Choosing the RIGHT Equipment for your Salon or Day Spa

Choosing the RIGHT Equipment for your Salon or Day Spa
Douglas Preston
salon spa equipment
You’ve seen them gleaming on the trade show floors, you’ve craved them in the pages of industry magazines, and you’ve envied them at work in the spas you admire: those impressive and exciting machines that will make your treatment services state-of-the-art too!

It’s a big decision involving potentially lots of cash, some risk, and a assumptions about dependability and client acceptance. You’ve got the brochures, you have your business dream, and are approved for a loan or lease. The questions now are: what do you need, where should you get it, and what will your equipment investment do for your new business or expansion?

In order to make a sound decision you’ll, in fact, need to ask yourself a few more questions about the benefits versus the cost of certain treatment devices, as well as how likely you will actually sell the services such equipment is designed to assist in. Also, you’ll want to do some background research on possible vendors whom you may have to call upon to deal with delivery or warranty problems that might develop. While I could write a master’s thesis on this important subject I’ll try to offer some helpful guidelines for those of you who are about to plunge some serious money into these products.

Evaluating your “needs”
Think about why you’re convinced that a $15,000.00+ investment in a hydrotub is the best way to grow your business. Are clients demanding this service? Do you disappoint callers each day that hoped you offered this type of service? If not then perhaps you may find that you’ll have one old tub by the time you ever recoup your investment, if you ever do. For others who have been successful with marketing and selling hydro treatments,(and many have), there may be a need to upgrade or even add a second unit to meet the demand. Just make sure that the decision is grounded in practicality rather than emotion–that the need is based on proven customer interest in the services these devices will deliver and not simply your own desire to work with or own them.

Spa employees are famous for nagging owners to shell out large sums of cash for the latest treatment devices only to ignore it soon after its arrival–the new puppy syndrome. Just because they want this equipment doesn’t mean they’ll work in earnest to sell the services it was designed to produce. Before committing to a big purchase pull your team together and get not only a serious pledge to promote the new services with customers but also a plan, that is, exactly how this will be done. Set sales goals and obligate those who want you to invest the money to come through with their end of the bargain. Otherwise, no deal. You’ll find yourself with a costly white elephant and a staff that now expects you to invest in heavy advertising to get the new program off the ground.

Hotel and resort operators that still regard their spas as guest amenities rather than the profit centers that they could be, may have the budgets and incentives to spend lavishly on costly fixtures and equipment. If the idea is to use the spa as a means to attract travelers or vacationers to guest suite and other services then a well-appointed spa may be worth the expense; a marketing expense, that is.

Seriously consider equipment, however, that contribute to the quality delivery of high-demand services, devices such as facial steamers or electrically elevating massage tables, first. Their cost relative to the service demand will make immediate financial sense for your business. A steamer can cut linen costs and save time while massage tables that change height easily may help you keep a therapist or two on your staff longer and reduce the chance of employee injury.

Think retail
The heart and soul of any spa’s profitability lies in the successful retailing of personal care products. Body therapy products are fast coming on as the second tier to those reliable facial regimen sales. Here is where an investment in special body treatment equipment may really help your business’s income. A Vichy shower or Thalassotherapy tub, when used to support body contouring programs for example, may help to put a lot of stimulating and firming products into those shopping bags. That can mean big money for your spa but you’ll need to provide superb service and sales training, especially in this traditionally slow-retailing department, if you want to see those numbers. So if you’re trying to decide between buying the tub or a sauna, buy the tub unless you think you can move more bathrobes than bath salts!

Shop for quality
The lowest-priced vendor of spa equipment may turn out to be a high-ticket headache in times of sales and service support. You’ll have enough challenges running your business and don’t need to add equipment support hassles to your list. Here is where you’ll want to stick with the name brands that have a proven reputation in quality and ease in servicing. Don’t fool around with “bargain” manufacturers and small-time suppliers. Read product reviews (when you can find them) and ask other spa owners about what equipment they have and what their experience with it has been.

Another thing, if you want a rock-bottom price on a treatment machine, don’t expect much attention after the sale. Equipment vendors have to make a living too and successfully goading them to shave their prices to the bare bone will make them less likely to provide the essential product support you’ll also want. Time is money and you’re not going to get both when driving a hard bargain. Compare vendor prices and look for a good deal and a commitment to fast, reliable service. Don’t be afraid to ask for customer references either if in doubt about a particular equipment dealer.

And just because you spent $10,000.00 on a piece of treatment machinery doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be entitled to free staff training, or any for that matter. Spa operators have come to expect this kind of vendor support (because many have provided it as an expensive means of competing for a sale) but it’s becoming harder to get these days.

Think about it; while you may be able to afford to buy a Mercedes Benz it doesn’t obligate the dealership to provide you with driver’s training as part of the deal. Some things you just have to do on your own. Beyond basic operating instructions a product vendor most often will not want or agree to assist you with lots of on-site staff training. Many equipment customers not only expect such value-added service but also want the vendor to tell them how to market and make money on the treatments themselves! It simply isn’t realistic. But you can bet that generous offers of equipment training, when found, have their costs built into the retail price of the product you’re buying. Either way you’re going to have to shell out a little extra for high-quality instruction. Just do it and get down to the business of making your investment pay for itself.

Shop for the long-haul
What’s new and innovative today may become old and outmoded tomorrow. Some cutting-edge technologies change so quickly, especially in the upper-priced categories, that’s it’s difficult to settle on a choice. No one wants to become stuck with an expensive device that’s no longer “hot”, or can’t deliver the best of what’s currently available. In the early days of hair removal lasers a number of spa owners found themselves saddled with long-term lease obligations on what rapidly became obsolete or even discredited machines. Look for equipment that has a proven track record for results and is not likely to be upstaged by a competing technology or method.

Also look for those rare manufacturers who offer some kind of business support plan to help you understand where your best opportunities are and how to run your spa more efficiently and profitably. It’s very much in the interests of equipment manufacturers to see their customers prosper if they expect repeat sales and a high degree of buyer satisfaction. You may have to pay extra for such a plan but the cost may more than offset the price of equipment sitting idle or other potential sources of waste in your company.

Whatever you decide to do, remember this: that introducing a new service involving new spa gadgetry is subject to the same conditions as is opening a new business–customers may not flock in just because it’s there. It’ll take time for clients (and even members of your own team!) to become fully aware of the new service offering, and probably a little longer before they decide to try it. You’ll need patience, perseverance, and a solid belief in your program before you’ll realize success in this new department of your business. You can make your wonderful new machine make money, but do expect to work at it first.

Best of luck to you.

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