Originally printed in DERMASCOPE

Every business comes with its challenges. Owning a spa or salon is no different. Your selection of staff, policies and services offered all impact your clientele and reputation. However, there are important decisions that affect all of these and more. The products you choose to use in the treatment room and offer for retail purchase will shape your business, as well as influence your bottom line. Owners and spa directors need to consider several factors when selecting products, while keeping in mind that the skincare lines they use are also a representation of their business’ brand.

Whether you are a new spa or an established location evaluating new skincare lines, careful research before bringing in a product can save time and money. There are always advantages and disadvantages of working with any company. That is why it is essential to find skincare lines that support your specific business needs.

Finding a Skincare Line

Excellent customer service is critical to any successful company. “We pride ourselves on providing outstanding customer service,” said Dar Reiss-Depp, president of distributing company RD Management. “Spas expect opening order training plus follow-up training, but we really try to partner with our retailers to help them be successful.”

Exceptional business-to-business customer service should also be a priority for all companies, yet this is not always standard. Return policies, product guarantees and even simple expectations such as a returned phone call can vary immensely between companies. Large corporations often have procedures that outline how their retailers receive assistance by phone or e-mail. This insures that retailers will be responded to in an appropriate amount of time. Skincare companies that are independently owned or experiencing tremendous growth may simply lack the number of employees to serve rapidly increasing customer demand. Smaller skincare lines are usually more flexible, accommodating and willing to show they appreciate your business. A skincare line that is retailed in 100 locations can value your individual business sometimes more than a company that is sold in 1,000 locations.

How long a brand has been established and in business is also important. A more recognized company generally has more complex business policies and corporate flow. This can mean more steps to setting up an account and stricter guidelines when products are defective or require a return. A bigger brand does bring the added benefits of reliable expectations and consistent service. A newer company may still be developing their business policies and change them more often. Along with this, a younger brand may be inconsistent in shipping, packaging and have unknown branding for clients to recognize the skincare line. Although, newer companies are sometimes more willing to offer better margins and will do anything possible to earn and keep your business.

In the spa industry, knowledge really is power. It is important to commit to product lines that offer education. Proper education is not only important to provide optimal service to your clients, but to also empower your staff. You cannot sell what you do not know exists. That is why every employee that has any interaction with customers should at least have minimal knowledge of all the products and services your business offers. As expected, employees will be hesitant or embarrassed to talk about products and services they do not understand. The better trained your staff is the more confident they will be to interact with customers and sell naturally. Skincare lines can assist with this through in-spa trainings, webinars, product certification tests and conference calls. Additionally, the lines you choose to carry may provide manuals for employees to study while some companies hold professional classes in major cities and during tradeshows. Staying on top of the latest trends and newest technologies will increase sales and position your business to better serve your client’s needs.

“My biggest concern for the vendor is that they will stick around and support me after the initial training and product line launch is done,” said Jaana Roth, spa director at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara. “Even though the initial training is very important, I’m more interested in what happens next. Is the vendor there to support me with continuing education? How easy is it to set up any follow-up training should new staff need training?”

The specials and promotions your skincare supplier offers can be just as important as the incentives you offer your customers. Bulk specials are common, while seasonal gifts and BOGOs (buy one, get one) can bring variety to your retail. Promotions not only impact your profit margin, but can also introduce clients to new products or services and expand their skincare regimen. Look for a skincare line that aligns with your business’ promotional calendar. This will help you effectively plan facial and retail promotions in advance, which will allow more time to plan marketing support. That said, some skincare lines do not offer monthly promotions or discounts in advance to make this possible. Most manufacturers do supply marketing material such as samples, brochures, counter cards and catalogs when opening a wholesale account or when you reach a minimum dollar amount of products purchased. These marketing materials are sales tools and help educate clients about unique products and benefits. Ask if the company conducts public relations internally or through an agency. This influences the amount of support that is available to your business at a local level. A brand that is actively engaging in PR can boost the awareness of the skincare line and attract customers to your spa.

“A press release by our marketing and public relations department is one of the first steps to a successful product or treatment launch,” said Roth. “We have been very successful with press releases recently when working together with a specific vendor.”

Some skincare lines have their own incentive programs. These can have different tiers (silver, gold and platinum) and will motivate the retailer to grow sales to receive better margins, additional free marketing materials and other gifts. There are even skincare lines that will include lavish vacations or cruises as incentives to reach a higher retail volume. This rewards a retailer for their brand loyalty and can help motivate a retailer’s staff to push a specific brand over another. Furthermore, skincare lines can offer extra employee incentives such as discounted products or direct commissions for products sold.

The packaging a skincare line uses can be a significant reason for consumers liking a brand or not. This should not be overlooked when evaluating brands. Skincare products are packaged in jars, pumps, airless pumps, bottles, tubes and different distinctive containers. Of course, different customers have their own preferences for packaging, but remember that jars are not ideal for products that contain active ingredients. Every time the top of a jar is opened, oxidation occurs and can affect the product’s shelf life, whereas airless pumps keep ingredients protected from oxidation while still retrieving 98 percent of the product from the bottle. However, clients cannot see inside of most airless pumps, causing the client to not know when the product is almost empty.

It is helpful to carry skincare brands that best match your style of spa. What do your customers value? Who is your target market? Do you need to offer an organic line or male line? Is your business a medical spa looking for skincare lines that use medical grade ingredients? These factors will influence which skincare line can best serve your clients.

“When selecting a product line, I have to first set a clear goal of what this line needs to accomplish,” said Roth. “Am I looking to fill the need of our spa’s everyday guest or do I have a very small niche market who is asking for a specific product? The product line needs to present good packaging, marketing tools, and it has to be result-oriented. Believe it or not, more and more of our guests ask where the products are manufactured and they lean towards products made in USA.”

A good business must know its customer. Market your business to the caliber of clientele in your area. This includes the price point of retail products in a skincare line. Spas that attract a lot of young, busy professionals should retail products that are quick to use with as few steps as possible, while still providing great results. Resort day spas need to have skincare services with little down time. Sometimes it is actually beneficial for their clients if the treatment products they experience have lower percentages of active ingredients. A customer on vacation usually is not interested in receiving a harsh chemical peel before lounging by the pool afterwards. Wherever your spa is located, you should plan to carry an anti-aging skincare line. Anti-aging skincare is a multibillion dollar a year industry. This client base is committed to transforming their skin and supports higher price points with more high-end and luxurious skincare lines.

How many skincare lines should you offer? How many treatment rooms in your location and total square footage should determine how many brands are carried. Consumer psychology proves that it is best to showcase an entire brand rather than picking apart the brand – this shows credibility, professionalism and confidence in the brands you present to your customers. Also, the greater number of brands and products could lead to slower inventory turnover. By selecting multifunctional brands that have multiple products for several different skin concerns and conditions, you can broaden the market to which the products will appeal.

A practical way to find and truly evaluate skincare lines is at professional tradeshows. These provide an excellent opportunity to network with different brands in person, collect educational materials, and attend vendor classes to learn more about the companies and products. This will save time as well as give you a chance to evaluate packaging, try different products, and start forming valuable business relationships.

How to Market the Lines You Choose to Retail

After choosing a suitable skincare line for your spa demographic, it is time to introduce your spa’s new addition to your staff – and of course, your clients. You should also plan inventive ways to keep momentum, get your staff excited about retailing, and how to keep your clients purchasing their products from your facility.

When investing in a new skincare line with an established company, you can expect a corporate educator to travel to your location and conduct professional trainings for the entire staff. It is always best to make it mandatory for every service provider to be present for those trainings because they will affect your business as a whole. You should include massage therapists, nail technicians and cosmetologists so each department is properly educated. You want them to be able to recommend retail products and services to any client who has a question – do not only train aestheticians and front desk members.

Spa directors should understand that a brand will only reach its full potential if the staff stands behind the products personally and believes in what they are saying to their clients. It is far easier to sell product you believe in and have your own story of why you love it compared to simply reciting a product manual. When your staff gets excited and truly loves the brand, clients will want to share their same experiences. For that reason, you should offer discounts to your employees so they can try multiple products.

Employee discounts will not cost your business money. It should do the opposite! Once your staff is trained and excited about new products, it is time to redesign or add these new services to your printed menu and update your website. Service menus are your biggest print marketing tool and should provide all the information that is necessary for a new client to be interested in visiting your spa, while still keeping your existing clientele up-to-date with the latest services. With the change in today’s culture, everything is revolved around technology. Unfortunately, if you do not have your business online you simply do not exist to many potential clients. Making your business known online will be crucial in your success. Luckily, there are plenty of free and moderately priced online marketing tools that virtually anyone can control their online presence. Social media websites are wonderful tools. They keep new and existing clients informed on newly offered services, products and specials. There are other methods of online marketing such as e-mail blasts, printed and online guides and daily deal websites.

The next step in creating a successful transition with your spa is presenting the newest services and retail products to your clientele. Make a big deal of the change in a positive way by hosting a product launch event. The brand you partnered with should have a program already in place for their account’s events and product launch parties. Brands often offer gratis to accounts for events. This can include a gift basket full of products that are raffled off to clients or extra samples and trial size products to hand out in swag bags. The brand you are promoting should partner with you for events and provide your spa with the additional tools to make your occasion unforgettable to the guests.

Retail Setup

If you are a spa owner or director, you probably spend a lot of time and effort evaluating what to sell, but not enough focus on how to sell it. You cannot be everywhere and that is why you need help. Does the exterior of your spa communicate what is available inside? If you have windows, do you use them to showcase products? How the lighting, shelves and merchandise are configured is referred to as visual merchandising. There is an art to merchandizing. The most successful retailers today are those who are staging experiences, rather than merely delivering goods and services. A spa director’s job duties are never-ending and always evolving. Appointing a retail manager can alleviate some of your responsibilities and allow a skilled professional to create an inviting area for clients to shop as well as an effective way to drive additional revenue to the business. The spa’s retail manager should create a “Plan O Gram” to effectively arrange where products and marketing materials should be showcased and why. A Plan O Gram is a diagram or model that indicates the placement of retail products on shelves in order to maximize sales. The importance for retail placement planning can be as simple as not displaying a large product right next to a small product. Proportion is important because different sizes placed next to each other are difficult for the eye to process. A half ounce bottle next to a 16 ounce bottle is not pleasing to the eye. Each display needs a focal point and should be a product rather than a prop.

With all the disturbances there are, clients should not have additional distractions while visiting your facility. With that being said, all materials should support sales in some manner. This includes removing gossip and fashion magazines and replacing them with product brochures, service menus and biographies of service providers.

In the End

Remember the brands you offer are big decisions to make, but it never has to be final. If your business relationship does not work out, there will undoubtedly be many potential suitors that will actively try to help your company and clients.

Retail Tips

Have testers accessible to clients to test on their hands. Once someone touches a product, they are mentally invested in trying it.


  • Lighting highlights both the products and creates mood through the use of varying intensities. Natural daylight is best, especially for beauty products.
  • Change your displays regularly. If clients see the same products arranged in the same way time after time, they stop looking and stop buying.
  • Have prices visible as a shelf talker or prices on the box. When customers are looking at products with no price available, they are more likely not to ask an employee and most likely to walk away.
  • Product selection is made from an area that stretches from the knees to six feet above the floor. Products placed above or below that space are less likely to move.
  • Place higher end products at eye level. This gives the clients more interaction with the high priced item.
  • Create a marketing plan. This will help the entire team focus on maximizing profits from special promotions, seasonal items and new products. Keeping clear expectations will help employees accountable to move products into the client’s hands.

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