Ajune Medical Spa to Close on December 28

Published on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Ada Polla

I love the train. Perhaps it is because growing up I took the Swiss train regularly. Always on time (not a myth, one second late and you miss it), always clean (also not a myth), it wound through the mountains slowly but surely and brought me to my Nona, to the ski slopes, to Bern. Amtrak doesn’t quite live up to the Swiss trains, but I still love the 3.5 hours of peace between DC and New York City. While my trips to NYC are always hectic, tiring, fun, and productive, this trip will also be sad. Tomorrow for the last time, I will visit Ajune medical spa, my favorite medical spa in the City and one of my very first Alchimie Forever clients. Indeed, on December 28thof this year, Ajune will be closing its doors (its website is already down, perhaps as a precursor to the closure).

Ajune has been at 1294 Third Avenue since it opened, 13 years ago. Owned by Dr. Maura Romita, a famed plastic surgeon, Ajune was one of the first spas to understand that spa goers wanted results, medical-style procedures, under medical supervision, but all in a softer, more spa-like setting.

Over the years (I started working with Ajune in 2004), I have had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful people, whether managers, therapists, aestheticians or receptionists. Margaret (now the spa director at Merge, also in NYC) was the one who brought Alchimie Forever into Ajune, and for that (and for the fact that she has since brought my line to Merge!), I will be forever grateful. Having worked at Avon prior to Ajune, she is a numbers-driven, no-nonsense operator, someone whom I have learned much from (and continue to today). I worked with Josephine for many years, whose smiles and kindness I still remember. Cara was my colleague Catherine’s favorite aesthetician at Ajune, a petite brunette, with a great extraction technique and constructive feedback and input on the Alchimie Forever product prototypes I would have her test. Most recently, I have had the pleasure of working with Amy, who was hired to work at the front desk a number of years ago and has since been promoted to spa director; today, Amy is in charge of this transition time.

To all of you, to Dr. Romita, to Dana, to the entire Ajune team, I say thank you. Thank you for taking on Alchimie before anyone did in NYC. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for your support and friendship over the years. Thank you for your business. Thank you. I will miss you. Catherine will miss you. New Yorkers will miss you.

Having spoken with Amy, she shares these bittersweet words: “Thank you to our loyal clients for their patronage; we hope that during our time open on third avenue, we provided you with incomparable service and an education about skincare that you will take with you throughout their daily life.”

Dr. Romita will be taking a select few technicians to continue working at his office at 853 5th Ave at the beginning of 2012. The services they will offer will be strictly clinical.

While the recession has not been kind to the spa industry, this is the first long-time Alchimie Forever spa partner that has closed. Ajune closing makes this economic turmoil feel a whole lot more personal, and brings home the fact that we are not out of the woods yet. We small businesses must continue to support each other, to help each other, to work together. And we consumers must continue to shop local, spa local, and to support our own communities.

DIY Mini Business Audit–Abbreviated Version

Published on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Leslie Lyon

Objective:  Do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.  Once you have done this mini audit, strive to sell top tier products and services by your top tier spa professionals, during your peak hours of business. 

1.  Examine Staff Compensation
If you’re seeing red, the first place you need to go is your Cost of Goods (COG) to review your service staff compensation.  Consider this:  For day spas, to see some profit, total service staff payroll, including wages, incentives, benefits, insurance and taxes may ideally need to be 35-40% of gross revenue, in order to profit.  This will vary dramatically for Resort and Destination Spas.  As you strive to meet that %, consider that total average payout per service, whether you are paying hourly, fee for service, commission, or a combination, should ideally not exceed 25-30% of the service price, minus costs – this may allow you to come in at the 35-40% of gross revenue mentioned above.  Also consider that total Staff Payroll Burden (including Management & Administrative) might ideally hover around 50 – 55% of GR, but we often see it go over 60%.  This is where profitability becomes difficult.

2.  Streamline Your Service Menu
Your service menu can leak a lot of profits and an oversized menu will cause numerous complications.  First, know which services are your highest % contributors to total service revenue.  Next, analyze your gross margins on each service and rank them; then analyze your hourly service prices on each service and rank them (service price divided by length of service multiplied by 60 minutes).  Ideally your highest % contributors to total service revenue will also be your tops in both gross margin and hourly service price…but often this is not the case!  Those services that don’t make the list must be kept only if they are a strong client draw; have a prominent place in your spa packages; or act as an effective gateway service.

3.  Rank and Cull Your Retail
Know your top 20-30 sellers and what their individual unit dollar value and % contribution to total retail revenue is.  So, analyze which products you sell the most of; rank them to determine where they sit with unit dollar value; and finally, know what their % contribution is to total retail revenue. Once again, the three should line up in as many instances as possible.  Know that excess retail ties up your cash flow and depletes already slim margins, because you’ll probably have to discount them to clear them.  FYI, retail is NOT more profitable than services (unless it is private label), but you can sell a lot of retail in a short period of time.  Which would you prefer: $100 service sale in 50 minutes, or $200 service & retail sale in 60 minutes?

4.  Handle Staff According to Statistical Reports
Know your staff retail and service sales combined for a total sales figure; know the number of hours they worked in the year and divide that by their total sales to arrive at their sales per hour figure; calculate their % productivity to determine if you are over or under staffed (75-85% is ideal, still allowing for short lead time services to be booked); know what their % contribution to the bottom line is (in their department and the spa as a whole); calculate both their request and retention rates; know their retail sales to service sales (25% or greater)?  Study these figures to ascertain who your top performers are and that you are rewarding them with compensation based on their ranking. 

5.  Analyze Marketing & Customer Service Initiatives
Study your online and offline initiatives to determine which ones are paying off and which ones you should dump.  Do a cost analysis on every promotion that you run to determine worthiness; and rank your clients with Recency; Frequency; and Monetary value (RFM) to determine your VIPs.  Just like your services; products; and staff, once you know where your clients rank, you can determine their handling.  Examine seasonality as well as daily and weekly peaks and valleys to uncover your prime and sub-prime hours of business.  Have numerous methods to track the guest experience…and then ACT on your findings!  Once you know who and what are contributing the most to your bottom line, you begin to do more of what’s working, and less of what isn’t.

PBA’s Salon & Spa Performance Index Hits Two-Year Low

Published on Monday, December 12th, 2011

Nancy Griffin

Don’t shoot the messenger, but spas and salons are continuing to struggle in the current economy. According to the latest research by The Professional Beauty Association (PBA), the current outlook and future expectations for the salon and spa industry have declined throughout 2011. “The trend results from our Salon & Spa Performance Index (SSPI) are discouraging,” according to Steve Sleeper, executive director for the PBA.

The SSPI is a quarterly composite index that tracks the health and outlook of the U.S. salon/spa industry. The SSPI declined 1% from the second quarter of 2011 to stand at 101.9 in the third quarter. This is the second consecutive quarterly decline and a 1.3% drop compared to the third quarter of 2010.

The SSPI is based on responses to PBA’s “Salon & Spa Industry Tracking Survey,” which is fielded quarterly among salon/spa owners nationwide on a variety of indicators. PBA has three main tracking indices for the salon/spa industry: The Salon & Spa Performance Index (SSPI), Current Situation Index and Expectations Index. All three continued to decline in the third quarter of 2011 and hit their lowest levels in two years. The good news is that all three Index values are above 100, which indicates a period of expansion. An index values below 100 represent a period of contraction.

The Current Situation Index measures current trends in five industry indicators—service sales, retail sales, customer traffic, employees/hours, and capital expenditures. The index fell to 100.3 in the third quarter – down 1.1% from the second quarter 2011. Sales and customer traffic took the biggest hit. Consecutive quarterly declines show erosion in consumer spending levels with regard to beauty purchases and the broader economy, according to the PBA.

The Expectations Index, which measures salon/spa owners’ six-month outlook on five industry indicators (service sales, retail sales, employees and hours, capital expenditures, and business conditions) fell to 103.5% – down .9% from second quarter 2011 and 1.7% from the third quarter 2010.

Creating a Wellness Spa: Easier Said Than Done?

Published on Friday, December 9th, 2011

Marti Morenings

It seems that everywhere I look; I see “wellness” and “integrative medicine” listed as top spa trends. Consumers across the globe are seeking a holistic spa experience that addresses mind, body and spirit. This is good news as far as I’m concerned, but I can’t help but think of the difficulties day spa owners may have implementing the types of practices and programs that make a spa a “wellness spa.”

Trends point to an integrated model, but in reality, the execution is “easier said than done.” Clearly it is less work to deliver the 50-90 minute massage or facial and let the client go on their way. However, that is not the future of spa according to most experts.

What can you as a spa operator or sole practitioner do to become more holistic in your approach? Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Start with your clients: Going holistic makes perfect sense if you start from your client’s point of view. Begin each treatment with an intake form to uncover challenges and desires. Integrate juicy tidbits for healthy living and recommend products to extend the service at home. Organize a group hike or yoga in the park.

2. Embrace Traditional Spa therapies: Never underestimate the importance of your own spa services. Spa is wellness by nature. Consider enhancing your traditional massages and facials with European-inspired spa therapies such as manual lymph drainage, connective tissue massage, aromatherapy. Get creative with the use of herbs, seaweed and muds.

3. Partner with like-minded professionals: Instead of trying to do everything yourself, join forces with complementary wellness practitioners. Consider specialist in yoga, acupuncture, meditation, nutrition, sports and wellness coaches.

4. Focus on Home Care: Let’s face it—what happens once your customers leave your spa is most important to their health and appearance. It is our obligation to suggest home care regimens so that the spa client sees the spa and the spa practitioners as their healthy lifestyle gurus. The good news is retail also increases your bottom line. It’s the ultimate win-win.

I agree with the research, the spa industry should and will move in the direction of wellness. Wellness works from a business perspective as well. Offering an authentic, customized and therapeutic experience for each client is the quickest path to repeat business and precious word of mouth referrals.

How do you impact the health vitality of your clients on a daily basis? Care to share?


Front Desk Intelligence

Published on Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Leslie Lyon

If you keep hiring more and more of the same kinds of receptionists; the same ways you always have; with the same sad results; maybe now is the time to do things differently.

Re-vamp your “Recipe for a Receptionist” to: 

One part “spa-like +
One part “social-ite” +
Two parts “sales-type”

In other words, a charming; engaging individual; who can deliver tangible bottom-line results. Your receptionist needs to be able to sell services; products; programs; and people, otherwise what are they there for?

In sales, you can never underestimate the power of charm.
When demand outweighs supply; as in the case of charm; it holds a strong position of power. It’s very important for your receptionist to recognize these moments. Being charmed is absolutely captivating; and when your client is captivated, they also become engaged. It is at this point of engagement, that the opportunity for a sale presents itself. When passion is paired with power and purpose, it’s what makes great athletes; leaders; entrepreneurs…and receptionists!

Recognizing moments of power.
Receptionists experience many more of these moments (sales opportunities) than the rest of your staff. Train them on the “Power of 2″. That is; always have 2 options on the table.

They could suggest the top tier option first; which if turned down, increases the odds of the second option being accepted, OR:

They could present both options at once for the client to make their choice.

Here are 4 examples:

1. Option #1 for a client requesting anti-aging, is a series of 6 photo facials; and Option #2 is a 2-hour premium facial with microdermabrasion. Option #2 is still a top tier sale for the business, but just as importantly; it is still an excellent choice for your customer, in place of Option #1.

2. Option #1 is to pre-book the next appointment right now; and Option #2 is a reminder call when it’s time to book their next appointment.

3. Option #1 is to purchase this item for themselves now; and Option #2 is for the spa to call her husband so he can purchase it for her birthday.

4. Option #1 is for the client to sign up for your Referral Program now; and Option #2 is to give her sample packs or spa gift vouchers to give to her friends and family.

Think in 2′s: Start anywhere and always have somewhere to go.

Reverse assumptions.
Receptionists holding onto old beliefs; limits them. They must stop assuming clients have no time or money and that their sales efforts are perceived as pushy and aggressive. They must start assuming clients have time and a budget for items of value that will provide benefits; and that these suggestions are welcome solutions.

Scouting or Skirting Potential?
View phone calls and walk-ins as opportunities, not interruptions.
Act fast when you see your receptionist acting like potential clients are getting in the way of her doing her job.

Listen with the intent of seeing.
If you’re going to sell things Betty buys, you have to see through Betty’s eyes. Train your receptionist to listen and then speak…with charm, passion, power and purpose.

And consider personality profiling to give rise to this position of power.


Seasonal Priorities for the Savvy Spa Director

Published on Monday, December 5th, 2011

Peggy Wynne Borgman

Yes, the holidays are upon us. If you believe the business pundits, this year is going to be “disappointing.” If you make your own weather, you could have the best holiday sales season ever.

Create a gift card sales incentive that doesn’t reduce actual gift card sales (See: Discount, above!) Last year we offered a $25 retail shopping gift certificate for every $150 in gift cards sold. The idea is to provide an incentive that motivates them to spend a little more than your average holiday GC purchase. But you don’t want the incentive to replace holiday gift card purchases. That’s why we make ours for retail purchases.

A Holiday Celebration Event early in the selling season will kick start your gift card sales. We schedule ours for the first Thursday in December. AvantGard Spa inSanCarlos,California does their SPArty BEFORE Thanksgiving to get the drop on clients’ holiday shopping!

Oh yes, holiday decorations. Think about unusual and cheeky colors rather than traditional red and green. Make sure your decor doesn’t interfere with your merchandising.

Holiday gift packaging. We change our gift packaging up each year with different colors, different tissue, etc. Your repeat gift buyers will appreciate it. Great gift presentations win you loyal business. Don’t skimp.

Stock up on Stocking Stuffers. The $10 and below price point flies out of the spa. Merchandise by color to create visually arresting collections of products.

SEO: Why It’s Critical to Your Spa Website Success, Part II

Published on Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Jennifer Dickens

My last post defined search engine optimization (SEO) and some of the important aspects that “perfectly optimized” web pages incorporate. This post will discuss SEO best practices.

Many website designers are not trained in search engine optimization nor are they website developers (programmers). This means your website designer may not have incorporated these SEO elements into your website. If you ask your website designer about the above topics and they cannot speak as an authority on these topics, then there is a good chance your website is not optimized with these critical elements to make it easy for individuals in your community looking for spa and wellness services to find you.

Here are some SEO Best Practices Whole Life Marketing employs to help your website Rank on page #1 of search engines:

1. Content – you need to have compelling, high quality material that not only attracts interest, but compels visitors to share the information. Virality of content is possibly the most important/valuable factor in the ranking equation because it will produce the highest link conversion rate (the ratio of those who visit to those who link after viewing).

2. Basic On-Page Elements – getting the keyword targeting right in the most important elements (titles, URLs, internal links) provides a big boost in the potential ability of a page to perform well.

3. Accessibility – content engines can’t see or access your website to be indexed; thus crawl-ability is foremost on this list.

4. User Experience – the usability, user interface and overall experience provided by a website strongly influences the links and citations it earns as well as the conversion rate and browse rate of the traffic that visits.

5. Marketing – I like to say that “great content is no substitute for great marketing.” A terrific marketing machine or powerful campaign has the power to attract far more links than content may “deserve”.

6. Advanced/Thorough On-Page Optimization – applying all of the above with careful attention to detail.

7. Content Freshness – frequently updating your website with new relevant content.

At Whole Life Marketing we understand if all this information is a soup of technical words and terms. We know your expertise is as a healing practitioner or spa owner not a website SEO and development expert. Whole Life Marketing has been supporting spas like yours for years, enabling people to find healing modalities and spas. Call us at 310-418-3855 or email us jd@wholelifemarketing.com today to receive a FREE 1-hour marketing and SEO consultation. We are here to support you in your vision and mission and hope you’ll consider us part of your growth team.


SEO: Why It’s Critical to Your Spa Website Success, Part I

Published on Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Jennifer Dickens

As a healing practitioner or spa owner, your goal is to support individuals in their healing journey by providing bodywork, wellness, and relaxation treatments. Your website is your online storefront, and how does your storefront get found on the internet? It is not found because you put up your website; it is found because your website (storefront) is optimized with technical elements which make it easy for people researching and looking for your healing touch and body work services to find you.

What is the definition of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – According to Wikipedia – search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.  In general, the earlier (or higher on the page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image searchlocal searchvideo search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines. This gives a website web presence.

As an internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

“Perfectly Optimized” webpages must incorporate:

1. HTML Head Tags (Title) – relevant and unique content and keyword term/phrase optimization in the Title, Meta Description, Meta Keywords, Meta Robots, and otherMeta Tags.

2. Body Tags – must be structured properly taking into consideration keyword repetition within content, keyword density, keyword usage variation, headline tags, proper image file name tagging, proper usage of bold and italicized content.

3. URL – considerations of shorter URL lengths, keyword locations, proper word separators and decisions made between subdomains vs. pages.

4. Page Architecture – keyword location and content structure are integral to successful page SEO.

5. Internal Links & location in Site Architecture – key terms/phrase click through depth, number of internal links per page, and link location.

6. Website Submission – properly submitting your websites to the search engines.

As you can see, SEO is a technical aspect of website development to get visitors to your website. The reason why it’s important to make sure your website is optimized is because 51% of products and services purchased on the internet came from people performing searches through google.com, yahoo.com and other search engines to find what they are looking for. So if your website (storefront) can’t be found because it is not search engine optimized then you are losing business and opportunities to support people in their healing journey.

Is your website optimized? If not, what can you do to optimize it? Stop back by to read Part II, which will address SEO best practices.

Adapt & Respond! Highlights from Euro RSCG’s 2012 Global Trend Report

Published on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Nancy Griffin

Is there a silver lining in 2012? Yes, but you may have to sort through a few clouds to find it. “Many people are trudging into 2012 broke, stressed and looking for someone to blame,” according to Marian Salzman, CEO, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. Euro RSCG’s new report The Big Little Book of Nexts: Trendspotting for 2012, makes important predictions that will influence your spa in the coming years. Here are some highlights (I highly suggest you read the entire report.)

Grooming: Good news for spas! Anti-aging products will continue to dominate shelves in coming years. Consumers will continue to fight the aging process with as many creams, serums and scrubs as they can get their hands on. Men’s cosmetics, nutricosmetics and organic products will also continue to gain ground.

Home Furnishings: Conscious home will have an emphasis on being not only earth-friendly but also health-minded. The new era of home design will emphasize indoor air quality with windows that allow for better ventilation.

Lifestage Marketing: Brands are harnessing the power of the brand-me-down (items that transcend marketing to age groups and are to be passed down from mother to daughter or father to son.)

Lifestyles: Look for a massive emphasis on relationship building Metrics indicate that customers who have an in-person relationship with a brand ambassador typically buy double from that brand and stay loyal for a longer time.

Luxury: “Responsible luxury” is the realization that power goes hand in hand with responsibility. Also look for “organic overload.” Many people who are unemployed and unable to pay their mortgages are fatigued with endless conversations about all things organic and sustainable.

Moods and Minds: In the future, people will manage moods by better by harnessing technology. Based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, The Moody Me app and the Moodometer get users to record their mood and notice what triggers changes. MoodKit flags mood-enhancing activities to identify and change unhealthy thinking. Mood Touch interprets mood from touch.

Shopping/Retail: “hoteltail” blurs travel and shopping. The Standard sells everything from CDs to sarongs in its locations and Le Meridien is transforming its lobbies and common spaces to “Hubs”—creative, art-filled gathering places

Wellness and Wellbeing; There will be serious interest in “gross national happiness.” In July 2011, the United Nations adopted a resolution to “give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development.” The report points to the field of positive psychology, which is concerned with identifying the “strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” (For more info, check out Jeremy McCarthy’s blog The Psychology of Wellbeing.)


BeautyView: Marti Morenings, Founder and Chairman, Universal Companies

Published on Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Ada Polla

I don’t get star-struck in the typical way. Seeing or meeting Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or even Angelina Jolie won’t faze me. However, having a burger next to President Obama makes me grin from ear to ear (some of you might remember that picture). And meeting successful entrepreneurs gives me butterflies in my stomach. Of the successful entrepreneurs I have had the good fortune of getting to know, Marti Morenings, Founder and Chairman of Universal Companies, is one of my favorites. She started Universal Companies with her father, grew the company, sold it, and then bought it back from the purchasers to grow it even further. She lives wellness through and through; she is a woman entrepreneur; she is a single mom; as a serial entrepreneur, she is now involved in the alternative energy sector; and she wears Jicky by Guerlain (Guerlain’s first fragrance, and the only perfume I have ever worn)! What is there not to love?

AP: What city were you born in?
MM: I was born in Belem’, Brazil.

AP: What city to do you live in?
MM: I now live in Bristol,VA.

AP: What is your middle name?
MM: I don’t have one.

AP: What is your astrological sign?
MM: Leo.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry?
MM: My favorite thing is the spa and wellness component, and the idea that we can have an impact on the beauty that comes from within.

AP: Least favorite thing?
MM: My least favorite thing is when beauty becomes all about the external image and less about what’s inside.

AP: What is your most prized possession?
MM: My health.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know?
MM: I have two very energetic Jack Russell Terriers – Spud and Mia.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model?
MM: Yes, a Cartier wristwatch.

AP: Diamonds or pearls?
MM: Diamonds.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be?
MM: I would have loved to have met Steve Jobs and shared a meal with him. I’m reading his bio now, and I think it would have been fascinating to have known him – he was the consummate entrepreneur.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance?
MM: Make time for yourself – it is the best thing you can do for your children, your family and your career, not to mention your health. I am hooked on doing yoga every morning, and I try to do it at sunrise and outside on my back deck if the weather is good. It is an incredible way to start the day!

AP: What are your three top tips for travel?
MM: 1. Pack light by picking one color scheme and including items that can be dressed up or down. 2. Drink lots of water. 3. Pack almonds or other protein foods to snack on.

AP: What is your favorite book?
MM: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice?
MM: Scotch and soda.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret?
MM: Moisturizer and getting enough sleep.

AP: What fragrance do you wear?
MM: Jicky by Gurlain.

AP: Botox or not?
MM: Not.

AP: Hair color: natural or not?
MM: Not.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now.
MM: Looking for Answers – Susan Tedeschi, Melt My Heart to Stone – Adele, Songbird – Eva Cassidy.

AP: Quote to live by.
MM: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

AP: Who is your mentor?
MM: My mom – she was the ultimate multi-tasker!

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today.
MM: Don’t listen when someone tells you that you can’t do it. Think in terms of partnerships with employees, vendors and colleagues, and look for ways to make them more successful. It always comes back to you tenfold.