Friday, December 30, 2011


I am constantly amazed when people who live an uneventful life, wake up one day and decide to invent the wheel. The French philosopher “Lapalisse” was known for proclaiming truism with assurance of a messiah! The earth is round, the sky is blue, and the water is wet! Another one might be: Innovation is the key to success in the spa industry. Innovation is the key to success in any industry, the lack of it spells a sure decline and eventually death! The “Global Spa Summit” organization in collaboration with the “Aspen Institute” has identified “Innovation” as the theme of the 2012 conference, Alleluia!
It was about time. In this industry, where everyone has been happily copying each other for decades, it certainly is timely to start thinking about new ideas. Of course there are some who have not waited for a “Global Spa Summit” to decide that innovation was a worthy subject. I have been innovating constantly for the last fifty years, one of the drawbacks of being in advance with ones time is that it is not necessarily appreciated. To do things differently is disturbing to most who relish in the norm, who find solace in doing what everyone else is doing. It takes courage and fortitude to be a pioneer. Europeans are still clinging to “Thermalism” the French “Thalassotherapy” in spite of the very reason why these forms of therapies are no longer successful. People want to see results and a twenty one day minimum to see results is the compulsory factor in these types of therapies. The average hotel stay is 4.5 days and a medical approach is totally obsolete today. Surely water is attractive and fun and this is how the product should be sold, not as medically beneficial but simply as a pleasurable experience. Water Parks have demonstrated that the formula works.
To innovate does not always mean to come up with something totally new, it can simply be another way to do the same thing. An example of this would the wrap, once a pillar of spa services which are no longer appreciated by a clientele more and more afflicted with claustrophobia. Astute spa creators offer “dynamic envelopments” performed on either a “Vichy Shower” or wet table in an appropriate wet room with the application of various products through long massage strokes and without “the wrapping”! The end result is better, the experience more pleasurable. Innovating can attract gimmicks and “snake oil” salesmen so, one must be weary not to fall in those traps and there are many: stone massages for example that are based on sound therapeutic principles; in the hands of “sorcerer’s apprentices” becomes a ridiculous satire!
Start with the fundamental philosophy of your industry: to create treatments to facilitate and improve life experiences, consider the objectives and expectations of your clientele: look better and younger, feel good, relax and be pleasured. Now extrapolate on those basics. An honest, objective analysis of what spa is today will surely help you to innovate without gimmicks!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What you should know about retail sales that most retailers won’t tell you.

I recently attended a spa conference where the Senior V.P. of a well known cosmetic brand was asked to give a lecture on retailing in spas. He apologetically stated multiple times in his presentation that there were many people in the audience who knew more than him on the subject, but that did not stop him in being very professorial in the delivery of his lecture. Everything that he presented had been thoroughly researched, but unfortunately not in the appropriate department. Indeed his lecture can be summarized through one of his remarks that hotel spas should copy what retail stores do in order to increase their retail revenue. And indeed to the non-professional it would sound logical; but unfortunately this is not the case.
The main difference lies in the mindset that clients have when they enter the premises of a retail shop or department store, they are there to buy stuff. This is usually not the case when a client goes to a spa, they are there to receive treatments and to live an experience; therefore the process of capturing their interest is vastly different. Displays of products are expected in a retail store and since most stores do not have a multitude of sales staff, it is the only way to show off what the store wants to sell. In a spa the sale of cosmetic products is either complementary to the service performed or suggested as another therapeutic approach to enhance the results of the treatments and service through home care. The proof is in the pudding as they say. I have designed and managed spas that do not have more than two or three products on display in an artistic manner thus reminding the subconscious that products are available and where the staff has been trained to sell properly, that yield 34 to 40% retail to treatment sales. However I have seen too many spas which use the antiquated retail shop methodology and rarely get more than 10% in retail sales.
Another important element to consider if retails sales are to be an important factor to the bottom line, is simply to make sure that what is being proposed meets what the clientele is interested in? Of course and yet most spas, particularly hotel and resort spas, have retail products or lines which are women centric cosmetic brands which can be found in department stores. My advice, do not listen to what cosmetic retailers are telling you, think for yourself and remember that the best way to sell anything is through a genuine service oriented attitude, a smile, a compassionate demeanor and the right choice of products for your targeted clientele. Spas are not the same as retail stores or pharmacies so what works for them may not necessarily work for you.