There are many out there who may already be retailing products in their clinic, and many more who may have thought about it, but haven’t quite taken the plunge. The article below discusses a few experiences as they relate to the challenges and benefits of retailing in your facility.
When it comes to the subject of selling products, some hesitate to make an investment for fear of losing money; while some may feel it’s an ethical issue.
Others who might like to retail may feel like they just don’t have the space or they’re afraid of having to track inventory.
But when running a successful business, even though there are challenges with the initial set up and protocols which ensure retailing success, having another stream of income is never a bad thing, as long as you go about it in the right way.
The Ethics of Retailing
It isn’t unethical to sell a product you recommend or carry in your clinic, but it is unethical to tell a client that they NEED anything you are selling, no matter what it is, or how much you think it might help them. I’ve personally experienced people on my own social media pages soliciting me to buy products and it was especially disturbing during my husband’s serious illness, when people were trying to sell me things they claimed would help him.
There is an inherent power differential in our clinician/patient relationships, and it’s in our favor. You should also always remain aware that when you become a retailer, you are placing yourself in the position of being in a dual relationship with the client. Clients tend to view us as authority figures, so telling someone they “need” the product you’re offering is taking unfair advantage of that relationship, and is indeed an ethical violation.
In the same vein, recruiting clients to be part of a multi-level marketing organization is never a good idea. If they value you as their clinician, they may agree to buy products they don’t really want, or invest time or money to keep from hurting your feelings. If they invest money in your weight loss shakes, for example, and fail to lose the weight or fail to make the commissions you said they would make, it could cause ill will and harm your relationship.
Offering the Right Products
I learned by trial and error in my own business that the only things I was going to be successful in retailing were the products I actually used with clients or used personally, such as neck pillows, hot/cold packs, and topical pain relief products. Over the years, I allowed people to talk me into investing in other things– that usually ended up languishing on the shelves. But when the client has actually experienced a product and benefitted from it or just enjoyed it, they are more apt to purchase it.
Displaying Your Products
If your office is large enough to have plenty of space for a display area, great, but even those with limited space can still have a few offerings. Pinterest is a great website for getting display ideas (in fact, I have a board on the Soothing Touch Pinterest page full of them); so you don’t have to get stuck in the “I’ll just get a bookshelf” mode. If you’re a small operation, you might use a pretty basket, or a vintage hatbox to display your items. A shabby chic dresser could be used to store supplies, and the top can be used as a display area. A corner shelf also works for people in small areas.
Hosting Retail Events
Hosting a pop-up sale or “Ladies Day” was always a popular event in my office. I hosted these types of events once or twice a year with great success. I would invite vendors to set up in the classroom at my office and offered refreshments and free chair massages. I would also run a special on massage gift certificates and/or package visits during these events, and broke my personal record by selling several thousand dollars’ worth of gift certificates in one day during one such event.
Don’t Go Overboard
One thing that’s discouraging is getting stuck with a lot of product you don’t sell. The smart thing to do is start with small quantities; avoid going overboard buying a lot to start out with, until you find out how well it is going to sell.
Be Educated About Your Products
If you’re going to sell anything, you need to be an expert on it! Be sure you know the shelf life on any products that are subject to expiration dates–which includes virtually every product that contains water. People don’t think of water as being an ingredient that expires, but it does eventually grow bacteria, even when preservatives are added, so be sure not to sell out of date product.
You should be prepared to answer any question about any product you’re offering. Never give people a made up answer – you could end up causing harm. You should know the ingredients in any ingestible product or topical you are selling. Many people have nut allergies, and most items that contain any type of nut oil, or that are processed in a facility where nut oils are processed, are of a special concern. There are also people who have allergies to other ingredients, so you should always have ingredient info from the manufacturer available so you can give intelligent answers to any questions you may be asked.
You may believe that only the manufacturer is responsible, and that you have no personal liability for selling a product that causes harm, but that’s usually not true. Clinicians have to be aware of this, not only for the products they’re selling, but also for products they use with clients.
Retailing can be a great way to supplement your income, but remember that the responsibility is yours, to do it ethically. You don’t want clients questioning your motives, or ever feeling pressured to buy anything, but having the products you use and recommend available in your facility, is an added value and a great convenience you can provide for your patients and ensures they’ll be getting the RIGHT products, as opposed to a lesser quality version they happen to find on the internet.