Spas and Greed Discussion
Susie Ellis, SpaFinder Insider
My friend and colleague Anitra from AboutSpas.com
posed an interesting question on her June 21st blog, which I felt compelled to weigh in on. Her blog was titled, “Spas & the Greed Factor.” Here are her comments and mine. Others also commented so check out her blog if you want to read all the rest.
Have spas become too greedy? I was talking to a massage therapist the other day who said that the resort spa where he works is still busy, but the spa is dead. He thinks it’s because the prices have reached absurd levels. “Resort spas educated people about getting massage and facials” he said, “But now they get them at home instead of when they’re on vacation because it’s so much cheaper.” He thinks we’ve seen the end of the splashy new 60,000 square-foot spas, where prices are cranked up high to help pay for the fabulous facilities.
Judy Singer, a spa consultant, says people want what spas offer, but it has to be financially feasible. “Many spas have been their own worst enemy by getting caught up in the greed factor (very high treatment prices),” she writes. “This has caused consumers to re-evaluate the genuine need and ability for them to visit the spa.”
What do you think? Have spas become too greedy? Are you changing the ways you use spas?
Happy to weigh in on this discussion. You’ve asked a good question. High prices – especially at resort and hotel spas is something I have been thinking quite a bit about lately – especially since I just did a tour of many of the luxury New York city hotel spas where prices generally begin at around $350 – $450 for their basic massage service (most are 90 minutes or more).
I agree with many of the previous comments and think that Skip makes a good summary point that our spa business model is the challenge and in time, will need to change. With spas not making a lot of money, therapists not making a lot of money, and the consumer paying what seems like a whole lot of money (especially at hotel/resort spas), I don’t think that “greedy” is the right word however because that implies that someone is “wishing to possess more than what one needs or deserves” (dictionary definition). And I don’t think that is the case.
The evolution of our fast-growing business got us to this point and while there are a lot of factors that have contributed to this situation, the important thing now, I feel, is for all of us to think creatively about how this can be resolved for everyone’s benefit and for the long term.
Here are a couple of ideas that might be worth exploring:
1. In the US one must get a license for massage and a separate license for aesthetics. In Europe, “Beauty therapist” is a profession one studies for several years and at the end the therapists are able to do massages, facials, manicures/pedicures, etc. They work full-time, receive benefits, and are treated as professionals. Because they do not need to do six massages a day, their
burnout rate is much less – in fact they can be beauty therapists all of their lives. From a spa’s point of view, staff scheduling is much easier when employees are qualified to do all services. Money is saved all around because there isn’t a cost for a lot of people sitting around waiting for work, and yet there are people available when a consumer walks in and requests a last minute booking. Turnover is less which also saves money.
2. One difference between resort/hotel and day spa facilities are the amenities such as saunas, steams, jacuzzi/whirlpools, cold plunges, etc. I think that if spas began creating treatments which incorporated these facilities – used in the appropriate way for health benefits – that the consumer would find that the charges are more reasonable because there is greater value.
Here is an example:Re-Energizing Massage
Begins with 10 minutes in the relaxation room enjoying a hydrating and refreshing summer fruit drink. The treatment begins with two 10 minute sauna sessions interspersed with a cool shower and followed by 10 minutes of cooling down with lower legs in the cold plunge. This is followed by a 60 minute massage with a custom selected special oil and then two steam bath sessions to help the skin absorb the special oil. The steam sessions are interspersed with a cool shower, and ends with a regular shower using an organic soap and 10 minutes of cooling with lower legs in the cold plunge.
Not only would this series actually really refresh a person (delivering far more benefits than simply a massage), but it wouldn’t take any more staff other than someone in the hydro/thermal area helping all the clients do their steams/saunas/jacuzzi’s properly taking heart rates and answering questions about the true health benefits of these amenities.
3. Alternately, some resort/hotel spas have successfully created a business model where they charge for the use of hydro/thermal amenities and that gives consumers a price differential.
4. Some spas are having success with adding a membership option which I think can add a sense of community to a spa – and also bring in additional revenue. Sometimes members receive a discount on treatments which is an elegant way to lower prices for those who are truly dedicated to the spa without lowering prices for everyone.
They say that one good thing about a recession is that it unlocks creativity…it is my hope that this underlying issue (lack of profitability) for the spa industry will allow for some experimentation and “out of the box” thinking which could improve things for many in the long run.
Look forward to hearing some ideas from others!
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