Sanctuary Day Spa

A case study of the spa-supplier connection

Sanctuary Day Spas has been on the Ontario spa scene since 1999. The Sanctuary experience includes a full range of spa and aesthetic services. Over the years, the name has grown into one of the most trusted and recognized in the industry.

Allan Skok, president of Sanctuary, oversees six spa locations and works closely with his managers and suppliers who are fastidious about decisions that could impact the business. The following examines Sanctuary’s approach to product and equipment purchases and their relationship with distributors.

Products and medical equipment

“Every week I get at least two or three emails and phone calls saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got the product that’s going to change your life and change your business,’” says Skok.

The introduction of a new skincare line or technology can be advantageous to a spa’s business strategy, however it’s critical to research a variety of options and understand the needs of the business and its clients. At Sanctuary, a medical committee meets once a month to review business and sales.

“We sit down, look at the trends, we look at our clients, we look at demand and make our decision based on that,” says Skok. “We’re paying attention to our internal customers, what they’re looking for and what they are requesting.”

Although the committee meets often, Skok says they don’t introduce new medical equipment frequently because of the cost. “The price tag for medical equipment can be anywhere from $15,000 to $150,000. For me, it’s very scary,” he adds.

Luckily, Sanctuary has a surgeon on the team who is able to offer a reputable opinion on how profitable or useful a particular piece of medical equipment might be. Skok says that even with an expert, Sanctuary sticks with distributors it can trust, like Euro Essentials Spa Products or Cosmecor, and will only branch out to companies with a strong reputation in the spa world. Even still, he says there’s a certain “leap of faith” element to these big purchases.

“In one case, we bought a machine and within two years the company was sold. They wouldn’t service our product anymore unless we purchased new product,” recalls Skok.

Extra support and services

Melissa Bennett, the general manager at Sanctuary’s Vaughan and Newmarket locations, says Sanctuary has benefited from aligning with suppliers or distributors rather than a particular piece of medical equipment or skincare product. “We get monthly feedback from a couple of our suppliers telling us how much we’ve bought and sold. Some suppliers give us rebates, cash back, and product incentives,” says Bennett. “There are so many different products out there right now and a lot of them are fantastic, but the spa’s bottom line is most important.”

Sanctuary chooses suppliers and distributors that offer excellent customer support and engaging staff training. For example, if a cream is past its expiration date or a customer has a reaction to a product, Sanctuary staff will look to the supplier to take the product back or give them a credit. Allan says it’s imperative to discuss these scenarios with distributors before getting involved with a new company.

He explains, “It’s a relationship. We have suppliers that we’ve been purchasing from for 15 years. Like any good business relationship, we receive very good payment terms and get really great training – that’s the ideal scenario.”

Training and certification

When deciding on a distributor, Skok says the most important feature to consider for both skincare and medical equipment suppliers is the training they offer.

“A huge component is training and certification, especially when it comes to lasers because there’s really no regulation in Ontario, or Canada, for that matter,” he says.

Training not only adds a level of professionalism, it’s also essential in providing quality service and preventing harm to guests. At Sanctuary, all laser technicians are trained, certified, and then recertified annually.

Skincare training is also important and Sanctuary has developed a strong relationship with its providers over the past 15 years.

“Many of our skincare lines have monthly training. We call it our ‘power hour.’ They come in, answer all our questions and if there’s a new product or a special, they’ll talk about that too,” says Bennett.

Sopar Canada is a Canadian distributor specializing in European skin and body care products. Skok regards Sopar as one of the best in the business in terms of training. The company has three training centres across Canada where aestheticians can improve their product knowledge.

New employees to the spa are often sent off-site to the distributors’ training centres for extensive education. “Normally, it’s a couple of days: one day of product knowledge and one day of practical,” says Bennett. “That way, our new employees have the full training and then we do upkeep at our monthly power hours.”

This type of intense training is important to a spa’s bottom line and will impact the aesthetician’s ability to interact with the customer.

Susan Masse, national sales director at Sopar, describes a typically training session: “They need to practice and receive the treatment they’re going to sell. We train and mentor them on how to do a proper consultation, how to properly diagnose the skin and how to do a treatment plan.”

Spa-supplier relationship

Sanctuary Day Spas has spent 15 years forging relationships with spa suppliers and product distributors. Bennett admits that the company’s size and time in the industry accounts for some of the extras and add-ons it receives, but also maintains that because the market is saturated with beauty businesses and suppliers are grasping at spas, there’s an opportunity for smaller or newer companies to negotiate pricing and perks.

“As for what to purchase and how much money to spend,” says Skok, “that comes down to the business model.”

by Lindsay Grummett | Spring 2014