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You are trained as a massage therapist. The business of massage therapy is considered a service, similar to the services of a doctor, lawyer, accountant, beautician or other profession that sell what they do, or what they know, rather than what they make. With rare exception, they do not sell goods or products. A client enters the office, or the professional goes to his or her home to provide this service – such as a doctor making a house-call.
As long as you remain a massage therapist and limit yourself to bodywork you also minimize what you need to do legally to practice. Maintain your license and credentials, follow local laws regarding where you can practice and, if required by law in your area, obtain a business license. This would be especially true if you have a business name different than your given name.
If you decide to expand beyond bodywork and offering gift certificates, you must also expand your knowledge and expertise. Perhaps you will be offering classes, by conducting them yourself, or by renting out space to other professionals with businesses that complement massage therapy, such as a yoga instructor or dietician. You may also want to start selling products such as essential oils, books, jewelry, candles or music CDs.
To make it easier and perhaps even more productive as well as cost effective, consider adding another practitioner to your business and split the work. Each of you can take hours for manning the front desk, which would include making new appointments as well as handling the retail end of things, and each of you could also have hours where you focused completely on bodywork.
What to Sell
Take some time in deciding what you want to do as far as retail and how you want to do it. The products you carry should reflect who you are as a massage therapist. Does your practice focus on sports massage? Are most of your clients interested in medical or rehabilitative massage? Or, is it simple stress reduction the majority of clients are interested in? Do you focus on Swedish and other Western modalities, or do you work mostly in an Eastern style of bodywork, such as Shiatsu, Thai massage or Amma? Do you specialize in a specific area, such as prenatal massage or geriatric care? The answers to these questions will help you to focus on what items to sell.
There are some items just about any massage therapist can sell, including relaxing music, instructional videos, scented candles and books. A massage therapist focusing on Swedish massage, or general relaxation massage, might add eye-pillows, essential oils, moisturizing creams or natural soaps, while a massage therapist with an Eastern focus might choose devotional statues, incense and yoga-type clothing. A sports massage therapist could add pain-reduction creams, various bodywork tools or stretchy exercise straps.
If you rent out space or co-own with other types of related business you could also carry items related to their work. This could be done on a co-op basis where you share in the retail end of the business, or simply as a convenience for everyone.
Where to Sell Products?
There are two things to consider when thinking about where to sell products. One is the actual location of your business; the other is the location within your business to place the products.
- If your practice is currently home-based, you may need to consider moving to a space more appropriate and more legal for selling retail. Often town zoning will allow a bodyworker to work in a residential area, but draw the line at selling products. They may not allow you to have any signage or may restrict the number of cars going in and out of the property.
- In looking for a location, you need to know if most of your clients will be driving to your office or if they will be taking public transportation. If they are driving you will need to have adequate parking. If they are using public transportation you need to be conveniently near a bus stop, subway entrance or train station.
- Do you want to be near other massage therapists or not? There can be many positive reasons to have other bodyworkers with offices nearby. For example, if each one has a different focus you can actually help each other by referring clients to each other. If your focus is on prenatal, and another bodyworker in the neighborhood does mostly sport massage, you can each help each other rather than be competitive.
If you are going to sell products you will need to reevaluate your business space, especially if you are planning to stay where you are. You will need a minimum of two rooms, one for bodywork and one for an outer office and retail space. You should never operate out of just one room for everything, unless you are only doing bodywork. On a practical level the retail can conflict with the bodywork and, on an energetic level, it is not good to mix the two.
If you are only selling one or two small products you might consider using the top of your desk if it is big enough. Many companies offer display units of varying sizes, some of which will fit nicely on a desk or counter top. You want to make sure it does not interfere with other work you do there such as making appointments or filling out progress notes.
Another option is shelving that attaches to the wall. This is also good for smaller items, or for displaying samples of items you hold in stock elsewhere in the office. Book shelves that sit on the floor are excellent for larger items, bulky items and, of course, books. You want to make sure that displays are attractive, neat, clean and not impeding foot traffic. You also want to take advantage of window space. If it is appropriate place a few items in the window and arrange them attractively. This is especially important if you are located in an area with a lot of foot traffic.
Your retail adventure can be as big or a small as you want it. From a desktop to a store-front, or anything in between, enhance your business by bringing products related to bodywork right to your clients.
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