Last June, I attended the Sun Valley Wellness Festival and spent a little time in the spa at Sun Valley Resort. I hadn’t visited since the property underwent its massive renovation in 2015, and I was happy to return and experience the new spa. At 20,000-square-feet with beautiful mountain views, The Spa at Sun Valley is home to a generous-size boutique where I was pleasantly surprised to find an end-of-season sale on Anatomie, one of my favorite athleisure lines. Needless to say, my suitcase came back a bit fuller.
It’s the rare spa that gets retail right, and I can count on one hand the number of spa shops that have really stood out over my decades covering the spa industry. Most recently, I was impressed with the retail set-up and merchandise at Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness at La Cantera Resort, A Destination Hotel,in San Antonio. Maggy Dunphy, Executive Director, Spa & Wellness, has a real knack for discovering unique lines, many of them local, and her taste in apparel and accessories is spot-on.
“There’s an opportunity for retail sales in apparel because it fits travel and lifestyle, the two worlds in which spa-goers are deeply entrenched.”
So why is it that the majority of spas still don’t know how to retail effectively, especially when it comes to fashion? I asked Nancy Griffin, Principal, Contento Marketing and author of the recent Spa Retail Survey.
“The first thing is that spa retail is not made a priority,” explains Griffin. “And there’s a lack of education in merchandising and retailing. The resorts and hotels have their own retail, so spa’s a subset of retail for the entire resort—it’s a tiny slice.”
Griffin says that there are two bottlenecks to selling apparel: cost of product and actual space. She notes that the space for retail is tiny, and apparel doesn’t typically sit on shelves—it needs to be on racks. “Usually, apparel is poorly merchandised, and if it’s poorly merchandised, it won’t sell.”
As she aptly shares with me, “There’s an opportunity for retail sales in apparel because it fits travel and lifestyle, the two worlds in which spa-goers are deeply entrenched.”
Travel and lifestyle—those two words brought me right back to Anatomie and its chic, savvy co-founder and CEO, Kate Boyer. She and her husband Shawn realized that spa was an untapped market and wisely delved right in. Known for its comfort, sophisticated cuts, luxe materials, and easy-care, Anatomie offers beautiful travel essentials that effortlessly cross over from planes to trains to city streets to spas. And smart spas like the Golden Door, Canyon Ranch, and the Four Seasons have caught on. “Anatomie is the kind of product that is travel-centric and well-made,” says Kathy Van Ness, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer, the Golden Door. “Our customers just love it!”
I reached out to Boyer to get her take on the most common retail mistakes that spas make when it comes to fashion—and also how to improve upon them. Here’s what she shared with me.
Prepare for Spring Now
“This is the time to plan for spring, the fun lines are being shown,” says Boyer. “For January, February, March arrival, it’s good to have fifteen, twenty, up to forty-five pieces, depending on the space.” With that said, she adds that a lot of designers are putting their fall styles on sale now for wholesale at this time of year. “If someone got behind schedule and didn’t buy for the holidays on time, it’s a good time to contact designers for immediate delivery. There’s a limited selection of fall, they can grab it right away and sell out.”
Four Common Mistakes that Spa Directors Make
• They don’t plan ahead. “I’ll meet with spa directors at ISPA, and they want to write orders in October for fall,” states Boyer. “They don’t get the best out of the designer that way. If they wait until March to order spring, it’s the same story—less selection and losing more.”
• They don’t maintain inventory levels. “A good example of a spa that does maintain inventory levels is the Golden Door. Their COO, Kathy Van Ness, who has a retail background, bought into an Essential Program (three pants styles, two jackets, two tops). She is never out of stock. Every week her staff files reports, and we fill in the selected essential items. Maintaining your stock levels is important, especially when you have new guests arriving every week. Many people, particularly good shoppers, don’t ask staff for help—they grab their size and leave. If it’s not there, it’s a missed revenue opportunity.”
• They don’t engage the staff. “Spa directors don’t incentivize staff enough for apparel retail, and they don’t include them in the product selection or in the buying,” shares Boyer. “When things stop selling, some of my spa directors have an employee sale. It’s a game changer to have a personal story to tell about a product. You need to engage your employees. Give them commission—that way they get to know the product they’re selling.”
• They simply don’t know retail. Or, they feel it’s overwhelming. In this case, spa directors need to ask for help, advises Boyer. “Reach out to companies and merchandising consultants who can help. I recommend Megan Weber with Detail de Luxe—she’s sophisticated, experienced, and she comes from the retail world.”
Three Keys to Anatomie’s Spa Retail Success
• Team up with the brand for pop-up events. “If the spa does a pop-up event, there’s always that one employee who will get it and keep the excitement going,” relates Boyer. “Not only will you find your ally in your staff, but in your customer base. You’ll find the women who love the story of the brand and who totally get it. They’ll share that the brand is in that space, and she’ll bring her friends and come back.” Every year for the past five years, Anatomie moves in to the Four Seasons Maui and takes over retail with a pop-up shop. An average of 300 units is sold in two weeks.
• Be open to suggested orders from your vendors. “I write the orders for my best accounts,” shares Boyer.
• Buy the line for spa uniforms. Boyer has found success with the Golden Door, whose staff wears Anatomie (including a custom-made blazer), as well as with those who opt in for a partial uniform. Gordon Tareta, Area Director of Spas for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, has some of his spa staff in the pants and some of his salon staff in the shirts. Boyer says that Tareta never keeps his eye off of what’s moving and what’s not. “Anatomie is a super partner for us,” shares Tareta. “We have outfitted many departments, and it also sells very well.”
“Spa is a niche market, and since Anatomie has been involved in it for sixteen years, we understand how to work it,” says Boyer. “It’s not typical fashion. Spa directors don’t have a lot to choose from—they don’t do the fashion shows. This is what we love—this traveler, this temporary kind of client who goes in and out.”
If you’d like a taste for yourself, here’s a special code for our readers: SPASTYLE enables you to $20 off your order at anatomie.com
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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