Auberge deftly sets the stage as a true getaway spa at all touch points. Yet, interestingly, resort guests comprise only 50% of the spa’s clientele. Thanks in part to its monthly spa membership program, Auberge attracts an interesting local client mix: high-income residents, many of whom own houses in the nearby Palmetto Bluff development, and a range of modest-income people from within the local community. Fetzner reports that the majority of clients are 35 to 70 years old, and that 75% of them are female.
Because the spa draws from such diverse sectors, marketing tactics are also varied. Internal promotions offered at check-in, especially during slower seasons, help to pull in resort guests, and email blasts and exclusive offers keep the spa high on loyal members’ radar. To hit the local markets, the spa places targeted ads in community publications. To further appeal to the community, Auberge Spa positions itself as a “day stay-cation.”
“Locals feel like they’re really getting away, and on average they come a few times a year,” says Fetzner. “We’re priced at about $20 more per service than a day spa, but we’re not trying to be the place they go every month. Rather, we want to be that special getaway.”
All of these outreach tactics seem to do the job. In fact, 2012 was a banner year for Auberge spa, netting 10% more than the staff anticipated.
“We just exploded,” says Fetzner. “You wouldn’t know there were still economic issues out there. My personal guess is that the luxury market was the first to go down—and it’s now the first to come back. It’s a good sign that mid-market spas are due to follow.”
To keep drawing guests back into the spa, Fetzner has to not only continue to innovate her treatment menu, but must also remain diligent about hiring only the best staff. “Service is the hallmark of a five-star spa,” she explains. Somewhat surprisingly, Fetzner draws mainly from a local massage school, where she has long served as chairman of the board.
“I have a good feel for raw talent, and the personality necessary to thrive in a resort setting,” she explains. “I’m confident I can then train people in my way. I expect growing pains, but with mutual communication and a willingness to grow, it’s a formula for success.”
Apparently so—the spa’s thriving therapist intern program recently resulted in four successful hires, and was evidenced by the flawless approach and talent exhibited by each spa professional I encountered during my visit.
While guests at the Auberge spa are indeed treated to an oasis of relaxation and calm—not to mention the opportunity to immerse themselves, literally and figuratively, in an atmosphere exclusive to its low-country setting—it’s clear that it is this behind-the-scenes business acumen that allows Auberge to dovetail so perfectly with the Inn’s charm. Upon returning to my porch perch, post-spa, feeling clear of head and truly connected to my surrounds, I realize that, like porching, relaxation is truly an art—and one that Palmetto Bluffs’ Auberge Spa has mastered.