In years past, booking more clients was considered the main way for massage therapists to make more money. Today, a growing number of massage therapists are offering retail items to increase income—without the time and energy costs associated with squeezing more sessions into each week.
“It’s important to establish multiple sources of income, especially from a source that does not require additional labor or massage in order to be realized,” said Gurukirn Khalsa, national sales manager and co-owner of Soothing Touch, a company that manufactures massage oil, along with a variety of related retail products. “While you are massaging one client, another might be purchasing a product, thus supplementing your income.”
With a few simple steps, you can take the plunge and start to sell retail items in the reception or session room of your massage practice. Wholesale pricing for professional massage therapists, coupled with packaging that’s ready for display, can equal an easy means for making extra money.
“If you’re a massage therapist and you don’t have retail products available in your office, there are 10 other massage therapists down the street who do,” said Warren Chambers, director of research and development for UBU Elements, makers of Magsoothium anti-inflammatory spray, cream and crystals. “You’re antiquated if you’re not doing this nowadays.”
Read on for a better understanding of the retail process, from selecting the proper products, placing your order and pricing the goods to setting up a retail display and, ultimately, boosting your bottom line.
1. Pick Your Product
One of the most important factors when it comes to retail success is having a high-quality product. Experts suggest selling items that will mesh well with your practice, as well as help clients stay happy and healthy between sessions.
“The quality, efficacy and safety of the product should reflect the qualities of your treatment,” said Brigitte Rau, president of Brigit True Organics, which offers a range of gentle skin-care products. “The therapist needs to know and believe in the line.”
Minnesota-based physical therapist Jonathan Reynolds, who holds a doctorate in rehabilitation science, also stresses the importance of believing in any product you sell. At his own practice, he offers tools from a company called OPTP, or Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products. According to Reynolds, such tools could be well-suited for retail within a massage practice as well.
“While clients are waiting, they have the opportunity to learn about, examine and, in some cases, actually use products that may help them between their sessions with the therapist,” Reynolds said. “These products are not meant to take the place of the therapist, but will enhance the results the therapist wants to see the client achieve, all while building trust and rapport.”
Start the product selection process by considering items that might help sustain the effects of your sessions and allow the client to access even more health benefits from home. Keep in mind these products should be in line with the type of massage therapy you provide and the overall tone of your practice.
“The products to be sold need to be related to the focus and beliefs of the therapist who is selling them,” said Jean Shea, president of BIOTONE and creator and formulator of the company’s massage-and-spa products. “Massage therapists should regard the products they sell as items to take home to continue the treatment momentum.”
Other product options might include goods that fall into a broader category of client well-being, such as relaxing music, candles, bath salts, lip balms, yoga clothes, and books.
2. Go Gradual
Once you have chosen which products to sell in your practice, the next step is placing an order. To begin, call companies and let them know you would like to sell their products at your massage practice. During this phone call, you should get the facts on pricing, shipping and any of the company’s retail or ordering requirements. Certain companies, especially larger ones, may direct you to a regional dealer or distributor.
“The ordering process is usually quite simple,” Khalsa said. “You pick the companies and products you want, then you reach out to establish your pricing and ordering requirements, like minimums.”
Depending on the company, you may be required to order a minimum number of items in order to receive wholesale pricing on products. Certain companies may cater to the lower product needs of massage therapists and those who are new to retail.
“To make our line accessible for small practices, we have a low minimum of $150 dollars for the initial order and no order minimum for reorders,” Rau said. “This also means that our products are very fresh, because they can be ordered more frequently in smaller amounts.”
Sales experts caution massage therapists to enter the retail realm in a gradual manner, placing orders for the lowest minimum number of products, at least at first. This way, you can hold onto your money until you have a feel for what might sell well within your practice.
“Start selectively and conservatively, and as you progress, order more of what is selling and less of what is not,” Khalsa said. “Pick a category you enjoy and focus on that, then expand gradually.”
In some states or regions, you may be required to obtain a separate license to sell retail products at your practice. Take a look at your state massage regulations and check with your local business-licensing bureau to find out what guidelines apply.
3. Price and Prosper
By establishing the minimum amount for your first order, along with any shipping fees, you will pin down the wholesale price for the products. The company you order from should also provide you with suggested retail prices, so you’ll know how much to charge clients.
“Since the client is not having to pay for shipping, the therapist can sell the product for MSRP [manufacturer’s suggested retail price] and add what the client would have to pay for shipping to the cost,” Shea said. “This can add significantly to the daily revenues.”
The fact that massage therapists can order certain retail products at discounted wholesale prices is what allows for the profit margin. The difference between the amount you pay to purchase and ship the goods and the amount you charge your clients is what determines your gross profit.
“Retail sales have been booming in spas for years, but massage therapists have not traditionally taken advantage of this additional income,” said Robert Wolfson, president of HerbaSway, a company that offers a line of antioxidant-rich liquid concentrates for skin support, detoxification, weight loss and anti-aging. “For each bottle of HerbaSway a therapist sells, [he or she] will make roughly $10 in profit.”
Products that require repeat purchases, such as the HerbaSway concentrates, can add up to recurring sales for massage therapists. Another way to help ensure retail success may be to stock goods that are not easy to find elsewhere.
“You might want to choose a line that is unique,” Rau said, “and not one that is already available all over town.”
4. Display with Ease
Finding a way to display the products you’re selling should not be difficult. Many of these items are designed, packaged and labeled in a retail-friendly manner. Frequently, wholesale orders may even come with their own retail display.
“Soothing Touch has a number of products with cardboard displays ready for retail sales,” Khalsa said. “They have suggestions on them—bullets of information to help the shopper.”
Retail professionals suggest providing clients with informative literature about the products, as well as testers when relevant. As for freeing up space for your product display, Rau recommends making the most of any open areas.
“Most practices have some space that is being used for decoration purposes, with a picture, plant or candle,” she said. “That same space might be able to also hold some pretty product jars, and then those products can pay for that square footage.”
Khalsa advises massage therapists to keep the retail display simple, so it’s easy and pleasant for clients to shop inside your practice. Consider placing a basket or box of small products at the checkout area, using a card table with a nice tablecloth, or setting up clean and uncluttered shelves to present your products.
5. Reap Rewards of Retail Products
Taking on new clients and providing high-quality massage remains one of the best ways to make a solid income. However, more massage therapists are waking up to the fact that selling products can help boost their bottom line and offer added value for their clients.
“Clients are interested in products that professionals use and recommend,” said Chambers, the research and development director for Magsoothium. “Selling these products is a great way for the massage professional to generate new income.”
The trend toward selling retail items inside the massage studio seems to be here to stay. Embrace the change, and celebrate a second—and fairly simple—method for earning money.
Brandi Schlossberg is an avid bodywork client and full-time journalist based in Reno, Nevada. She has written for MASSAGE Magazine on many topics, including “Massage Eases Recovery for Domestic Violence Survivors” and “Elite Athletes Depend on Sports Massage.”