To ignore the thunderous roar caused by the wave of green and eco-initiatives that have captivated media headlines, conference discussions, and political agendas can be equated to living in a cave and covering your ears. Green and "eco" are all the rage these days, particularly in the spa industry, ranging from organic skincare and eco-destination spa development to energy-efficiency initiatives. But does this all really matter? And if so, why?
The overwhelming answer is yes, there is a large audience out there who is paying attention to this shift in consumerism. According to a recent study by Insight Research Group in partnership with HGTV and the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of consumers say they are more aware of environmental issues now than they were in 2006. In addition, 81 percent of respondents think the current focus on environmental or green issues is here to stay rather than a passing fad. As a spa owner, if you haven't thought about becoming green, you better start, particularly if you consider the decision-making power of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market, a group that has a great deal of overlap in the spa business.
Environmental initiatives abound in today's marketplace. Green building is not just about sustainable building—it has now become a benchmark. Quality design work that benefits a healthier environment can be done with strong financial returns. Organic products are being sought out by those with health concerns for their families and themselves, and there is scientific data to back up these benefits. A 10-year study conducted by University of California, Davis, on organic tomatoes, for example, found that flavanoids, which are compounds that have been reported to have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, increased by 79 percent when grown organically. Wellness concepts are also being re-evaluated, and alternative therapies such as massage, yoga, and acupuncture are now considered natural solutions to ailments that cannot be treated with conventional medicine. For the non-believers, the 17 million yoga practitioners, as reported by Yoga Journal, would have another thing to say. There is an increasing amount of evidence proving that the green movement is not just a nice thing to do but also a fiscally and environmentally responsible choice. Plus, there is an increasingly large audience who wants access to these options, which means incredible opportunities for those in the spa industry.
The LOHAS Market
All of these initiatives fall under the umbrella of LOHAS, which is a market of products and services that are in line with consumer values rather than price-point value. They are made in environmentally and socially responsible ways that safeguard ecosystems, enhance communities, and promote personal development. The Natural Marketing Institute estimates the market size to be $209 billion in the U.S. and $540 billion globally. LOHAS consumers are considered to be the early adopters of green. They are known by other names such as the "cultural class" or "change agents" and have pushed the envelope of innovation to ensure that sustainability becomes mainstream. Various studies have indicated that this group makes up between 13 and 19 percent of the U.S. population, or 39 to 57 million Americans. Typically, they are female, educated, affluent, and willing to spend 20 percent more for LOHAS products. Yet, they also expect quality to be equal or better than conventional options. These are the first people who bought hybrid vehicles or purchased fair trade coffee, and now, with the help of their promotion, both of these are considered mainstream choices. They educate their friends on new products, which make them great evangelists of LOHAS companies and initiatives. They also have deep pockets. When LOHAS was conceived in 2000, it was estimated that the LOHAS consumer base had $1.2 trillion of disposable income.
A Spa Market Comparison
Many spas already engage the LOHAS consumer. But with the buying power and influential abilities LOHAS consumers possess, it makes good business and social sense to engage them further. Spas have always been about wellness and providing a space for individuals to relax and re-center. LOHAS consumers have a very strong sense of mind, body, and spirit compared to the general public and truly embrace the wellness aspect of spas. They visit places that will enhance this experience in lieu of acquiring material possessions. An example of this would be spending a weekend at a yoga retreat at an eco-resort compared to going to an amusement park and buying a souvenir. They seek indigenous treatments and products for personal use. These are the people who will tell their friends and associates about their discoveries and experiences with spa products and services. This makes LOHAS consumers ideal targets for spas that are developing natural and organic product lines or moving toward becoming eco-spas. International Spa Association (ISPA) research points to very similar trends regarding spa-goers, finding the characteristics of the core spa-goer are parallel with those of the LOHAS consumer. As the spa industry continues to move into this green-centric era, be sure to keep these clients in mind.
Ted Ning is the executive editor of the LOHAS Journal and the director of the LOHAS conference. For more information, visit www.lohas.com.