.

But what types of products should a private practitioner carry? Jean Shea, founder and CEO of BIOTONE massage-lubricant and body-care company in San Diego, California, suggests massage therapists offer products that are simple to use and do not require much customer training.

“The best will be stand-alone versus a set of products that require a regimen,” Shea explains. “The retail offerings should be simple, easy for the customer to understand how to use and apply.”

Creams that hydrate or moisturize tend to be the most popular items on the shelf, adds Shea. “Exfoliators would be the next best-selling retail products,” she says. “These are everyday kinds of products people would use, especially the moisturizer.”

By offering a variety of products and ingredients, she says, a massage therapist can satisfy a wide range of client concerns.

“For example, pomegranate has antioxidant properties, [while] cranberries are high in vitamin C, which helps get rid of the free radicals that can damage skin and also helps the body increase the production of collagen,” Shea says. While such ingredients are not necessary for the functionality of the product, they enhance and individualize the product, she adds.

Massage therapists should also stock pain-relief products, bath salts and “peripheral items like relaxing teas, candles and CDs,” says Bellanina Day Spa and Bellanina Institute CEO Nina Roxanne Howard of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

She notes aromatherapy essential oils may also prove to be a versatile product that flies off your shelf, because although the oils are often used on skin, they may also be added to a bath, applied to hair—and make an effective laundry additive, room freshener and general cleaning agent.

Massage therapists should avoid low-end trinkets and novelty items, says Jan Heinrich, managing director of Set-N-Me-Free aloe vera products company in Portland, Oregon.

“Massage therapists should stay with professional types of products,” she says. “It allows the therapist to charge more and profit more, as well as get the client to return to re-buy when the client cannot purchase the items from the local supermarket.”

High-quality products make the client feel special, Heinrich adds.

Massage therapists can best determine the types of products to carry by consulting client-intake forms and through client interviews. According to Howard, the optimal intake form will ask subtle questions that provide insight into clients’ concerns, medical histories, allergies and other important details. Armed with this knowledge, a therapist can make suitable product recommendations.

“For instance, chamomile is a soothing ingredient used in a lot of skin-care products,” Howard says. “In contrast, chamomile is a cousin to ragweed and could potentially cause a reaction in someone who is allergic to ragweed.”

Passive income
Although the thought of a bigger bank balance is no doubt appealing, some massage therapists are not comfortable selling products. However, Elizabeth Golden, founder of Golden Earth essential oils company in Topanga, California, views product sales as a relatively painless way to generate passive income.

“The massage therapist has an easy angle, because they are actually using the product,” she explains. During massage, the therapist can mention the lotion or cream she is applying, which amounts to a soft-sell approach. If the scent or texture appeals to the client, he may ask for more details. “Basically, it’s a done deal if the client likes it,” Golden says.

Shea agrees, and suggests therapists expose clients to a product with just a taste of what to expect.

“A massage therapist can introduce the product at various stages in the massage,” she says. “For example, she could use an unscented massage cream and then at some point in the massage, she could introduce the fragranced product she wants to sell.”

In this way, the retail product is presented as a little highlight during the massage, Shea adds.

Safety first
Before investing in retail products, massage therapists should carefully consider how they’ll spend their money. Gurukirn Khalsa, national sales manager for Soothing Touch massage and spa-product company in Altamonte Springs, Florida, notes clients expect and deserve a high-quality product suited to their needs and preferences, and this should be the top priority.

In addition to carrying a selection of high-quality products, the therapist should provide excellent customer service, Khalsa adds. He points out massage therapists must understand the products they sell and be prepared to educate the client on usage, application and other vital information.

Khalsa also emphasizes the importance of safe and appropriate production procedures.
“Most products should be safety sealed,” he says. “There should be either a manufacturing date or a use-by date on the product, so you know how old it is.”

Eye candy
How you display your retail items may determine whether or not your spa products will attract the desired attention. A simple shelf dedicated to your products should be enough, and won’t infringe on your treatment space. Keep the shelf dedicated to your products rather than cluttered with other items.

“Shelves need to look good, with an effective presentation,” Khalsa says. “Testers are helpful. Keep products fresh by not buying too much at one time. Let the turn [sell-by date] of each product determine how much you stock.”
Golden cautions therapists to steer clear of companies that have high minimum purchase requirements and demand a large initial investment.

That said, therapists should carry enough product to “make a statement,” says Dunk. “The person in the waiting room should know you are serious. You need to have enough of a presence. Start with three products and then grow your business.”

Training and pricing
When massage therapists purchase a product line, the manufacturer typically provides some form of educational material. Golden provides information cards about each product, as well as an ingredient list, and is available for questions via phone or e-mail, for example. Most companies post detailed information on their websites and some offer on-site workshops.

Depending on the product and the markup, a massage therapist can expect a 30-to-50-percent profit margin on retail items. Heinrich notes therapists should at least double their cost of the item and then offer clients a discount for their loyalty.

Practice credibility
While customers appreciate the opportunity to purchase a product they enjoy, the massage practice itself will also reap significant benefits from product sales.

“Selling products allows us to provide better service,” says TrioSpa owner Ed Cefalu, “We’re a more complete practice with the products.”

Ed and Kathy Cefalu carry a complete line and also offer catalogs for clients who want customized items. They attach a business card to each catalog, which also brings customers back. “It’s a win-win situation for both us and the client,” Ed Cefalu says.

He advises massage therapists considering a retail line to make sure the products are relevant to their services. “If a massage therapist tests something out and finds she likes it, she’ll feel passionate about it. The client can tell when you are genuinely passionate about a product,” he says.

Adding a line of spa products to your massage practice requires a little bit of work, but can result in a big payoff.

“It can be another source of revenue, and it builds another link between the massage therapist and the client that extends to at-home use,” Shea says. “So essentially, at-home products are a reminder of the relationship the customer has with you.”

Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human-interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. She wrote “Life Support: How Touch Therapies Promote Fertility” for MASSAGE Magazine’s July/August issue.