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Heat Things Up

Why spa retailers should consider a sauna product line

If there’s one product that might be hotter than hot tubs in this industry, it’s saunas.

Given the numerous health benefits studied surrounding saunas*, it’s no surprise hot tub dealers across the country are marrying the two categories.

“The hot tub industry is the most important trade category within North America for our company,” says Mark Raisanen, general manager of TyloHelo Inc., a worldwide sauna manufacturer of several popular brands including Finnleo, Amerec, Tylo and Helo. “It’s the perfect product that fits in well with hot tub dealers. Hot tub dealers tend to do better than pool companies when it comes to selling saunas.”

The power of heat

In all three locations of New England Spas in Natick, Massachusetts, owner Norm Coburn offers saunas right alongside hot tubs. To say he’s a believer in the power of a sauna would be an understatement, considering his company has been selling saunas and hot tubs since the ’80s.

 “It’s a great combination with a lot of commonality,” says Coburn, who also has his own sauna at home. “There are common benefits in disconnecting from life and the internet and problems — being able to be still. Stress reduction has got to be the No. 1 benefit from both activities. It’s a healing benefit.”

Promoting another type of heat therapy

Because of the similar heat therapy effects when compared to a hot tub, saunas are an ideal wellness upsell, Raisanen says.

“It’s a year-round wellness product vehicle,” Raisanen says. “Now it has become more of a year-round sales driver.”

Because wellness trends promoting saunas are only expected to continue rising, Raisanen recommends hot tub retailers look at saunas as a cohesive part of an overall sales strategy.

He knows some retailers who create “soak and sweat” packages to sell both a hot tub and a sauna. Some keep sauna promotional fliers on countertops. Others are adding the word ‘sauna’ to their company name, even going as far as updating building signage, Raisanen says.

“This is part of the industry now and not an afterthought. It’s an important profit center of a [hot tub retailer’s] business,” Raisanen says. “It’s fun to sell because of all the wellness aspects.”

A Finnleo sauna display at The Sundance Spa Store in Ontario.

Selling to your current hot tub market

For retailers interested in selling saunas, remember that hot tub buyers and sauna buyers don’t need to be two separate markets.

“The sauna is more than likely a second purchase,” Coburn says of his own experience selling saunas. “We sell far more hot tubs than we do saunas. Every hot tub buyer is certainly a candidate for a sauna. That’s why we have them look at it and consider it.”

The most successful hot tub retailers tap into their current customer base because there’s already trust established. If a customer has purchased a hot tub, then they’re the perfect warm lead. 

With three options like portable (plug-and-play), mid-range (custom or modular) and high-end designer styles, offering multiple price points is a must for buyers considering a sauna purchase.

“There’s a sauna for every taste and budget,” Raisanen says. “[Retailers] need to tap every budget. All successful showrooms will have one from all the ranges. The best showrooms will have custom designs.”

Doing so allows customers to really see themselves using a sauna that fits their personalized needs. Part of that process is allowing customers to envision the products at home.

Nadine Nuzzo, retail division manager of Arvidson Pools and Spas, likes to set the ambiance in the showroom. She keeps a couple of saunas plugged-in for customers to sit inside and try in a quieter area. Nearby, she’ll usually have a diffuser purifying the air with eucalyptus or lavender essential oils.

 “It creates that relaxing, calming space,” Nuzzo says. “It’s a nice complement to our offerings. [Saunas] are really up and coming in the news and becoming more popular among customers.”

Minimal maintenance and installation specialty required

Saunas are easy to fit into most living situations, which can ease customer concerns of where to put it. That’s especially the case for the higher-end customizable saunas.

 “They can go anywhere — in a closet under the stairs or in spaces people aren’t using,” Nuzzo says. “They don’t take up a lot of space. It’s an easy add-on.”

 Retailers are more likely to close a sauna sale when they do installations, too, Raisanen says. The close rate TyloHelo dealers report is well over 90% when retailers have a staff member who can take measurements in the home, he says. Portable options require about an hour of installation time, but more customizable designer rooms usually take about a day to install.

Perhaps one of the best perks for retailers selling saunas are the minimal maintenance calls.

“That’s one of the biggest differentials between saunas and hot tubs,” Coburn says. “Saunas don’t really have service calls. I wouldn’t say never, but markedly fewer than hot tubs. That contributes to higher customer satisfaction.”

Coburn adds, “There’s no regular maintenance. It’s not like you need to change the water every three to six months or add a new filter like you do with a hot tub.”

It’s mostly on the customers to take good care of their saunas. That includes protecting wood benches by using a towel, scrubbing nonwood bench surfaces, mopping up customized tile floors and replacing rocks and heating elements every five to 10 years.

Interior of Finnleo Vita Sauna (Photo Credit: TyloHelo)

Finding the best sauna support

For retailers entertaining the idea of selling saunas, finding a reputable manufacturing company is key.

 TyloHelo Inc., in particular offers more than 40 training videos and hosts training camps around the country. Finnleo offers potential new dealers an 80-page brochure to better understand the products and to learn more about traditional and infrared saunas, as well as other sauna accessories.

 “Choosing a manufacturer that makes a reputable product that can support you and teach you is one of the most important components [of selling saunas],” Nuzzo says. “The Finnleo brand of saunas, they’re a great company. The custom-cut saunas are made in the factory so everyone is really in tune with what is going on.”

Nuzzo personally loves Finnleo’s weekly newsletters with updates and product availability. For retailers looking at offering saunas, Nuzzo recommends selecting a brand with a support team that will teach you all you need to know.

Anytime she needs clarification, she can call a knowledgeable Finnleo representative.

“I didn’t know anything about [saunas] before I started working here,” Nuzzo says. “Everything I learned, I learned from them.”


Finnleo

Cokato, Minnesota
800-346-6596  •  finnleo.com
MSRP price range: $4,390 to $6,990

Standout features: Hallmark Series offers a 4-by-4-foot portable sauna that can easily fit into almost any location. It’s the most popular free-standing traditional sauna sold.

Sunlighten

Overland Park, Kansas
877-292-0020  •  sunlighten.com
MSRP price range: $3,799 to $6,799

Standout features: Produces infrared saunas with environmentally friendly construction. The Signature Series produces ultra-low EMF.

Amerec

Woodinville, Washington
800-331-0349  •  amerec.com
MSRP price range: $4,300 to $17,000+

Standout features: The Elite Control paired with the free Amerec App allows users to control their sauna via smartphone.

Helo

Cokato, Minnesota
800-822-4352  •  helosaunas.com
MSRP price range: Contact for details

Standout features: Helo’s range includes wood-burning and electric heaters and their controllers, steam generators, sauna and steam rooms, steam suites, infrared cabins and various types of sauna and steam bathing accessories.

Tylo

Cokato, Minnesota
888-780-4427  •  tylo.us
MSRP price: $4,500 to $15,000

Standout feature: Offers free-standing, pre-built packages that can go nearly anywhere.


*Health Benefits of Saunas

Still debating whether to add sauna offerings to your showroom? If wellness is a motivator for your hot tub sales, saunas may fit right in: Studies from all over the world show health benefits of sauna use.

According to a clinical review published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, improved hemodynamics have been shown in patients with chronic heart failure after a single exposure and after a four-week period of sauna bathing, five days a week. Additionally, a small study from Japan suggested that two weeks of daily saunas may improve vascular function in patients with mildly damaged hearts that cannot pump blood normally (stable heart failure).

A 15-year follow-up, population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) study by the University of Eastern Finland involved 1,628 men and women aged 53 to 74 years. Researchers found that those using a sauna four to seven times a week were 61% less likely to suffer a stroke than those using a sauna once a week.

Further, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Evidence from a number of experimental and epidemiological studies implicates sauna bathing to have a positive effect on blood pressure (BP) modulation.
  • Research shows that men who had 4 to 7 sauna sessions per week had a 78% reduced risk of developing psychosis in the future as compared with men who had only one sauna session per week.
  • Emerging recent evidence suggests sauna exposure may have protective effects on neurocognitive disease.
  • Evidence also suggests sauna bathing improves lung function by improving vital capacity and volume, ventilation and forced expiratory volume.
  • Sauna use has also been linked to an improvement in headache disorders, as well as in pain and symptoms associated with musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
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