Last year was the first time I added a “counter-trend’ section to my annual trend report. I felt it was important for people to understand that it is ok – even a good idea in some cases – to go against what is trending. There is still value, however, in a person recognizing that this is what they are doing because it gives clarity to a strategic direction.
Another perspective: the concept of the “counter trend.” Sometimes creative and successful ideas emerge when businesses move against the mainstream, with the caveat that “swimming upstream” against dominant trends requires carefully determining whether the specific market will support more niche approaches.
Counter Trend: Boomers represent the largest spagoing demographic, but Gen X and Millennials (aged at 30-45) lag not far behind. Many spas will specifically target younger generations (…more spas for kids, teens, young adults and families).
Trend: All Eyes on Asia
Counter Trend: If India and China dominate spa/hotel development among BRIC countries, don’t forget Brazil and Russia. Brazil dominates the South/Central American hotel-spa pipeline, while Russia has burst into the top three in Europe for hotel/spa development, with strong growth for the CIS states. Eyes are also rightfully on the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and other destinations across the Middle East/Africa and South America.
Trend: Salt Rooms and Caves
Counter Trend: If inhalation therapies are growing, some spas, for example, will counter with oxygen. In contra-distinction to no-therapist experiences like salt rooms, there’s an upswing in therapist-intense treatments, like four-handed massage.
Trend: Spa Brandwagon
Counter Trend: There will always be a consumer segment valuing/choosing “anti-branded,” individualist, one-of-a-kind spas — where the experience is shaped by the super-distinct vision of an owner/manager.
Trend: Deals Gone Wild
Counter Trend: Deal fatigue. Means more people will prefer a regular spa appointment with a favorite therapist than chasing the few dollars saved in e-deal mania. Also trending against the cut-rate: an uptick in ultra-luxe, expensive treatments like $1,250 facials at certain urban spas, where appointments aren’t available until April!
Trend: The Science of Spa
Counter Trend: No real OR recommended countertrend. Only counter-angles: emphasizing the sheer value of pampering/escape; being transparent about modalities without science to support them, while encouraging people to be part of “living research.”
Trend: Hyper Local
Counter Trend: Transporting people out of the local to exotic, other worlds. Examples: Golden Door’s all-Japanese Roykan and themed Las Vegas spa resorts (fanciful Italian, French, Middle Eastern environments).
Trend: Extreme Beauty
Counter Trend: Spas/experiences eliminating all pursuit of beauty. No mirrors, beauty treatments — complete emphasis on mind/wellness/inner beauty.
Trend: Spa in a New York Minute
Counter Trend: Far more leisurely spa experiences emerging simultaneously. Examples: 90-minute massages overtaking 60-minute. (Mandarin Oriental, New York’s new three-hour treatments!)
Trend: Surprising Special Events
Counter Trend: “Going back to basics”: Spas shortening/streamlining menus to please overwhelmed consumers.
I think it is fun to think about counter-trends and am usually quite impressed with places that successfully carve out a unique niche. Examples from this past year would include, Mandarin Oriental raising their already high prices and lengthening the time of some of their treatments while most everyone else is cutting prices and shortening treatment times to accommodate the customer seeking express service. Another example is Disney’s new Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii. They are appealing specifically to youngsters and are not putting too much emphasis on the aging population that is trending,