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How Spas Can Increase Revenue
by Tapping the Male Market
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“Indulge” versus “Pamper"

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by Richard Warnick, July 2006

It is a well established fact that spa revenue in the U.S. is generated largely by women.  According to the International Spa Association (“ISPA”), women account for over 75% of all spa visits.  It is also a well established fact that spa utilization by males is increasing, driven by a combination of demographic and psychographic factors.  

Men-only day spas have established a small but visible presence in the marketplace, and many spas that have historically catered only to women have introduced products and services for men.  Men now comprise almost 30% of the U.S. spa going public, up significantly from just a few years ago (ISPA).  Nevertheless, if the industry relies entirely on demographic and psychographic shifts to increase male spa utilization, U.S. spas are likely to remain overly dependent on women for the foreseeable future.  The result is a lost revenue opportunity.  If, on the other hand, spa utilization by men can be influenced by factors other than changing demo/psychographics, then it should be possible to not only increase male utilization at a faster pace, but also to broaden the purchase parameters from predominately massage to a variety of other services.  

In many countries outside the U.S., male attitudes toward the use of spas and other wellness facilities are very different.  In Europe, South America and some Asian countries (e.g., Japan and Hong Kong), for example, using spas is actually a must-do for many men.  If one belongs to a certain social group or is a successful businessman, frequenting and being seen at the right spa can be as important as wearing the right brands of Italian suits, shirts, and shoes.  The “driver” is not only a lifestyle choice, but also a widely accepted venue for male socialization or negotiating business.  In the U.S. we have the power lunch; in Hong Kong and Tokyo, they have the power spa (sometimes with Geisha for the tea ceremony).  

So, what are the impediments to greater spa utilization by men in the U.S. market?  The answer, in my opinion, is a combination of user attitudes and provider insensibility.  

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  

Ever hear of the Pygmalion Principle?  Self-fulfilling prophecy?  It is, in short, the concept that you get what you expect.  So, if women are the primary source of revenue for spas, spas must cater to and feel comfortable to women.  If being comfortable to women means that you are not entirely comfortable for many (or most) men, what do you get?  More women and fewer men.  

Excluding certain demographic sets, how many men do you know who would be comfortable sitting at a manicure, or pedicure station with a room full of women?  With the same exclusions, how many men do you know who have gotten a facial?  

So, am I suggesting that spas start cladding their walls with dark wood paneling, installing big screens in their lobby preset to ESPN, or scenting the facility with cigars and leather?  Not at all!  Spas need not sacrifice their feminine appeal to become more attractive to men.  There is no reason that a male-friendly environment (with male-oriented services) cannot successfully coexist with a female-friendly environment - if carefully planned and executed.

The rest of this article focuses on how some day spas are creatively seeking to differentiate the services they offer to men from those they offer to women.  Many – if not most – of these ideas could have application in hotel and resort spas.  The ideas fall generally in to three categories: 

  • Physical facilities/design
  • Marketing 
  • Services and products offered 
Physical Product

On the facilities side, spas which cater exclusively to men tend to have a much more contemporary and sleek interior design than do co-ed or women-only facilities.  For example, the well known Nickel Spa for Men in New York (www.nickelspanyc.com) describes its interior as having the décor of a submarine.  Spas that cater specifically to men also try to provide their guests with more individual privacy than is typically provided by co-ed or women-only spas (individual waiting rooms, private hot tubs, etc. – this seems to be a very important differentiator for male spa services in the U.S.).  Some, like the Gadabout SalonSpa for men (“Gadabout Man”) in Tucson (www.gadabout.com), have TVs tuned to the news, which they don’t have at their other locations; TVs are generally considered taboo in spas that cater to women.  The Nickel Spa’s San Francisco location appears to have more austere websites and advertising than might be considered typical for women-only or coed spas.  While not a spa per se, V’s in Phoenix (www.vbarbershop.com) looks like an old-fashioned barber shop.  It is anything but.  Hair cuts are comfortably integrated with neck massages, hot shaves, facials, and shoe shines while patrons watch ESPN on personal TVs at each station.  Given their level of business, they seem to have struck a chord.

How can such innovations be incorporated into co-ed hotel/resort spas?  There are several possibilities.  First, the men’s side of the spa could be designed more specifically for male tastes.  This implies a shared and neutrally designed reception area.   Second, consider a separate entrance into the men’s spa.  Another  thing to consider is having private salons for services that many men might find intimidating to enjoy in a public – read, co-ed – setting (e.g., manicures and facials).  

Marketing

How many spa ads have you seen that are directed toward men?  Precious few, I’ll wager.  Spa ads, in fact, are almost all the same in philosophy and concept.  Visuals, word choices, placements are female-oriented.  At best, the visuals are co-ed but the messages are substantially the same.  Now, picture opening an airline magazine and seeing a photo of a man blissfully reclined in a swivel chair getting a hot lather shave.  The tag line reads “Indulge yourself – you’ve earned it.”  Notice, I said “indulge” (a male-comfortable word) versus “pamper” (a female-comfortable word).  

One of the best avenues to first-time, male use is through existing women customers.  This concept is not, in and of itself, revolutionary.  However, the message these wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters are armed with could be, “Honey, I bought you a facial at the XYZ Spa” could be replaced with, “Honey, I bought you a ‘Gentlemen’s Escape’ treatment package at the XYZ Spa – hot shave, neck massage, facial…..doesn’t that sound fantastic?” 

Services

Services that are unique to men mostly involve shaving and facial skin treatments, though other treatments can also be configured to address uniquely male issues – like back, chest, and arm hair removal.  Variations of the classic hot shave appear to be the most popular offering - they usually include, at a minimum, a hot towel, a facial/neck massage, and a shave with a flat edge razor.  These shaves are typically advertised to use creams and oils in lieu of soap lather and are intended to specifically treat razor burn, sun damage, and the average male’s lack of previous skin care.  Many spas oriented towards men also offer shoe shining and dry cleaning services. 

As further examples of perceived male services, the Dolce Spa in Chandler, Arizona uses a lot of beer and chocolate in their treatments.  Among the spa’s treatments is a full body exfoliation for $230.  Their massage packages have names like the “Hangover,” “Premium Draft,” “Brew Master’s Choice” and “Double Chocolate Stout” and range in price from about $175 up to almost $400.  For example, the Double Chocolate Stout is $387 and takes five hours.  It includes a 1.5 hour double chocolate massage, a one-hour facial, lunch, a cigar, a foot treatment, a chocolate stout shave (a shave with hot chocolate, neck and facial massage and hot towels), and a shoeshine.  The Dolce Spa also offers teeth whitening and ear candling (to remove wax) services.

Gadabout Man in Tucson offers a range of male waxing services, including the chest for $50, the back for $55, arms for $30, and the neck for $10.  The Spa also has some fairly standard massage/facial/nail care packages with names like “Box Seats,” “Touchdown,” and “Spa Stadium,” that are 2 to 4 hours in duration and range in price from a $100 to almost $300. 

The table below provides a few additional examples of treatments for men by different spas and the associated advertised pricing as of January 2006.   


Examples of Spa Treatments for Men
Spa
Treatment
Duration
Advertised Price
Grooming Lounge

WashingtonD.C.
Hot Lather Shave 

“Steaming towels, foaming lather, a shave with a triple-blade razor and a soothing face massage.”

30 minutes
$50
Grooming Lounge

WashingtonD.C.
Golf Massage 

“Focuses on the muscle groups essential to a smooth golf swing.The perfect prep prior to a big match or an ideal recuperation tool after a weekend on the links.”

60 minutes
$100
Nickel Spa for Men

New York
Love Handle Wrap 

“Unique treatment designed to reduce the appearance of love handles around the mid-section.First the body is exfoliated with Nickel Super Clean to prepare for treatment by removing dead skin cells and increasing circulation to the mid-section.The application of Nickel Love Handle Gel is accompanied by the use of massage techniques to the area.Wrap and relax for full effect.Reduce more than those love handles with a mini foot massage before the wrap is removed.”

60 minutes
$95
Absolute Spa

VancouverCanada
Manly Start to the Day

“Includes a Gentlemen’s facial, hot towel straight shave, nail buff & shoe shine.”

NA
$220
(Canadian)
Avanyu Spa at the Equinox

ManchesterVermont
The Mountain Man’s Facial

“A deep cleansing and softening facial just for men.This calming, soothing treatment relieves shaving irritation or skin aggravated by exposure to harsh, drying weather conditions and environmental elements.Tension is soothed with facial, neck and shoulder massage.”

75 minutes
$145
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Scottsdale, AZ
The Willow Stream Golf Facial

“Because of their exposure to the elements (sun, wind and extreme temperature changes), golfers and outdoor enthusiasts face unique challenges to their skin.This hydrating facial was designed to moisturize, repair, and protect your skin from the sun.Followed by a soothing shoulder, hand & foot massage – to relax and revitalize golfers' muscles before or after 18 holes.The experience also features the exclusive Willow Stream Sports Masque, which softens and brightens the skin and guards it against further damage by the elements.Sunny or overcast, this 18 stroke Golf Facial will always be above par.”

90 minutes
$239
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Scottsdale, AZ
Golf Performance Treatment

“A Willow Stream exclusive massage therapy treatment endorsed by world-class professional golf instructor David Leadbetter, professional golfer Charles Howell III and Murray Blair, head of Fairmont Golf.  This treatment incorporates an advanced understanding of kinesiology to improve flexibility. The combination of massage, stretching, and acupressure developed by Willow Stream lead therapists and Fairmont golf professionals helps relieve athletic discomforts associated with golf.  Aiding in rapid recovery, this leads to improved balance and swing rotation for distance and accuracy.  All the benefits of a deep tissue massage but no soreness the next day, so you can hit the course for another 18 holes!”

60 minutes
$169


It’s time for a change in thinking.

Hotel and resort spas have a significant, and largely untapped, opportunity to increase male spa utilization and they can do so without alienating their female clientele.  Hopefully, this article has sparked some ideas to capitalize on those opportunities.  The most difficult challenge is to break out of the traditional mind set.  It can be as simple as combining specialty spa treatments with more traditional male activities such as golf, tennis or even meetings, or by male-oriented naming of certain spa services or, if possible, by developing certain spaces within the spa that afford the kind of privacy and design to appeal more to men.  

I don’t know about you but I’m kind of looking forward to the day when I’m sitting at the bar watching an NFL game and overhear the guy next to me saying…..“Dude, close my tab…..I’m late for my spa treatment.”


Richard Warnick is president and founder of Warnick & Company, a consulting investment banking and asset management firm that serves as an consultant to many of the world's leading hotel and real estate companies.

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Contact:

Richard Warnick
Warnick & Company
www.warnickco.com

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Also See: Kohler Co. Makeover of Scotland's Old Course Hotel Features First Kohler Waters Spa Outside America / July 2006
The Asian Spa Market Experiencing Brand Expansion / Bernard Burt / June 2006

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