Zen Awakening: Zen Zone

Oklahoma company offers massage chairs exclusively to spa retailers

Hot tubs are synonymous with relaxation and therapy for many homeowners, and for a spa dealer seeking to monetize this niche further, massage chairs can be a logical use for retail space.

Zen Awakening, a subsidiary of Galaxy Home Recreation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, manufactures massage chairs exclusively for hot tub retailers. Galaxy Home Recreation was founded in 1976 by Mukesh Shah and initially focused on billiard tables. By the late ’90s, however, billiard table sales were decreasing, so Shah diversified: One category he chose was massage chairs. Initially, he brought in containers of chairs from a factory in China and saw success in both Galaxy Home retail stores and through distribution to other retailers. In 2007, the direct-import chairs were branded as Zen Awakening.

In 2013, Zen Awakening president Neal Patel and Mukesh’s son Ronak Shah began designing massage chairs specifically for the North American market, soliciting hot tub retailers to become dealers.

“We’ve been off and running ever since,” Patel says. Since Galaxy Home Recreation also sells hot tubs, it provides an understanding of the customer spa dealers are targeting. That’s why, Patel says, the Zen Awakening massage chair line up was specifically designed for the brick-and-mortar specialty hot tub retailer in North America. “The common link for hot tub customers is therapy,” Patel says. “The massage chairs are basically a dry hot tub. This allows customers to have options in how they get their therapy, rest and relaxation.”

Zen Awakening chairs are not available online because the retailer’s success is top priority for Patel. Additionally, the company offers territory protection for dealers; there are keystone margins and a dedicated effort to provide outstanding sales and service support.

To beat its online competition, Zen Awakening provides a good-better-best program that is easy for a salesperson to explain and a customer to follow. Additional features are added with each price point, rather than losing features as you go up in price, something Patel says competitors do often.

“And our chairs are designed for our market — monochromatic and with larger frames because North Americans have larger statures than chairs designed for the Asian market can accommodate,” Patel says. “We focus on providing massage features that make a difference and cater to our body types. Sure, we don’t have a chair in our lineup that can be controlled from an app, or a chair with multicolor lights on the outside, but we have built the only chairs that will rub your legs — not just provide air compression — to promote blood flow and muscle recovery.”

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With several retail locations around Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Pool City became a Zen Awakening dealer in 2014. Sales manager Steve Weisman says Zen’s mix of models let customers easily pick the best one for them and he likes the wider, deeper seats. “[We really like] the body-measuring feature to customize the massage to the body, and they have a great warranty,” Weisman says.

Colin Paubel, sales manager for Watson’s of St. Louis in St. Charles, Missouri, says when compared to going to a massage therapist or chiropractor weekly and spending up to $100 per visit, investing in a Zen Awakening chair is an affordable option. His personal favorite chair is the ZA-20.

“I feel rejuvenated when I get out of the chair,” Paubel says. “It uses the newest technology and will [massage] from your neck all the way down to your hamstrings. Automatic leg extension instead of spring-loaded massage is another new addition to the chair. My favorite [feature] is the calf massage — but the foot massage is fantastic too. [And the chair uses] a zero-gravity feature to reduce the strain on your spine and heart.”

Weisman recommends showing a variety of chairs so customers can compare them. Make sure they’re all operational and demonstrate how they work, he adds.

“Get the customer in the chair,” Paubel says. “Know all the features and benefits. Tailor the massage to the customer’s needs and let the chair do the work.”

There is no minimum order requirement; Patel advises that dealers order three to five floor models to start. “Then just order one at a time until we can figure out sell-through, model and color preference in your market,” he says. Once these preferences are determined, he recommends ordering five or more units at a time to get a 10% discount and maximize freight expenses.

“We understand the dealer’s perspective and know it is a risk to take on a new category,” Patel says, “so we have made the barrier to entry as low as possible.”