Tips to Make Your Retailing Adventure a Success

Reprinted with permission from the July, 2006 issue of Massage Today. Complete issue archives and other resources available at

Adding retail to your practice is a sound business idea proven to add unlimited revenue dollars to your business, while providing a profit for your bottom line. You potentially can add 20 to 80 percent or more to your income over treatment offerings alone! Numbers like that are difficult to ignore, especially when they are so easily within your grasp.

So, now that you have made the decision to offer products to your customers, where do you start? With so many decisions to make from product selection, to pricing, to merchandising, it's natural to feel a bit wary about taking the first step.

I will share with you some ideas that can help you avoid making a mistake when beginning your new retailing adventure.

The first thing to identify is the type of therapy your services provide. Is your practice geared toward sports massage, relaxation massage, eastern therapies, holistic, energetic, spa, rehab or something else entirely? Once you have established what kind of market your clients comprise, you can begin to select products appropriate to your practice, as well as offering the greatest possibility of sell through.

Let's use sports massage as an example. Products appropriate for retailing in this type of environment would be hot and cold packs, analgesics, stretching tools, muscle relaxing bath soaks, exercise balls and so forth. The clientele for this type of massage would be more inclined to buy these types of items from their therapist because this is in the same realm as the therapy they seek from you. Offering items such as body scrubs and candles might not work as well in this sports massage environment. Conversely, relaxation products such as essential oils, buckwheat pillows, lamp rings, bath salts, sugar scrubs, salt scrubs, and scented lotions would be ideal retail items for spa, holistic and energetic therapy types.

Choose products you believe in and would use. Choose products you are knowledgeable about. When you make your product line decisions, make sure you are going to be comfortable with providing information about the product to your client. Know and understand the usage, and be able to share this information fluidly. Stumbling over instructions or ingredients will not convey a confidence in the product, and might cause your client to feel a bit unsure about purchasing from you. The more you know about your product lines, the better your ability to sell through and create more demand.

Listen to the cues you receive from your clients. Listen for phrases that begin with: "Oh I love the way my skin feels!" "What was that wonderful scent you used?" "I wish my skin could feel this soft all the time." "I want to get some of that stuff you used on my shoulder, it really relieved the pain." These are all cues signaling the type of products your clients would buy following a treatment.

The second piece in a successful retail program is pricing. You likely will be buying your retail products from the same place you buy your professional products. Often, your professional supply company might offer specialized pricing for select retail items. Spending your time trying to match professional pricing found in professional catalogs and advertisements is not necessary unless you are trying to retail your goods to other professionals in your field. Your pricing should be a fair "consumer" market value for your product offering, keeping in mind a few important points. One: you will be offering specialized professional products clients typically can't find in their local discount department stores. Two: your professional advice and suggestion also accompany that product sale. And three: your client likely will never frequent the supply company catalog or Web site from which you purchase your products, and likely will never see the pricing offered from them. Offering your products at an increased price is not bad business. Typically, the Manufacturers Standard Retail Price (MSRP) is a good indicator of pricing for your retail venue, and should be available from your supplier. The client is benefiting from your expertise, instruction and personal evaluation of the products you offer, so make sure you don't sell yourself short!

And lastly, presentation of your chosen product offering is the key in successful retailing. Clean and thoughtful placement of your products speaks volumes about you. A display with ample product appears well-kept and maintained. Avoid allowing only one of any item to be presented because doing so makes the item seem like an afterthought rather than a promoted feature. Items should be grouped in minimums of threes whenever possible. Three is a number that will provide ample product stock, as well as a pleasing aesthetic look.

Too many signs can give the appearance of a yard sale environment. Avoid hand written signs and price stickers. These techniques do not present a professional appearance, and can detract from the image you would like to present to your clients. You can print labels and signs easily from any PC. Doing so will add a streamlined look and feel, with a more desirable effect on your sales.

By following these simple guidelines, you can make retailing a natural part of your therapy practice. It isn't difficult to share information about products you believe in and can talk about from a personal perspective. This type of sales approach is real and honest, and is greatly appreciated by your clients. I encourage you to ask questions of your suppliers to find the right product lines for your needs. You can start small with a few key items you think would be beneficial. Whether you begin with a little or a lot, the important thing is just to start. You will be glad you did! I would love to hear about your retailing success stories and ideas. Feel free to drop me an e-mail at [email protected].