Wellness is the new consumer priority.

Spas, with their unique mix of therapies and treatments, outperform the beauty market.

Innovation drives spa growth and best performers show double digit sales growth.

Spas pioneered new beauty and wellness treatments. In doing so, they established new beauty and wellness priorities for consumers. In what is the most curious development, spas have become the best performers in the beauty market by delivering appearance enhancement as a part – even a bonus – of their core wellness package.

Spas meet a new consumer need for wellness and in the process have grown from zero to a business worth more than UK Stg billion in a decade. The spa offer may appear diffuse but there are three distinct and well established pillars and these are wellness therapies, beauty or appearance enhancement, and pampering treatments. The particular therapy emphasis, or treatment mix, can vary but the spa visit is an integral part of a wellness lifestyle.

At first glance, spas present a confusing range of the traditional and high tech because they have drawn on such disparate sources for their treatment and wellness therapies. At home they have borrowed from the beauty salon, alternative wellness practitioner, the dermatologist, medical and laser clinic. Abroad, they have picked from Asia to Scandinavia.

The resulting “spa offer” is unique and quite distinct from that of the sectors out of which it developed. This ability to adapt and integrate explains why different philosophies, seemingly incompatible, co-exist and underpin the core business. For example, pampering and wellness elements must be exclusively natural. Beauty, however, can be organic or natural or even a combination of the organic and the high tech or medical.

Massages and spas are now synonymous because the massage is the main spa therapy. Massages which energise, rejuvenate and deliver wellness to clients generate well over 50% of sales for the spa. The best selling massage, - the “deep tissue” or Swedish massage - relieves tension and stress.

Bodycare sets the spa apart from the traditional beauty salon. Spas now offer treatments, previously only available for the face, which beautify the body. The most popular “facials for the body” are massages, wraps and scrubs which cleanse, exfoliate and refine the skin.

Spas have grown exponentially by delivering beauty from within, that is wellness cum appearance-enhancement. Additionally, stand-alone beauty treatments also generate significant revenues for spas. It is anti-ageing skin care which is the main driver of demand for beauty in spas. It must be noted that different types of spas (day, hotel, med) provide quite distinct body and skincare treatments but this is because a number of factors (regulations, location, space and philosophy) determines just what is possible.

It is innovation in beauty as with wellness - in terms of product formulation and treatment delivery – which has allowed spas to outperform the traditional beauty market. Beauty treatments, both high tech and natural, are sold as a package, that is a sequence and combination of treatments, utilizing a range of skills and a variety of products.

In a nutshell, spas outperform because they sell more treatments and products to more people more frequently. Their client base is wide as they have attracted millions of new consumers – especially younger women and men. They are a fixture of the urban lifestyle.

The wellness paradigm is now shaping the entire beauty, personal care and wellbeing sector. The effect can already be seen in selective beauty channel para-pharmacies and hypermarkets. This shift in consumer behaviour is forcing innovation on the beauty market.

The story of massages best explains both the spa trajectory and its potential . Massages are now mainstream which is a dramatic transformation of what was once an artisan sector. Until recently, they were mainly provided by sole practitioners (eg, alternative health) and viewed as a minority therapy or in some cases with suspicion as “sleaze”. Now massage chains are being rolled out (especially in the US) such is their demand.

Not surprisingly, there is confidence in the fundamental strength of the sector and its capacity to grow. Spa sales softened in 2010 due to the recession but the best performers expect a return to double digit growth rates.

The main factors driving expansion are continuing demand for wellness by the consumer and constant innovation in therapies, treatments and technologies on the part of the spa. Spas are at a very virtuous point of their growth cycle. Increased demand for wellness by spa users drives innovation which then expands both demand and the consumer base.

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