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Evolution of Spa Treatments Harkens Changing Consumer Attitudes

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: June 8, 2009, from the June 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

Many clichés can be applied to the effect a recession has on the businesses that survive to see the upswing. “Only the strong survive.” “It’s time to roll with the punches.” “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

But when you get past the lyrical comfort of such sayings, it becomes clear that many were created for a reason, and actually often do apply. SpaFinder, a leading spa and salon marketing and research company, recently released statistics providing evidence that the spa industry is adapting well to the current economic challenges. The majority of day spas (51%) reported higher revenues in 2008 than in 2007, and 46% of resort and hotel spas enjoyed gains as well. The findings also revealed that 66% of day spas and 76% of resort and hotel spas plan to increase unique promotions and deals, showing that, instead of caving to the recession, spas are evolving for survival.

One of the interesting ways this evolution is taking place is by the adoption of a trend that drastically challenges the basic concept of spa. Two industry leaders—Lydia Sarfati, founder and CEO of Sarkli/Repêchage, a company that supplies seaweed-based skin care treatments and products, and Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica, a professional spa brand—are backing a movement that brings spa treatments out of the treatment room. This movement provides insight into how consumers are adjusting their personal care spending, their evolving outlook on personal care choices and product positioning with the spa channel.

Challenging the Tradition

It has long been accepted that spa treatments belong in private, quiet sanctuaries in order for true relaxation and results to take place, but this concept is beginning to be challenged. “Clients who come through a spa’s doors don’t ever see skin care activity,” proclaims Sarfati, who points out that this practice of hiding services behind locked doors is a formula that spells disaster and lack of sales.

Wurwand agrees, and uses the massage industry as an example. “I liken it to chair massage. When that started becoming popular, it didn’t replace the one-hour massage in a quiet room, but was in addition to it.”

The Concept