How to Open a Day Spa: Planning Your Menu & Selecting Product Partners

Lisa Starr


So, you’ve identified the vision for your day spa, created your business plan, chose your location and begun your build out. Now what? While the construction team on your budding spa project is doing the heavy lifting, you can begin creating the conceptual and supporting components. Whether it is just you and your spa consultant, or an expanded management team already in place, this is an excellent time to work on building your behind-the-scenes infrastructure.

The Menu Comes First

You spent time in your visioning phase defining your spa concept and differentiators; the spa menu of treatments and services is how your spa will carry out that vision. With so many spas in the market, and also considering that there is no clear definition of spa in the minds of consumers, it is crucial that your menu represents the unique personality of your business, and paints a compelling picture to attract prospective clients.

Don’t just copy what your existing competition is doing; every spa offers massages and/or facials. What makes yours stand out? What particular results do you want to deliver? The names of your services and their descriptions should have a strong connection to your brand identity. For instance, if you are creating a brand based on holistic health and wellness, you probably won’t have laser hair removal or mechanical body contouring treatments on your menu. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating your own menu exactly how you would like it, keep in mind that simplicity should also be a guiding principle. For a new spa, there are numerous logistical challenges; no need to create unnecessary hurdles with an overly large treatment menu. If you offer four or five facials, you will sell each of them, and create an opportunity for your estheticians to master them. If you offer eight or nine, you will end up selling only half of them.  Unfortunately, once one of the less popular treatments is booked, the staff won’t be as familiar with performing it, and may not deliver a high-quality experience. Stocking back bar for a wide selection of treatments, plus the added training needed, also bloats your opening expenses.  

Product and Resource Partners

Once you’ve identified the services you want to offer, you can narrow your selection of potential product vendors to those that can provide what you need, and have a brand philosophy or vision that is consistent with yours. Whether you know it or note, your customers will identify and associate you with the brands you carry. Your product choices should support your menu and spa brand, rather than choosing products first and then creating your menu around someone else’s brand image. The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial; the products you choose must support the spa vision you have created, not the other way around. Potential product vendors should be evaluated on several capabilities:

Philosophy – Brand messaging that is consistent with your spa vision and values.

Pricing – Retail prices of the products should be in a range that meets the needs of your target clients. The nicest products in the world won’t sell if they’re not regularly affordable for your market.

Packaging – The products that your clients take home with them represent your spa once they get to the client’s bathroom. Select a brand that conveys a look and feel that will connect them positively to your spa.

Partnering – Evaluate the relationship potential between your spa and the manufacturers and distributors you are considering. The association between your two companies should go beyond just purchasing products; you are looking for vendors who can become real resources for you. While getting your spa up and running, you will need products for giveaways, raffles, advertising, promotions, product knowledge and sales training.. Be sure to choose a company that can provide these, and more.

Efficacy – There are many excellent product choices available today, but you’ll still want to evaluate any potential choices in real world conditions. Use the products at home for a few weeks, and if possible, have your esthetics doing some testing. They’re the ones who have to work with the products long-term, after all.

How Many Choices?

Many potential spa owners struggle with narrowing down their vendor selections, and end up choosing too many brands, products, or both. Size your selection to your spa; if you have three treatment rooms, one skincare line and one body line is sufficient. Once you get up to seven or eight treatment rooms, you could support two product lines. Especially for a new spa, it makes sense to “go deep;” having one main brand partner and carrying all or most of their range will allow your staff to get very comfortable and knowledgeable with the brand, and therefore to experience good sell-through rates.

Now your spa is half-way to life; our next guide will delve into logistics such as selecting and purchasing furniture and fixtures, developing a marketing plan, hiring your staff and preparing for opening.  

About the Author

Lisa Starr

Lisa Starr brings over 30 years of industry-specific experience as a consultant, educator and writer to Booker through GOtalk. Lisa also works for Wynne Business, a leading spa consulting and education company. Among other things, Lisa’s expertise lies in business operations and finances, sales and marketing, inventory management, human resource development, and business process improvement. She is a well-known speaker within the trade show circuit and is a frequent contributor to industry

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