spa business

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Over the years, health and wellness trends may come and go, but what about spas themselves? Although the great recession of 2007-8 did result in the closure of a number of facilities, plenty of others survived—and thrived. In fact, many have remained in business long enough to become essential parts of their communities. In an age of consumers with short attention spans who are always on the lookout for the next best thing, the question is: What are these stalwart spas doing right?

Here, DAYSPA takes a look at veteran spas around the country—including one 25-year-old standout!—to find out how they’ve stayed afloat. Read on for seven strategies for success, straight from the spa owners who have made it work.

They nurture and appreciate their employees. At Spa Gregorie’s flagship location (est. 1998) in Newport Beach, California, as well as its second site (est. 2006) in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, cofounder Angela Cortright treats her employees like family—with trust, respect and gratitude. “This means that when times are tough, they won’t bail,” she says.

Cortright firmly believes that a happy team yields happy customers. “When therapists have positive energy, it will result in a positive experience for the guest because it transcends the service,” she explains. “If something’s not right in employees’ heads, it’s not right in their hearts and it won’t come out through their hands.” She takes time to get to know her employees and always asks staff for their input at team meetings.

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In addition, Spa Gregorie’s has two formal programs to recognize its employees. Whenever they go above and beyond in their service, they receive a note from management that says “Gee, That Was Nice!” (the company’s logo is a G). In December, three note recipients from the year are randomly selected to win prizes, including restaurant gift certificates and gift baskets. The other recognition initiative, called Good Guys, honors the spa’s dedication to community service. Everyone who contributes—by providing a free treatment to a cancer patient, for instance—gets a Good Guys slip, one of which is picked at the end of the year. The lucky staff member wins airline tickets for two to any destination in the world.

3000BC Spa

[3000BC Spa]

They keep up with new techniques and technology. The 3000BC spa (est. 1992) in Philadelphia has always stayed abreast of trends, bringing on board acupuncture and craniosacral massage, as well as more medical procedures like laser treatments and injectables.

In addition, points out president and CEO Korin Korman, they’ve made sure to eliminate other services when their popularity waned. “We’re the Madonna of the spa industry!” quips the spa pro.

That the spa bridges two worlds is a point of pride: Treatments range from organic botanicals and ancient reflexology techniques to clinical, medical spa services based on the latest science and technology. Offering both spa and medical services in one facility makes them more accessible and less intimidating to guests, explains Korman. “We’ve found that the majority of women want both—they want to relax and feel pampered, but with quick, visible outcomes,” she adds. “Today, younger clients in particular are more results oriented.”

They know their brands and keep them consistent. All advertising and marketing collateral for The Pearl Day Spa (est. 2001) in Eugene, Oregon, is intentionally similar. “It takes years of consistency to build your brand and for your message to sink in,” says owner Sean Vierra. “You may get tired of saying the same thing, but it’s what you must do for it to be effective.”

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Everything The Pearl puts out has the same look and feel, right down to emails—those deliberately sent as well as those sent automatically through the POS system. The same goes for the spa. Specific fonts and color schemes—blue, gray, smoky purple and bronze—are present throughout the facility and are utilized in the website, logo, and all marketing and advertising.

Vierra says it’s important that the spa’s mission—to be a therapeutic day spa committed to clients’ overall health and wellness—is regularly reinforced by using the same or similar advertising and marketing message. “Our core focus and our core business are always part of the conversation, so every person who works here is on the same page,” he says. “You have to stand for something; if you don’t have a message to anchor you, your clients will eventually pick up on the fact that you don’t know who you are as a business.”

The Spa at the Wentworth

[The Spa at the Wentworth]

They support local companies. When buying home care, guests at The Spa at the Wentworth (est. 2003, after an extensive renovation), part of the Wentworth by the
Sea hotel in New Castle, New Hampshire, can select from a variety of locally sourced lotions, scrubs and cleansers, alongside some of the bigger, better-known brands.

This is partly to reflect the spa’s seaside setting, and, reports senior spa manager Kristin Medina, it’s a smart way to support local businesses and artisans. “We keep an eye out for companies starting up in the area, and we’re constantly trying new products,” she says.

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It can also make the spa experience more memorable for clients—and more profitable for you. “When someone asks about a brand and you can tell them an interesting backstory, their purchase feels more meaningful to them,” explains Medina. “And there’s nothing easier to sell than that!”

To highlight these retail items, the spa displays cards featuring the local vendors’ stories. If that information hasn’t been provided, spa staff who have met the vendors are able to talk up the brand to curious clients.

They monitor their bottom lines. During the recession, Gabrielle Ophals, co-owner of Haven Spa (est. 1998) in New York City, made a point of paying closer attention to her spa’s finances. She began running analytical reports on specific products to monitor overuse. One example: an aromatherapy soak used in every facial. “I noticed it was really expensive,” says Ophals. “So we started giving estheticians one vial per facial, instead of just having a free-for-all.” She was astounded by the results: Usage dropped by 80 percent, saving the spa thousands of dollars a year.

In addition to Haven’s culture of conservative product use, Ophals eliminates redundant retail—opting to carry one rather than two similar lotions, for instance—so there’s a lower risk of them expiring. Plus, she takes time to review spreadsheets and reports on a regular basis. At one point, it revealed that staffing the front desk was costing too much money; Ophals was then able to trim a few hours without having to lose any staff members.

Saguaro Day Spa

[Saguaro Day Spa]

They trust their intuition. When it comes to hiring, Connie Hafenbredl, owner of Saguaro Day Spa (est. 2006) in Sturgeo Bay, Wisconsin, hones in on one specific trait that she wants all her therapists to possess. They must be “very nurturing, spiritual people, so they do their work with loving intention,” she says. This is essential to the experience that Hafenbredl aims to offer to clients. “I want everyone who comes here to feel safe and taken care of so they can calm their minds and bodies, and leave spiritually refreshed,” she explains. Customers can always tell if a therapist wasn’t present or giving of themselves.”

Hafenbredl says the best compliment is when clients say they feel better as soon as they walk through the door. “Everyone’s energy is important, from the person answering phones to the estheticians performing services,” she points out.

They care about their communities. At The Pearl Day Spa, supporting the community “is an intentional part of our focus as a company,” says Vierra. The spa works with a number of local charitable organizations, including the Oregon Supportive Living Program (OSLP) for adults with developmental disabilities and Ophelia’s Place, which strives to empower women and female youth.

Every year, the spa works with other local businesses to throw a block party benefit event for Ophelia’s Place. All proceeds from ticket sales and any other donations go straight to the charity. “We also have a couple thousand people who come to the block party and learn about Ophelia’s Place for the first time, which is so important as getting the word out can be difficult for nonprofits,” Vierra says.

He doesn’t work with these organizations for marketing purposes, but “it’s undeniable that clients appreciate it,” he admits. “Our community supports us by giving us business, so it feels only right to return the favor.”

–by Amanda Baltazar

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