They’ve Got Male

Are spa-going men here to stay? Three men-only spas say yes—and they’re staking their futures on it.

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Polish-free pedis, sports massage, manscaping and other XY-friendly menu options are commonplace at most day spas these days. And with good reason: A recent survey by the International Spa Association reports that male clients, who constitute approximately 30% of spa-goers, are more loyal than women, racking up considerably more return visits. And no evidence lends that finding more credence than the man-exclusive spa model. New York City alone counts more than a dozen males-only day spas; cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago are seeing their fair shares as well.

We spoke to principals at three thriving men-only day spas to find out what makes their businesses uniquely successful in catering to the male market.—By Heather Wood Rudúlph

They’ve Got Male

M Spa, San Francisco

It was while working for another men’s-only spa in San Francisco’s Castro District that M Spa owner Margie Dindral had her “aha” moment—or, rather, her husband did. He suggested she use the expertise gathered from nine years spent serving men to open her own spa. Dindral instantly knew it was a good idea. “Throughout my career, I have noticed that more men are going to the spa. I sensed this demand would only increase,” she says, adding, “A lot of men are more conscious of their skin than are women.”

M Spa debuted in the spring of 2010 and has already become a buzzed-about destination within the industry. The skincare focus is clear. Dindral employs strict standards to treatments such as the Gentlemen’s Hydrating Facial, which is tailored according to skin type: dry, oily, dehydrated or mature. The spa also developed its own line of skincare products, and estheticians have been trained to understand the specific contours of a man’s face. For example, eyebrow waxing services focus on preserving a thick, natural, masculine brow.

Dindral has learned that spa-going is a different game for men in many ways—including how they prefer to interact socially. While many women see chatting about personal lives as part of the enjoyment of going to the spa, men are much more private. “Most women will volunteer information about themselves, their skin and their concerns, but men won’t tell us these things until they trust us,” Dindral says. “Once a male client feels comfortable, he’ll be more open, and he will loyally keep coming back for more services.”

As for marketing? “Most of our clients come from word-of-mouth,” Dindral says. Partnering with the right guy-friendly businesses has helped bring in customers as well. For example, M Spa donates services to local charities and offers 15%-off coupons to members of the nearby Gold’s Gym.

Remaining visible and viable in the trendy Castro District is essential—it’s the epicenter of San Francisco’s public transportation hubs, a natural walking neighborhood for residents, and is also listed in every city guidebook. As such, Drindral says, “Many of our clients are tourists from all over the country and abroad.”

The secret to M Spa’s success, it seems, is thinking like a man. “We offer our clients a ‘no frills’ atmosphere,” Dindral says. “We keep in mind that men are more interested in simplicity then extravagance.”

M Spa

Open since: March 2010
Square footage: 2,700
No. of employees/contractors: 21
Facilities: 8 treatment rooms; lounge area; 3 showers; steam room
Most popular treatments: Gentlemen’s Hydrating Facial (70 min./$140); Deep Tissue Massage (60 min./$115); Boyzillian Wax (45 min./$95)
Product lines: M Spa Private Label, Peter Thomas Roth

They’ve Got Male

Jake's Place, Norfolk, Virginia

Twenty years of running a profitable salon/spa might be enough for some, but when Norma Dorey noticed a gender shift in her industry’s clientele, she made a bold move and opened a second spa business. “Ever since I’d started in the industry in 1983, I’d had a lot of male clients constantly saying how nice it would be to have an environment of their own, where they didn’t have to be exposed to smelly perms, or risk running into their secretaries or neighborhood friends,” Dorey says. Finally taking the hint, in 2004 she opened Jake’s Place (named for her son).

A sanctuary for the gentlemen of Virginia, Jake’s offers tailored treatments such as exfoliating facials meant to promote healthy hair growth, waxing services that tend to those special places where guys get unwanted hair and sports massages designed to relieve even the most overtaxed male athlete’s muscles. Additional touches such as private barber booths; a rustic, leather-meets-granite design scheme; and LCD monitors broadcasting ESPN make it clear that Jake’s is a man’s world.

In an industry that’s still accustomed to catering primarily to women, why would an owner choose to go the male route? Dorey realized certain key advantages offered by this business model: “Men are very loyal to their appointments,” she reports. “They’re less fickle. They don’t stretch their appointments out and they don’t have nearly as many cancellations.” And keeping these clients happy has paid off: During the recent economic downturn, Dorey’s first business struggled while Jake’s Place continued to grow.

But snagging this clientele requires marketing savvy, she warns. “Men definitely want to see value for the money they spend,” Dorey says. “You have to be able to show them value and results effectively in order to sell them on a service or product.”

But before you can demonstrate your spa’s worth, you have to get them in the door. Social media blasts advertising service offerings in man-friendly verbiage (think: “Half Time Specials” announced during strategic weekday hours) catch plenty of local men’s attention. But what’s worked best, Dorey says, is reaching out to her neighbors directly. “We are very connected within our community,” she says. “Last year we partnered with our neighbor gym and an exclusive men’s clothing store to host a holiday fashion show. And we built rapport among men before even opening Jake’s by hosting ‘Monday Men’s Nights’ at my other, unisex spa. We’d comp services to help introduce men to the world of spa-going.”

Jake’s Place

Open since: April 2004
Square footage: 3,000
No. of employees: 12
Facilities: 2 massage rooms; facial room; private steam room and locker room; 4 pedicure chairs; 2 manicure stations; 5 hair stations
Most popular treatments: Signature Haircut & Shave (60 min./$50); Ten Toe Touchdown (60 min./$50); Hot Lather Shave (30 min./$25)
Product lines: American Crew, John Allan, Nioxin, Kneipp, RAW Rhonda Allison For Men

They’ve Got Male

Nickel Spa, New York City

The original Nickel Spa, opened in Paris in 1996, adhered to a simple yet controversial philosophy: Beauty can be a man’s concern. “At that time, masculine beauty was uncharted territory,” says Tom Kelley, director of operations for Nickel’s New York City outpost. “The first step was to create a venue where men would feel comfortable. Next, we needed to have the right products, treatments, staff and ambiance to make a man want to come back.”

Located in a hip building in Chelsea, Nickel has fine-tuned its ambiance to a sleek grey and blue, almost futuristic, environment. It evokes an air of clean simplicity, on par with the spa’s key services: firming, moisturizing and toning facials; deep-tissue and hot stone massage; manly manicures; and old-school barber services. Specialized treatments are offered here, too. For example, the Ultimate Face Lift employs muscle-stimulating vibrations to tone the muscles, and infuses vitamin serums and oxygen into the skin.

Estheticians are specially trained to treat men’s unique skincare needs and recommend products appropriate for each client. “We’ve found men want high-performance, easy-to-use products that deliver instant results,” Kelley says. “Men also like a product that feels durable, something they can grab onto or throw in their gym bag and not have to worry about breaking or leaking.”

Men, as it turns out, also like a good get-together with like-minded guys. The spa’s most successful marketing strategy has been hosting regular events: happy hours, fashion shows, product launch parties, even birthday parties. “It’s a great way to get new clients in, and our existing clients love to come by and see what’s next,” Kelley says. “But that’s just getting them here. The only way to keep a client is through practitioners and their training—no matter how much someone loves the space, if a treatment is a horrible experience they are not coming back. I am a firm believer in ongoing training, so we have classes and trainings happening all the time.”

If you ask Kelley, men’s spas are not only here to stay, but they may just dominate the industry one day. “Men are now realizing that if they take care of themselves, start using products early on and maintain a healthy lifestyle, they will not only feel younger; they’ll look younger,” he says. “Considering all of the men’s health magazines out now and the beauty industry’s current focus on men, we are not only here to stay; we are the untapped resource that will help our industry thrive again.”

Nickel Spa

Open since: September 2001
Square footage: 4,300
No. of employees: 38
Facilities: 4 esthetic rooms; 5 massage rooms; full mani/pedi station; full salon; barbershop
Most popular treatments: Deep Tissue Massage (50 min./$115); Touch of Youth Facial (90 min./$145)
Product lines: Babor, Guinot, MD Skincare, Nickel Private Label, Peter Thomas Roth


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