Retailing spa fragrances and salts

5 H 1109 AqStrategic placement of the impulse item is a retail sales strategy as old as retailing itself. Who hasn't bowed to the temptation to throw a pack of gum, a bottle of hand sanitizer or a Snickers bar in before the cashier totals your purchase?

It's a tactic spa and pool retailers employ often, and one of the items they've had a lot of success with is spa fragrances, which in addition to beefing up the bottom line a bit can keep a customer coming back for more - and bigger - fragrance purchases in the future.

"We offer a jar for our crystals that goes up near the register, and when customers are checking out, they smell it and they're overcome by this great aroma," says Angie Pettro, president of Spazazz, Alpine, Utah. "It's a great way to introduce them to the product."

Sample sizes from the major manufacturers are usually priced low enough that a store can afford to give them away, another move designed with future sales in mind.

While the impulse purchase and the sample giveaway are solid and time-tested ways to sell and increase awareness of spa scents, they're just a couple of the strategies manufacturers suggested, including attractive merchandising on the showroom floor, pointing out its ability to mask unpleasant spa smells and, perhaps most importantly, pushing the product's relaxation and aromatherapy benefits.

Merchanding Matters

Moorpark, Calif.-based inSPAration, which has been making spa fragrances since the "hot tub hippie" days back in 1976, offers over 50 different aromatherapy blends spread across six product lines. Its newest is called Soak, and it's packaged in bottles that would look right at home at an expensive day spa. That's by design, says Brian Guy, vice president.

"Packaging and displays help create a connection," he says. "Most of our dealers have a dedicated area for the product. They'll have a floor display as well as what we call our rock waterfall display. A number of our dealers have a water feature sitting on the counter or a tabletop and they'll build an entire theme area with our fragrances. It adds an aroma to the whole store, too."

PharmaSpa International in Laval, Quebec, also provides its dealers with a floor display - one that's constructed of metal and is meant to hold a place of permanence and importance in the store.

"You go into an average store," says CEO Lorette Kalender, "and you have your spas and some have aboveground pools and inground pools, then you go into the section where it's all chemicals. And those chemicals are in buckets.

"Now, chemicals are supposed to be in buckets; they're not supposed to be attractive."

That does not mean, however, that they can't be more attractively displayed, Kalender says. She recommends dealers build what she calls a "store within a store" featuring a pleasing array of spa fragrances and yes, even bottles of chemicals.

"When you walk in through wooden panels, go through a little floral display, and come to an area where you have a display of fragrances, it's much nicer," she explains. "You can put your chemicals in there, but it's not as harsh looking as it is when the chemicals are just on shelves."

Kalender says rather than putting the chemicals and bottles and jars of fragrances on standard-issue white shelves in this special area, try something like faux mahogany shelves to help set a more-attractive scene. In other words, merchandise the product the way they would in a day spa or specialty store.

"You want to have a little boutique," she says. "You want the customers, when they walk through the store, to think, Wow, this is really nice. It's all things that I could purchase for my house."

In addition to looking nicer and evoking an atmosphere of relaxation, dedicated areas for spa fragrances concentrate the aromas in a smaller space, an effect that can be achieved with open containers of, say, eucalyptus, or even room diffusers and scented candles.

"We had one girl that did a 'martini bar,' She put our crystals out on the showroom floor," Pettro says. "It was a unique style of display. We had another who set up sort of a day spa on the showroom floor.

"They say, 'If it smells, it sells.' You get all the senses involved with the running water in the hot tub, the aromas, the whole package."

Running Water

All three manufacturers we spoke with stressed the importance of putting fragrances in running hot tubs, but unless you've got the heater on, you're not getting the full effect, Kalender says.

"For a fragrance to work it has to be in warm water. You want the water to evaporate with the fragrance," she explains. "If you put it in just cold water, it will smell, but not like it will with warm water."

A good number of PharmaSpa's dealers run fragrances in their showroom hot tubs, as do inSPAration's.

"It's an important way to raise awareness," Guy says. "Plus we have a line in our Soak product that's an air canister that goes into the air jets and blows air through the store.

"This way they can wick fragrances and change them at any time and not have to change water in the floor models."

The way Spazazz's Pettro sees it, any way a dealership manages to get the aromas out into the open air and into its customers' noses is a good thing - one that goes well beyond making the store a nice place to be and selling some scents.

"It sells them on the whole emotion of owning a hot tub. They think, 'Oh, I can picture being in this hot tub soaking, and I can put in this lavender and completely relax,'" Pettro says. "If you stage it really well, put it around the spas, it helps sell the product and the spa. The people fall in love with the emotion of the whole setting."

Emotional Appeal

Manufacturers of spa fragrance products offer a dizzying array of options for creating that mood in a spa soaker's mind. Spazazz, for example, offers lines of aromatherapy Crystals and Elixirs, which come in crystalline and liquid form, respectively. The formulations that make up each are intended to provide a specific benefit.

"We've got the 'Set The Mood' Crystals line, which is more of a romance or party aroma," Pettro says. "People can have a happy hour in their hot tubs instead of out at the bar."

Mellower moods can be elicited with scents like Lavender-Palmarosa and White Musk Vanilla Jasmine, while the Verbena Lime Coconut and Grapefruit Orange blends are designed to energize. The names are chosen to tip customers off about the benefits. (Luv Potion #9 ain't about respiratory relief, folks.)

"Our dealers and their salespeople are really promoting those benefits," Pettro says. "I think people are beginning to realize the benefit these products can have - it's not just about sitting in your hot tub. You've got therapeutic benefits, and you can turn your own hot tub into a day spa. You can have your own little oasis in the backyard."

PharmaSpa's product offerings are differentiated into two categories along similar lines.

"One is for the sensual and sexy and the other is more therapeutic," Kalender explains.

She describes Iroka as "the mood setter," and it contains fragrances including Sensual River, Quiet Sea and Wild Stream, each with its own set of benefits.

"The PharmaSpa line is different," Kalender says. "You don't have much of a party when you have eucalyptus running in your spa. It's a different world." Instead, that line focuses on relieving muscle aches (Tiger Balm and Energy), respiratory relief (Eucalyptus) and muscular stiffness and pain (Articul-R).

"We try to give our dealers a big selection," Guy says. "For example, if you want aromatherapy strictly focused on herbal notes, there's Wellness. InSPAration takes on a lot of different things, and it offers something for everybody.

"Aromatherapy has been around for a long time, and customers are pretty well versed in it. It used to be more of an education process, and dealers would have to break it all down for them. But now customers are pretty familiar with the options."

Secret Service

The energizing, relaxing, soothing and sensuous scents these and other products provide hot tubbers have another purpose - covering up the smell of chemicals. It's a sales pitch that can work, but it's one that should be used sparingly.

"People are always concerned about chemical smells. We hear that a lot," says Guy. "We used to hear people say, 'My wife will never go into the spa because of the chlorine and bromine smell. But with the fragrance in there, you can't keep her out of it.' So it's torn down some walls.

"The negative is you're underscoring the idea that spas are something that will need to be treated often, and that that treatment usually results in bad smells."

Of course, a properly treated spa shouldn't smell like chlorine, bromine or anything else people perceive as unpleasant, but that's not going to be clear to everyone who hears a salesperson pitching fragrances as odor-masking agents.

"I don't know if I like that angle," Pettro declares flatly.

A better strategy is to tout the aromatherapy and mood-setting benefits first, breaking out the chemical-smell-counteraction only if necessary. After all, the products provide plenty of opportunity to sell using a more positive message. And that message is best delivered directly to a customer's olfactory system.

"You can walk onto a [scented] showroom floor and there's a great aroma to the whole place," says Pettro. "You want to slowly walk the showroom floor and check out everything that the dealer has to offer."

The biggest of these offerings, in most cases, is the hot tub itself.

Says Guy: "You hear stories all the time about people getting excited about aromatherapy first. And that's why they buy the spa."

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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