This is a great time to be creative, serviceable and offer as much one-stop shopping as possible.

by Gurukirn Khalsa

You are standing in line at the grocery store—or looking at your shopping cart on the computer screen—and you have loaded your physical or virtual cart with everything on your list. But wait—a cool-looking lip balm catches your eye. You pick it up, take a quick look and think, “Wow, organic coconut lime.” You see the price of $3.69, and you throw it in your cart with all the other items. It was not on your list, but it is an item that makes sense; it reminded you that yours ran out or you needed a small gift for someone.

This wasn’t a big decision at all, but it was also unplanned—at least by you, that is. It’s called impulse buying, and you just participated in it.

Impulse buying is the act of spontaneously purchasing items that are strategically placed and priced in order to encourage you to add them to your planned purchases. Candy, magazines, TV Guide, gum and lip balms are commonly seen at checkout stands. But why can’t impulse items be those products that are more beneficial and holistic, instead of useless junk or unhealthy food?

For example, a healthy snack in place of the candy bar, a pressure-point pocket guide in lieu of TV Guide, an organic lip balm in place of one with petroleum products—you get the idea.

Before we get too far into this discussion, let me say this is a look at impulse buying from a positive perspective, one where you offer products or items that will enrich a person’s life. It has to be truly a win-win scenario for it to be helpful at all. I will only focus on the concept of impulse buying as it pertains to helping people, serving people and offering to them additional goods and services they might not consider unless those goods or services are brought to their attention in some fashion.

Now why can’t we take that concept and apply it to our business model in the industries of wellness, massage, spa treatments, physical therapy and athletic training? I certainly encourage you to give this some thought, because I think it will work. This day and age is not a time to be shy if you want to make a living. At the same time, it is a great time to be creative, serviceable and offer as much one-stop shopping as possible.

Here is one possible scenario: You’ve finished a session, whether it is a massage or spa treatment, and you now give the client an opportunity to add on to her experience. One word covers it: retail.

Here are some examples of impulse items you might offer as retail items: incense, candles, scrubs, travel packs for air travel, lip balms, moisturizers, massage lotions in small containers, reading material, self-help guides, personalized essential-oil blends, water-bottle carriers, water bottles, yoga mats, music CDs and DVDs on meditation, massage or yoga.

In a recent presentation on impulse buying, researchers listed some interesting results of a study they conducted. They asked: When shopping, you come across a product that is offered below its normal price. Will you buy it? More than 82 percent said they would. The researchers also found friends have a big influence over what people purchase, with almost 53 percent of consumers influenced positively toward a purchase by a friend.

The point is, create the opportunity for your clients to add on to their experience and they will respond. Put yourself in their shoes. What would they like? What would be convenient for them? What will enhance what you offer to your clients? What will help make their day?

If the above does not motivate you to be a bit more creative and offer some retail products, then how about this: According to the latest Industry Fact Sheet 2010 published by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), there are between 280,000 and 320,000 massage therapists and students in the U.S. How are you going to stand out in the crowd?

Some sources tell us the burnout rate in the massage profession can be more than 75 percent after five to seven years, with 41 percent due to injury alone. To avoid becoming a statistic, you could reduce your workload and work a bit smarter. Retailing items is an option to consider.

I suggest offering products that keep on giving after the session has ended and also keep clients coming back for more. Take it easy on your body and give your back and joints a break. Use your mind and creative self to generate additional income.

According to the same AMTA Fact Sheet, you average $45 an hour, including tips, for a massage after you deduct all your expenses for that massage. If you also retailed some product and netted an additional $45, you just added $45 to your bottom line—and you did not have to work and sweat or stress your body for an hour or more to get that additional income. Once you set it up, retail just takes maintenance and reinvestment.

Retail products just might extend your career and launch an income stream limited only by your ambition and vision.

Gurukirn S. Khalsa spent more than 16 years in the natural-foods industry, selling organic and conventional products and visiting organic farms. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Florida and has been a practitioner of yoga, Sikhism and vegetarianism since 1974. He is national sales manager and co-owner of Soothing Touch (www.soothingtouch.com), a manufacturer of massage lotions, oils, gels, scrubs, bath salts, soaps and essential oils, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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